Friday, November 16, 2007


I finished the scrapbook. The fucking scrapbook, as it has come to be known. And here is a record of the process: (apologies to Nina for not posting scanned pictures. Turns out the scanner is so old it won't work.)

First of all, I had to sort through mountains of old snapshots, selecting those that wouldcouldmight have meaning for my son. He is not nearly as sentimental as I am, and I am not. So, I judge and I wonder and I choose this one and that one. There are my favorites, and all of the shit (did I say shit?) from his father. They are actually fairly nice photos, better than any I take, and as important for this document as mine are (hate to admit it, but it is true).

Then, I rounded up all of the undeveloped film canisters, 23 in all, and took them to Walgreens. Most were about 20 years old. Like I've said all along: I'm no historian. And honestly, I am such a shitty photographer that the ones that did survive move after move after move are unredeemably bad. Most were blank, whole rolls of purple, one roll of people I either never knew or have forgotten entirely. The latter is as likely as the former. It was somebody's wedding. Not mine. There is one picture of my wedding. One. So, of 23 rolls, I probably got 10 useable photographs. It was a relief to have them developed, though. Done is done. But there was one great, if purple, shot of my son and Spencer, the greatest dog in the world.

Having completed the monumental undertaking, my initial disgruntlement is not so much with my absence (I hate to have my picture taken) but with his father's presence. I may have referred to this in the former post and this is probably not the last time you'll hear about it.

So, we have picture after picture of Daddy with the Baby Boy as though he were the most thoughtful and present parent in the universe. If you look closely, however, you'll see the book he is reading to the adorable baby is Easy Rider magazine, and that the only thing under the Christmas tree for Baby's First Christmas is motor oil, and that baby's first birthday cake is really just a chocolate chip cookie with a candle on top.

I muddled through these resentments once upon a time. They may need just the slightest bit of review.

So, on I went, slogging through page after page of a not particularly idyllic childhood. If it were left to me to choose the chapters, they would be titled:

Jacksonville, before the escape
The Wonder years
On the run in Red Bluff
Post trauma in Bolder City
Coosbay, after the escape
Central point, the heroin years

As a writer, I had visualized this project as one requiring a fair amount of writing. I figured I'd write a brief commentary about each picture, talking about where and when and who, but I found myself speechless and unknowing. I couldn't get the school pictures in order if my life depended on it. I wrote things like "kindergarten or first grade?" How lame is that? What mother doesn't know that? I don't even really know if he went to Kindergarten, or if there was one. So, my comments are brief and tentative. It is a bit embarrassing, really. I have pictures from my side of the family, way back, and papa's, way back. There is an Ojibwa medicine woman named Naganook on that side. Mine? Texans and Coastal folk. Oregonians 5 generations back from him. But even that stuff I am unclear about. I know some faces that appear to age from frame to frame, from birth to death, all in celluloid permanence. And what difference does it make really? What if I just made it all up? Who would know, or care?

Still, it is a great scrapbook. Only I know what really happened. Then again, I have a revisionist memory. Ask anyone.


asha said...

I am impressed. I was such a loser, wouldn't buy the school photos every year. Too expensive. I'll do it myself. Ha! I have some photos but not the way they did it, years, one after the other, documented. Historical markers saved. I hate myself for it. Where was I? Swirling in the bowl. Moth eaten memory. They remember more. Ifonlyifonlyifonly. I wish I could honestly say I'll follow your good example, maybe, but I probably won't. Well, maybe. Something. I do better now but the past is still a scattered mess. Anyway, I am impressed. Good for you.

Anonymous said...

my pictures are all bent like my memories. highly impressive!

Anonymous said...

well i can vouch for boulder city.