Friday, October 29, 2010

#fridayflash 54: The Photo Album

Was feeling a little nostalgic today, so this story has more reality in it than many of mine. But then it also has a reasonable amount of the extraordinary to balance it out. Hope you enjoy it! Let me know what you think :)

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The Photo Album

She opened her late grandmother's photo album reverently; she'd found it in the house after the funeral, but at the time had been too devastated to look. "To my children," the inscription read. The album, painstakingly and lovingly crafted, carried a lifetime and a half of memories. Elizabeth flipped to the end first -- two family shots, professionally taken just last year. She smiled at the memory of the chaos having all twenty of them in the photographer's tiny studio.

She flipped slowly back through the pages, seeing herself at graduation, before and after the ceremony -- how proud she'd been that day. The world was hers for the taking -- even if she had no idea what she wanted to do with it. She grinned at the memory of her idealistic self. There were pictures of herself and all her cousins as teenagers, then as children, then infants. She found a page from the day she came home from the hospital with her happy but exhausted mother. The story at this point was not hers, but rather the continuation of her mother's. Sure enough, the page before showcased her parents' wedding.

They looked so happy. And her mum so beautiful. She rubbed at a smudge on the page, disproportionately upset to find a flaw in her grandmother's album. But when she rubbed it, it wouldn't come off. She rubbed at it again, a last futile effort.

And suddenly found herself outside the church from the photo, her mother and father, much younger versions of themselves, standing on the steps preparing to leave for their honeymoon. She rubbed her eyes and shook her head, trying to clear the vision in front of her. It didn't work. Her parents still stood, complete in 1970s wedding regalia, enjoying their moment while friends and family -- some of whom she recognized -- celebrated around them. Nobody seemed to notice her. She could feel panic rising. She reached out to get the attention of the person next to her... But her arm passed right through him causing no more reaction than a brief shiver. She was a ghost. Could she be a ghost in a time she'd never lived in? Puzzling over that little dilemma briefly averted the panic, but all too quickly it returned. She couldn't stay in 1975 -- they didn't even have cell phones yet!

As her eyes darted around frantically, she suddenly realized one person could see her. She met the eyes of her grandmother across the property. Gram smiled a knowing smile and winked briefly before returning her attention to her daughter -- the crazy gram she'd always loved, who was always up for an intelligent prank. Somehow, in some way, she'd managed one last stunt.

Elizabeth worked her way towards her grandmother, who every once in a while would look directly at her, encouraging. It was hard to navigate the crowd; since nobody else could see her, they weren't about to get out of her way. And she just couldn't bring herself to go through somebody. Her world had already gone so far beyond her grasp of reality, she couldn't let that final piece go...

She reached her grandmother and her heart lept to her throat when she picked up a hand and ran it along Elizabeth's face, tucking a piece of hair back just as she always had the whole time she'd been growing up. "Gram, what...?"

"Don't worry Lizzibet, you'll be home soon." The name she'd never thought to hear again, spoken by the woman she knew she'd never again see.

"What was that?" Her grandfather turned toward his wife, puzzled.

"Nothing Dear," she told him, "just thinking out loud." He looked worried for an instant, but it passed as his attention was drawn to his daughter as her new husband opened the door to drive her away. Elizabeth was stunned to see a tear in his eye. Her very formal, very strict, grandfather crying at his daughter's wedding? Nobody would ever have believed it. And indeed, he blinked the tear back before it could shed. But Elizabeth knew what she'd seen.

Elizabeth's 1970s father got in the driver's side and her mother leaned out the passenger side to wave -- a scene Elizabeth had seen before. And a heartbeat later she was sitting back in her living room, the photo album open in her lap, looking at the image of her parents driving away from their wedding, with her mother leaning out the passenger side waving.

Elizabeth jumped up, shoving the album away from her. Unable to sit still, she went to the fridge on the premise of getting some water. It couldn't be. Her mind spun with the possibilities -- holograms made from videos? Just because she hadn't heard of the technology didn't mean it didn't exist. But in her heart she knew what she had experienced. And she knew that crazy Gram hadn't had any top of the line super-technology to play with. She returned to the album and opened it again, paying closer attention this time. And she discovered that on most of the pages, if you looked hard enough, there was a mark of some sort next to the first photo on every page.

She held her breath briefly as she touched another of the marks. Her grandmother sitting on the beach, holding Elizabeth's toddler mother in her lap. Sure enough, she felt the burst of warmth and found herself in another time and another world.

"Hello Lizzibet," her very young, sepia-toned grandmother said.

"Gram what??? How???" Full sentences were beyond her, but fortunately unnecessary.

"You, my daughters, and any women to come of our blood will always be able to share in my story. I hope one day you'll choose to share yours as well. Know that I'll always love you."

"Anne stop nattering at that child and look over here!" the photographer, Elizabeth's great-grandfather, commanded. With a smile that was clearly meant solely for Elizabeth, Anne did as she was told. And Elizabeth once again found herself at home looking at the pair of photos of young-mom Anne with her first-born.

2 comments:

placebythefire said...

Oh that is marvellous!
Kari @ The Best Place By The Fire

Steve Green said...

Lauren, this is quite a lovely and heartwarming story, I think it also has the potential of becoming a much longer project.

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