Sunday Morning ~ Lockdown
Bisani matenda, maliro tidzamva. ~ You can hide the sickness, but we will find out at the burial.
~ Chewa proverb.
April 5, 2020
We just finished our first week in official lockdown which wasn’t a whole lot different from the week before. It sounds more severe though. I’m getting a little nervous about how much I am adjusting to being secluded and homebound. I’m so very fortunate to have a safe place with plenty of food and woodland trails to walk. My kids are all safe and I even heard from my oldest son who called to check on me. That was nice until he started the berating for my failures as a mother. I finally hung up on him. His switch flipped when I told him I’d been going through old photos and slides and reminisced about all the adventures we’d had. But if it weren’t that it would have been something else I said; I started seeing the pattern long ago. It’s painful but it doesn’t blindside me anymore.
I spent three days this week going through all the slides I’d taken since 1976 when I first got a camera. It was cool to take slides back then. I’d ride my bike to Ferrente Dege, the camera shop in Harvard Square, and drop off the film for development. I can’t believe I just remembered the name of that place! Didn’t even have to stop typing. The name just came to me. Wow. This day is starting off really good! Anyway, I’d ride my bike from my apartment in Chestnut Hill, cycle through the streets of Brookline and Allston gliding into Cambridge like I owned the place. Weaving through traffic and stoplights seemed so easy back then. I was full of energy and confidence navigating the city. No amount of money could get me on a bike there now but I didn’t think a thing about it back then as I locked my bike to a parking meter in front of the camera shop. I had a serious crush on the guy who worked there. He had a ponytail and a deep, soft velvety voice. I was very much in love with his voice. I believed his whole being and personality were as beautiful as that baritone. I love dropping my film off and I loved picking it up. Imagine! Developing slides required human contact back then. I had to wait a week to collect my slides, which was perfect, since that meant I would go to the camera shop once a week. Drop off, pick up, drop off, pick up. Then I had to wait to borrow a projector so I could actually see the slides. Imagine! Such delayed gratification. You took a photo and waited weeks to see how it came out. I was nineteen years old then and since that junior year of college I have taken thousands of slides, a thousand of which I discovered this week, should have been deleted. They’ve taken up a lot of space. For decades I’ve been saying I’m going to go through them all and organize them; weed them out, cull the herd. I envisioned a snowy Sunday afternoon peacefully walking down memory lane before settling in with some loved one for a romantic dinner by the fire. Hah! That fantasy was realized in a more solitary fashion during this raw, cold week punctuated with rain and snow. I hate this time of year. I had no desire to go outside and was looking for an excuse to stay in. (What was I thinking a Sunday afternoon? It took me three eight hour days!) It gave me a reason to not go out, not get dressed, and wallow in my memories.
I was melancholy going thorough the pictorial of my life which was actually a bit of a relief from the constant anxiety. The snow and rain might have had something to do with that mood, but looking back through all these images made me sad. I acknowledged there was a necessary grieving and I’m glad I was alone. I didn’t fight it and I didn’t have to buck up for any social engagement. It was perfect.
My very first roll of film was spent shooting what I thought were artsy shots in Boston and as I sipped my tea hunched over the light box where the slides were laid out I felt sort of sorry for my young self who thought she might be some prize winning amateur photographer. Maybe that guy with the deep voice would take notice of me. I thought maybe I’d have one slide, particularly excellent in it’s composition, blown up into a print and he would comment on my exceptional talent. I was learning to use my new 35 mm camera that weighed about twenty pounds and made the most wonderful complex click when a shot was taken. I experimented with different F stops not really knowing what that was and uh, it showed. (I wonder if I made people sit through a slide show of these? Probably.) I looked these random images of Harvard Yard, the Hancock building (brand new!), and strangers sitting on park benches in interesting (I thought) poses, and said goodbye and thank you, and dropped them into the trash. I don’t need to look at them again.
From there I went on to hundreds of nursing school graduation slides where I look all of twelve and I didn’t recognize half the other people. Then the years in Peace Corps that really needed weeding. You’ve seen one bush buck you’ve seen them all. In slides anyway. Then on to young parenthood and the nursery school we produced. Some of those are good. Then the years in Samoa when the camera was dying and most of them were too dark. Into the reject bag those went. New Zealand had a few keepers. Then the surly teenage years and there is some good footage there. I’m looking forward to scanning those. Then everyone in this family went to Paris at one time or another and I swear I tossed forty slides of the Eiffel Tower. My journey took me up to the turn of the century and that’s when life changed. There aren’t any pictures of the two devastating years and after that we went digital.
I’ve had a good life. Every time I’d see a slide that made me mourn for the happy family that we were (see? Proof in this photo!) I’d remind myself, that I had this. We had a happy family and I was part of it. It has been a good life with a lot of love. And…I used to be cute! I never thought of myself as cute or even attractive. But as I went through these photos I thought I actually looked cute. I thought of looking through old photos of my parents, the black and whites with yellowed edges. Those were the people who got old, not me. I’d marvel at the elegance of them in those photos. I never knew my mother to be so lipsticked and relaxed in real life. The photos were like a silent movie, starring actors I didn’t know.
This whole bizarre time is making me look at life in a different light. Many people are dying terrible deaths that could have been prevented. Not all, but many. It’s making me look at my own life and taking stock. It’s a gift to have time now to reflect and be quiet because life can change on a dime and it would be a shame to have wasted this.
Love to all,