We keep the photos in an old square biscuit tin in the bottom of the wardrobe. At one time it held two moulded plastic inserts, one on top of the other, that crinkled whenever we lifted them to raid the pink wafers from the bottom. It gets dragged out every once in awhile so that we can rifle through the bad haircuts, the old friends, the crying babies. It’s our assorted selection of memories.
“Who’s this Daddy?” asks Emily, reaching up for the polaroid that I’ve plucked from the pile.
I’m about seven years old and leaning against the outside wall of my childhood home. The sweet taste of freshly-cut grass hangs in the air and I can feel the pebble dash pressed into my palms as the shutter clicks. I have a huge grin across my face and my chest is thrust out as I proudly show off my t-shirt. It has a bright red bi-plane on it.
I’d forgotten how much I loved that t-shirt until now.
“That’s me,” I angle the photograph to show her, “that was my favourite t-shirt.”
“Ooo. Adorable,” Emily smiles at the seven year old me.
“Ha. Yes, Adorable.”
Beyond the frame of this picture are things that the camera hasn’t captured, memories that have faded over time and been kept in their very own little box. As they begin to resurface they cloud my nostalgia for the t-shirt, replacing it with frustration that this image has somehow become a snapshot of my life at that age. A blink of time that represents a childhood, when a moment either side would have been much more revealing.
I hesitate before putting the photograph back. It would be easy to scrunch my fist around it and prevent anyone from ever seeing this distorted history again, but that grinning boy deserves better.
I slide the polaroid back into the tin and leave it to be discovered by someone new. I want whoever that person is to admire that adorable t-shirt in just the way that that boy had always wanted them to.