Sat 2 Feb 2008
Friday night and Dave & i got to talking, reminiscing about this guy we both used to know long before we were a couple, this guy who was loud and funny and brash and shameless. and since we knew him mostly at different times we were swapping stories and i, of course, won because this guy once passed out on my couch and – literally piss drunk – had a little accident and then fled into the night, a fact which came to my attention the following morning when the new potential sublet people came over to see the apartment and perched themselves on the couch and said, with an odd nervous look creeping over their faces, “it’s wet.”
old friends, they’re golden. and because i am a sentimental sort and wanted to see that guy’s goofy face again i beetled upstairs and dug out the old photo albums, the ones i kept faithfully pretty much from junior high straight through until about my 30th birthday, when a year of backpacking and the advent of the digital camera killed my fetish for the photo collection stone cold dead. flipping through the pages of the albums looking for the one with goofy friend and the giant bouquet of daisies he brought over the day after the piss couch incident, order and layout all coming back to me faintly because i once spent hours arranging all these photos just so…i was, suddenly, overcome with sadness.
i don’t scrapbook. i barely print my photos anymore. but up in the den are close to fifteen thick albums of my former life in pictures, me trapped forever in huge pink Coke-bottle glasses and a “Frankie Says Relax” tshirt, drunken shots of the college rugby team, of New Year’s Eve parties from 1987 through 2000, photos of my grandmother in her last days, kids i taught up North who later committed suicide, me holding babies who are now in high school, and my wedding, and Dave’s a year later. all so real at the time, and all so long ago. the albums are catalogues of a life that looks so linear laid out in pictures like that, a life that seems to have receded utterly into the past along with the people who populate the sticky, yellowing pages.
but what made me sad was that the albums themselves seemed as anachronistic as the smiling photos of me and First Husband. they are dead media just as what once was a “we” is now a relationship i peer at through the cellophane covering the pictures and try, in vain, to remember. they are antiques, artifacts of another time. in my world, at least, video never did kill the radio star, but flickr has annihilated the once-cherished medium of the physical, tangible album.
Oscar has never shown any interest in the photo albums in the den, though they’re brightly coloured and stored at his eye level. this morning when he and i got up, the old album with the photos of the piss couch guy was still sitting on the coffee table where Dave & i’d left it. after three rounds of “Hop on Pop,” it finally caught his eye, and so i hoisted it up onto our laps and opened it. and my son was floored. this was not a book! this was pictures of mama! and other people! and cats he hadn’t met yet! he looked for pictures of his father and seemed comforted when i was able to scrounge up one or two toward the end. he displayed a curious interest in photos of First Husband, even when i didn’t show up in them. he seemed amenable to the medium of the photo album overall, if quizzical about a collection of pictures that included none of him. but when we came to the end, he promptly slammed the heavy book shut, turned to the laptop beside us, and shouted “more!” he wanted to look at flickr.