THE PHOTO

. . . an excerpt. . .

My middle-aged hands fingered the black and white photos interspersed with yellowing color Polaroids. As I searched for the one of my mother, burrowing deeper inside the box through layers of years, the wavy skin and popping veins from the top of my hands caught my attention. I always thought I had my mother’s hands, petite, with shapely fingers. But she always told me, “You’ve got your dad’s hands, short fingers with stubby digits.” I scanned my hand tops again and saw that they are mine, unique and skilled and aging too.

I continued to look for the picture where her youth stood still.

Fifty years of my family story, corralled in the confines of this twelve-by-twenty-four-inch cardboard border. Color photos were faded to pale yellow and receded to the sides of the box yet black and white photos held their contrast in the center. As I reviewed the photo mixture with my fingertips hoping that I had opened my story’s first chapter, I was distracted by a color photo that was looking at me. There’s me and Tim, my older brother, at the zoo in Des Moines, Iowa. I remember it was hot and humid and sunny and beads of sweat dripped down my back as I sat on a stone ledge waiting for my picture to be taken. I am pleasantly plump, wearing pale purple polyester shorts and a navy crew neck t-shirt that hugged my roundness not because of my size but because of the stickiness of my skin. My pixie haircut and Tim’s crew cut make the smiles on our faces bigger and our cheeks fuller. We squint because of the bright sun as we focus on the camera’s eye.

I push more photos aside, mixing up the years. And then I spot her.

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