Back Through Time

"Show them to me," I say as soon as the front door closes behind me. Perhaps she smiles, though she doesn't as a rule. She has never warmed to the newfangled mania for smiling, which she considers a regrettable side-effect of snapshots and modern dentistry, so she never minds if I am serious, never asks, "Why the long face?" She is serious too, about our little ritual and about everything else. Hand-in-hand, we walk upstairs to the bedroom that will be called "Nam's room" for decades after her death. She opens the closet door, it always sticks a little, then pulls from the top shelf the large silver box embossed with fruits that she brought back from Italy. We sit on her bed and she begins to empty the box methodically, still by still, telling the stories that go with each image, each face. If she tells me about her trip abroad, I don't remember it. I am not interested in traveling across an ocean. I am interested in traveling back through time. To the exotic land of the past. To the land of the dead. Even pictures of her as a child no older than I am in her high-necked dress and high-button shoes are of some long-lost person, not the stern old woman sitting beside me, skin thin and ivoried as vellum.

 Ivoried as vellum - Photo by W. Wilson

Ivoried as vellum - Photo by W. Wilson

 The stories that go with each face - Photo by Barb Toyama

The stories that go with each face - Photo by Barb Toyama

 A look back through time - Photo by Jennifer Kapala

A look back through time - Photo by Jennifer Kapala