But at least there aren’t that many people listening while I try.
The other night my dad drove my brother and myself home. I feel like it was a rainy night but now that I think about it, it must have been dry, because there had been forest fires in the south and everyone was amazed at the drought so early in the year.
I had been inside my father’s office, looking for something? I think I was looking for an old stamp collection. But he reached into one of the book cases and showed me a photo album instead. It was one that he had inherited when my grandmother died a few years ago. The album itself I don’t recall, but the first few pages were discolored and empty, only the little stick-on corners were left, and comments in girly handwriting made obscure by the absence of the pictures. My father explained that his sisters had taken the photographs they wanted first. I imagined him, keeping his remembrances in less concrete forms than pictures, acquiescing gently to being granted the leftovers.
To my eyes the leftovers were fresh, and didn’t disappoint. It was my dad’s extended holiday as a thirteen-year-old with his family when they moved to Switzerland in the late sixties. There my grandfather, a strapping middle-aged father, made of granite but with four towheaded kids. My grandmother’s hairdo impeccable and big; her outfits far more colorful than I had known her to wear. My dad is goofy and adorable and a visual prediction of all three of my brothers. I thought out loud that my younger aunt looked in the pictures like my little sister, or the other way around, but my father just grunted in neither agreement or disagreement. My father’s older brother is sixteen in the pictures. He died in his early thirties, and I felt vertigo seeing him young and handsome, like a brother I might remember too. There was a picture of a girl we didn’t recognize and my father laughed easily, saying it must have been one of his brother’s girlfriends. I privately thought maybe it was my dad’s girlfriend, but it would be none of my business.
In the car my youngest brother -nineteen, skinny and rude, but sometimes sweet and awkward, especially to me- played, of all things, modern classical piano music from his iPod. I was in the back seat, alone with my thoughts; my gentle father in the driver´s seat, the family´s rock, and navigator, and big tree who grew out of the young man who lost his brother before anyone.
I worried that I never appreciated family holidays properly, and that photographs maybe did capture a person’s soul because how else were they so moving, so many years later.
But thinking about it again, photographs are my reminders, the visual containment, mirrors through which I can love my ghosts and read myself.
My brother took the piano music with him when we dropped him off at his dorm, and my dad tried putting on CSN&Y, but it didn’t fit the mood; he kept skipping songs and I don’t remember what we talked about for the rest of the way.