My friend has a display of family photographs on her refrigerator. Snaps of her father, her mother, her brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, old pets, all organised around quotes about love and friendship. You may possibly think that sounds a bit cheesy, even tacky, but I love it. When visitors come into her kitchen the first thing they do is go to the fridge, look at the photos and ask questions about the people pictured. It is my friend's roots and history in miniature, all she or anybody else needs to know if they're not sure who they're dealing with.
And it has taken a lot of hard work for her to reach the point where she is able to identify herself privately or publically with her family. The result of a powerful faith in God and an admirably mature capacity for forgiveness.
Encouraged by my appreciation of my friend's display (and my deep respect for her way of thinking), I started putting up pictures of my own this afternoon. I want to create a pictorial history of my own roots, show to whoever comes into my kitchen the soil I sprang from, the family I was nurtured by, the people and animals I loved--even if, for the last decade, I have been separated from the surviving ones by old (possibly imaginary) grievances, my entanglement with a mentally ill relative whose increasingly psychotic behaviour alienated everybody around her, my own depression, whatever.
I have drifted like a ghost for too long, denying even to myself who I really am, floating in space. If I want to be whole again, the first thing I have to do is reconnect with myself.
So on my fridge now, as a beginning, are my old cats Molly and Kitty, my dog Fred standing up on the arm of a chair looking out of the back door at a snowy garden, my dad Martin in a red roll neck leaving for work one morning. I have other photographs lying around somewhere but I can't find them at the moment. In the cave years, as we might call them after Janey's hibernation image, I had a strange habit of not displaying photographs, but putting them inside books. I have been flicking through my books this afternoon looking for them. How ironic, given that I buried so much of my hope and my humanity in the fantasy image of myself as the new Kerouac.
Pictures of my mother Sylvia from my one photograph album were obviously removed by my mentally ill relative before I got away from her and escaped over here to a new life. I shouldn't be surprised. Most of the photographs that should have been in the house somewhere were missing when she was finally evicted, long after I had left. But it's a shame. I had a great photo of my mum cooking Sunday dinner and sticking her tongue out at me.
Old grievances. Old wounds. I have no wish to dwell on them anymore, but instead to celebrate the people and influences that gave me life. They were a good bunch, in the final analysis, and all anybody can do is work within the perameters of their own nature, with the information they have at the time. I have no right, and no wish either, to be mad at anyone--especially now decades have passed since these supposed wounds and injuries occurred.