Late Sunday morning, still in pajamas, I sit cross-legged on the sofa, looking through a dusty storage box for a photograph of my mom. I don’t have a specific one in mind, it’s more of a treasure hunt. I hope to find a photo I haven’t seen in so many years that it feels brand new, a gift to me on Mother’s Day. Pictures of my mom are rare, she was either hiding from the camera or behind it. I go through several stacks, but nothing yet. I open an envelope marked “Oregon 84.” My parents lived there for several years, and I visited most summers with my husband and kids. Perhaps this is the lucky deck. I flip through images of mountain landscapes, farmland dotted with mom’s sheep, and my children playing among goats. But not a single picture of my mom.
Happily reminiscing I am suddenly confused by an image. It’s out of place, the setting all wrong. Taken a couple years after my divorce it doesn’t belong in this stack. I fix my eyes on him. He is glancing over his shoulder toward the camera. I had called his name and snapped the shot. I study the next few photos; one he took me, my mirrored reflection as I applied mascara. Another I took of him napping on my bed. And the last one, I had set the timer on my old 35mm camera and captured the two of us in the shower. Only our wet heads and bare shoulders exposed. I could have sworn I had thrown away these photographs. We didn’t last, and I wanted to erase all reminders of him, of us. It was nearly twenty-five years before I saw him again. Betting on destiny, I had high hopes for another chance. And then no hope at all.
A few years ago finding these pictures would have prompted me to call him, a sign from the Universe I simply couldn’t ignore. And while I still believe in the magic of the Universe, I interpret its messages differently now. I no longer see them as calls to action. I think of them more as food for thought. So, I thought a lot. I wondered why I had been drawn to him so many years later. Why had I pinned so much hope on him?. The answers were in the photographs resting in my hands. There was something alluring about old romance rekindled. I fell in love with our history. Love found, and lost, and found again. I’ve always been a sucker for a good story, second chances and happy endings. He loved a good story too, but he didn’t need to revisit the past to find one. He was always certain there was something, or someone, better ahead. And he found it.
I come up empty handed in the search for a photograph of my mom. I settle for one she took of us kids, her greatest treasure, and that makes me smile. As for the pictures I found of him and me? Well, they were mixed in with a zillion other memories, another chapter in my life. Not my whole life.
I didn’t find the prize photo, but I did find perspective.