family portraits

We talked about how weird it was that people frame and display photos of themselves and their families all over their house, as if to say: this is where we live, and this is where our life has taken us, and let these images help you form an image of us as good and happy and smiling people. Neither of us think we will ever be the kind of people that frame and display photos of ourselves and our families, and I hope we are right, because it seems so silly to me now, as a girl with a family of two small kittens.

My mother has made my childhood home a shrine to me, her only child, and maybe parenthood is what flips the switch. There are pictures of me with horses and pictures of my first holy communion and pictures where I am dressed as genies and cadets and ballerinas for recitals. He told me there are a series of photos of him as a child in a sailor outfit that have been displayed in his childhood home since they were printed and still are displayed and always will be displayed. The photos are staged memories that remind us that we have a past, even if that past is not really reflected in the images (for he was not a child sailor and I was not a child genie).

I wonder how much we hold on to for the sake of holding on. I wonder if our staged memories falsify memories into happiness, and if I am setting myself up for misery by not posting pictures of my smiling face all over my almost-empty apartment. But I prefer my walls covered with art I’ve collected while traveling around the continent with him, and I think he prefers that too. And if one day I have a child and that child looks a bit like me and a bit like him, maybe I too will want to drive it over to the Sears or the Walmart or wherever it is that people go to pay to have staged photos taken of their young ones. And maybe it might sweeten the deal if he is a little sailor, or she is a little ballerina, just like we were, when we were small.

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