“Sometimes you couldn’t face the sadness of being forgotten until you felt the comfort of being remembered again.” ― Ann Brashares, The Last Summer
JK Rowling captured a rather wonderful thing when she created the remembrall for the Harry Potter books. Do you remember them? They are clear glass balls that are small enough to be held in the palm of your hand. When they are filled with red smoke they indicate that the holder has forgotten something and they become clear again once the thing has been remembered. They came to mind when I got this picture in an email from my sister.
That's my glamorous grandma Mary (although her name was actually Sheila), my aunty Ann and my darling dad at the front. My grandma Barney (although his name was actually Brendan) is not in this photo and I wonder if perhaps it was a gift for him but, of course, I'll never know because those little details are lost as family trees grow bigger and the past recedes. I'd want to know what my dad was like as a baby, where Mary got that wonderful hat and why they had the photo taken.
We didn't have any photos of my dad as a baby until my sister got this one from my aunt this week. That young girl up there with the thick braids grew up to be a nurse, fell in love with a US marine who was injured during the Korean War and moved to Texas. Some distances are greater than others and, as the years wore on, we discovered that the distance between Sydney and Amarillo is particularly vast. Ann's marine passed away a couple of years ago and she has been clearing things out. My sister in Boston and her family recently passed through Amarillo to see her. She gave them this photo and I found it in my email today. It feels like the most precious gift, a rare jewel that no-one sees the value in but us. I have been staring at it feeling deeply both happy and sad. It's been lovely.
There are so many things that I would like to know but I am unable to find out so my remembrall will remain opaque. In time, my family pictures will be like the ones above. A few vaguely familiar faces smiling out at the yet to be born. Will they smile back briefly and grant me the comfort of being remembered?