The last place you look
When asked if I had any photos of my old friend Norma who died, I thought, with dismay, about the jumble of snapshots that clutter up my desk, the bottom drawer of my dresser, a box under my bed, that small wooden chest on the bookshelf, and an old suitcase in the furnace room. There are a few more places that might yield something, too, that tin box on the top shelf of the linen closet, and a fat envelope of assorted precious junk I once slipped under the place mats and tablecloths in the dining room hutch. It’d take me weeks to go through all that. By then, the memorial service would be ancient history and Norma’s daughter would have thrown away my address.
Enter one very determined, not-to-be-ignored conscience. I gave in and decided to at least make an attempt. Now everyone knows that looking for a specific photograph in a heap of unsorted, unorganized, and unrelated photos is not as simple as looking at them one by one until the desired one has surfaced. The suspicion looms large that the photo no longer exists at all, let alone that it might be found in this particular batch of pictures. No– wait, there I am with two other friends. The four of us were always together, Norma must have taken this picture, so there are probably more taken at the same time, at least one should include her, even if it was her camera. But, it’s one of those little square pictures, that had to be my camera. That had to be the day we all posed on the footbridge in the park. We took a lot of pictures that day. I’ll bet I’ve got the negatives somewhere, even if I can’t find the rest of the photos we took then.
A cute baby picture catches my eye. Not one of my kids. Why did I keep this? I don’t even know whose kid it is. Nothing written on the back. Hmm. Wait, isn’t that the sofa we had when we were still living in the apartment? We didn’t have any kids yet. Must have been when my sister was visiting with her first. She was a doll, too– just look at those eyes. And all that hair. Well, she has a great head of hair now that she’s all grown up– more than Farrah Fawcett ever dreamed of. Hard to believe she’s married, has two kids of her own, and ended up going back to school and is now a nurse. I wonder if our friend Martha ever finished nursing school. I lost track of her after we both got married. Life does get hectic what with moving around, having kids, changing jobs.
Oh, here is a batch of pictures I took the year before our oldest started kindergarten. What a pair of rascals our boys were then. Never had any separation anxiety concerning their mother but they sure didn’t like being apart from each other. You’d think they were twins instead of a year and a half apart. What’s this? A whole batch of picnic pictures. Family reunion? Must have been. There’s my cousin Dave; he never comes just to visit. Weddings, funerals and family reunions, that’s it. Come to think of it, I’ve not done much better in recent years. Makes me wonder which one of us, Dave or me, will be at the other one’s funeral when the time comes. Maybe I should write or call him. We used to be so close, being the same age.
And there are Martha and Jeannie in front of the dorm. Must have been just before Christmas break, judging by the garlands over the door. That was the year Jeannie and Bud got engaged on Christmas Day. Sort of broke up our little quartet. Norma must have already left for somewhere that day. She didn’t often go home for holidays since her folks went to Florida every winter and that was too far. Where did she go that Christmas? I remember, one year, she came home with me. Not much fun, though, all the guys from my class were either in Korea or spoken for by then. I didn’t even have a date, though I couldn’t have gone unless I got her one, too. We roomed together two years, you’d think there’d be at least one picture of her somewhere in this mess.
The pictures in the suitcase were older, my junior high and high school years, long before I met Norma. That tin box in the linen closet proved to be honeymoon souvenirs and a few snapshots we took of each other– not a single one of the two of us together. The box on the bookshelf was filled with the kids’ school pictures and some of those family photos people send at Christmastime. None from Norma.
I went to the drawer by the phone where I keep my address book, so I could write to Norma’s daughter and tell her I couldn’t find any pictures of her mother. There was an old birthday card tucked into the back pages. It was from Norma. How could I have forgotten all about it? She’d sent along a photo her mother had taken of the two of us on the day we first met in the dorm at college.