A personal essay about a moment frozen in time.
|The world was a whole different place then.
My sisters stand on the hard ground of our childhood home. I can see the neighbor's laundry caught in the wind. The fence behind us is a dull gray color.
Michèle holds me and smiles into me. Her profile is chiseled in time. Long dark strands of her hair spill onto the smooth white of her shirt. Lynne stands beside her, making a goofy face. She has waves of unruly red hair and wears a shirt covered in tiny flowers. I am a toddler dressed in yellow pajamas, crowned with dark curls. I face the camera directly and without shame, laugh with uncontainable joy.
We are together.
Even now, I find it hard to believe that this moment existed, yet I have it hanging on my wall encased in glass and wood. I want to jump into that moment. I want to remember being innocent. I want to forget having to remember. I just want to be.
I do not know what happened immediately after the click of the camera but soon after, my sisters were sent away. Something hard had grown in my mother's heart, brilliant as a gem and indestructible. Its edges were sharp and unforgiving. My father, a soft patchwork of mistakes, gathered his children to him... all but one.
In the long stillness that followed their absence, I became a thin quivering question mark. Dreams had ended as loudly and quickly as the slam of a door. I was the ghost that moved between new worlds. I belonged no where and to no one -- I was silence. I was the air. I filled in spaces. I was no one.
Across the years, my sisters offer memories as evidence, to soothe this eternal ache, to answer unending questions. But they testify to a story that refuses to speak clearly. Family is a fairy tale. My grief cannot be contained in simple wooden frames.
But my happiness can.
In this photograph, time has yet to change the course of our lives. We are standing on concrete in our backyard. Colorless weeds reach up through the cracks in the ground. Above us, white squares wave in the blue sky. The rough gray wood of our fence divides us from the outside world. Each board is a tall dark sentry. We are engulfed in the shadow of our home while the sun lights up the world behind us. Michèle smiles into me and Lynne makes a goofy face and I am joyous.
We are lighting up with laughter... Together.