Photographs have this life of their own that weaves in and out of memory. They are born at the same moment as memory, and they capture memories. They become memories in their own right. They create memories. They will evoke memory in future years, future decades perhaps. My thoughts keep running to this concept: what is the nature of memory?
Here’s a memory of mine.
In many of my memories I watch myself play out the scenes of my past. Not this memory. This is seen through my second-grader eyes. I am swinging by my bare knees upside down on the monkey bars at school. The wind is rushing past my cheek bones.
I know the teacher is watching me with concern, but I don’t care.
We’ve moved from New Mexico to Birmingham, Alabama, for my dad’s job. I am the wild desert child. I’m pretty sure my tree climbing habits have made me stronger than the boys in my class, but I won’t beat them all in a chin up contest for another few years.
I am in gymnastics and I feel brave and clever and strong.
The bell rings. Recess is over. I put extra *oomph* into my last swing for my grand finale- I’ll grab the last bar with both hands and drop my heels to land. I grab the second-to-last bar and my face keeps swinging up. Memory blossoms into white here, and I can only pull memories back to mind from several days later: school picture day.
Sitting on the stool in front of the camera. My teacher and the photographer comforting each other that I can do re-takes in a few weeks. I know that I won’t be doing retakes. This picture will be woven into the memory of my second grade year forever.
I am the wild desert child. With the flowery dress. And the broken nose.