From the time that I was very young I remember the collection of photo albums that I mom insisted on bringing with her through all of our many moves, across countries and continents. I’m surprised she managed to hang on to them despite my dad’s persistent (and largely successful) efforts to get rid of as much as possible no matter how precious it was to us. These albums were her treasures, records of our childhood, a way to hang on to us, reminders that it hadn’t all been bad that we had been happy too. From time to time, on the rare occasion of a family dinner we will pull these albums out and reminisce, laugh at hair cuts and clothes, tell stories about pets long dead, but it is the pictures of my parents before children that were always my favorites. There are a collection of maybe six pictures that sum up my perception of who my parents were when they met, my bohemian mother with the black hair parted down the middle, falling long and straight or braided, lost against her dark sweater; my handsome father full of youthful arrogance and rustic appeal, leaning against his army jeep in a battered felt hat, his mustache curling over his upper lip or up at the sides.
A few weeks ago I fished this album–the First Album–out of it’s place on my mom’s shelf. It’s battered but still in tact a predominantly blue, generic landscape makes up the cover, front and back. At the top of the cover in faded gold lettering the word “Photos”. No matter how many times I look at it the pictures are always new to me, full of the unknown, the unknowable but this time I am struck by how young my parents look, younger than I am now, their whole lives ahead of them, no choices made yet, no pain inflicted on each other. Hopeful.