Today I took V to see my dad at the store he owns. After chitchatting a bit, he seemed to remember something, and said, “Oh, I have something for you,” and disappeared around the corner.
He came back holding a very old looking envelope, black, with a rainbow on it that read, “Technicolor 1 Hour Photographs.”
(Technicolor! I don’t even know how I’ll describe what that is to V when she’s older. )
Anyway, inside were all of these photos of me as a baby, with my dad, mom, uncles, and grandfather who passed away twenty-three years ago. I’d never seen any of these photos before. And I marveled that I was ever really that small, and that my mom looked at me just the way I look at V, and the way that V resembles me sometimes (but also really doesn’t).
We go on living thinking this is the only us we’ve ever been. We forget what it’s like to have inhabited an earlier version of our body. (I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and wrote about it here and here.) But if you carve into that history, it goes on and on and on. Layers of our skin. The scar we got as a child that is still there. The people who have held us when something is hurting. The people who rocked us to sleep.
And behind that, all of the ancestors who had to meet and love and suffer just for us to be a living, breathing person right now. The coincidences that made them cross paths. The tragedies they endured. The babies they lost. The darknesses they overcame. I thought about all of that, driving home. The uncles I don’t see anymore. The grandfather who adored me. The people who held them as babies, and the people who held them as babies.
All of us going back, all connected by invisible threads, standing in a hall of endless mirrors. If you pull just one mirror out of the line, the whole thing collapses and bam, you don’t exist.
All of the people it took to make you, you. All the knuckles in all of the hands. All the bald heads that sprouted hair. The soft folds of all of the ears. The smile lines that deepened and then crumpled our entire faces.
All the bones we grew and left behind.