Tuesday, June 8, 2010

1000 Words Give or Take a Few

And while the future's there for anyone to change, still you know it's seems it would be easier sometimes to change the past. Sunday afternoon, the Missus was looking through the closet in the spare bedroom upstairs (euphemistically called "the office" as our homage to Continental Airlines' "Delayed Baggage Center") when she came across an over sized envelope that Mom had mailed to me eleven years ago or so. The good news is that in the decade between date of delivery and Sunday I had opened the parcel to look inside. The bad news is that my addled brain had either forgotten what was inside of it or simply never registered the contents at all. I was reminded therefore of one of the benefits of not being particularly bright - surprises abound.

It was not Margaret's looking in the closet that drew my attention to her discovery. It was the peals of laughter emanating from both Suzanne and her mere moments after she made it. Apparently the treasure trove of material was a number of old school photographs that Mom had not only held onto years after they lost all relevancy but - wanting to relieve herself of the burden of having too many pictures containing my likeness in her home - had sent to me for future inclusion in the Adam Kenny Freak Show of Photographs or some such as yet-undefined project.

Mercifully there were not a lot of pictures. There was a team photograph from the Wardlaw-Hartridge J.V. Soccer Team (1981 edition) in which I recognized in short order most of the faces. There were a couple of individual school photographs from W-H as well and while the years were not indicated on them, in my mind's eye they appeared to be from the era between 5th and 8th grade. And there was the one that was Suzanne's favorite: my class photo (with accompanying individual picture in the sleeve next to it) from my second grade class at St. Paul's School in Princeton.

I am not much to look at in 2010 and looking back through the prism of history to 1974-1975 I see now that the die was cast long ago. It likely is a foot race as to what looks sillier all these years later - my "Moe / Pete Rose" hair cut that looks suspiciously like Mom might have done it herself (and years before the Flowbee I might add) or the shirt/tie combination I was wearing for my individual photo. The question is not whether I wanted a free bowl of soup with either the 'do or the threads but whether I would be limited to just one.

I have always considered myself to be a person who possesses an excellent memory. At least I cannot recall a time in which I have doubted my ability to recall and to recollect. Yet looking at those faces in my 2nd grade class picture I realized that other than my own face, I did not recognize the faces of any of my classmates. The only two names I recall from St. Paul's (and I do not know if either was in my 2nd grade class and therefore I do not know if either was in the picture) are Leonard (whose last name I long ago forgot but whose presence as the lone guest at my birthday party when we were in kindergarten I shall remember always) and Joanie DeTuro, who I was madly in love with when I was 7. Sadly, looking at the 7 year-old me, while I have no specific recollection as to how my pursuit of the fair Ms. DeTuro played out, I have a sneaking suspicion that I know. Call it a hunch if you will but I suspect I know.

Photographs are tricky things. They can serve as a memento of an address, an event or an individual that was/is significant to us. They can serve as mile markers, keepers of time if you will that allow us to track the life of our children and of ourselves. And occasionally they can serve as evidence of how wholly detached and disconnected we are from certain events and/or certain individuals. I went to St. Paul's School for three years, from kindergarten through second grade. Other than remembering that Mrs. Spaeth was the kindergarten teacher, that I endured an eminently forgettable birthday party courtesy of a massive February snowstorm and the name of the girl who was my first "crush" for lack of a better term, I have no specific memories of any of the time I spent there or those with whom I spent it. I have a general recollection of hating going to school there as no one really seemed to dig the little nerd who was prone to the occasional grand mal seizure. It is as if the shutter in my mind's eye has closed tightly on the subject of St. Paul's and refuses to allow even a single, particularized memory through.

Every picture tells a story. Just not always a story that we have any interest in recalling I suppose. And not always one that we enjoyed living through the first time around.

-AK

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