It’s overcast when the taxi drops me off outside my family home. The storm-clouds which had held off on raining for the entire day finally broke open and drench me in the time it takes to hurry up the path and take cover on the front porch. The outside light is left on, illuminating the late afternoon gloom and allowing me to see one of Mom’s trademark note, hanging on the front door. I shake my head, chuckling under my breath at the sight of it, already knowing what to expect. I deposit my suitcase by the entrance and take the note, quickly opening it and regarding its contents. It reads;
Welcome home sweetie, sorry I couldn’t be here when you got in, work called. Left you dinner in the freezer and your room is all set up and ready for you.
I crumple up the note and put it in my pocked. Retrieving the spare key from its usual spot under one of Mom’s potted plants I let myself in, locking the door behind me. I head straight for my room to drop off my stuff, hitting every light switch along the way in the hope of making the place feel less empty. The only thought on my mind is getting out of these soaked clothes and into a warm shower.
The instant hot pressure of the shower is heavenly compared to the shitty dorm showers at college and in that moment I decide to stay in here forever. From my new steamy shower home I think about how good it feels to be back, my freshman year of college had been the first time I’d been away from home for any extended period of time and I’m happy to be back for the holidays. It’s lame that Mom had been called in to work and couldn’t meet me at the airport, but at the same time it was kind of nice to have the house to myself for a few hours.
In the end my hunger forces me out of the loving embrace of my shower home and I quickly dry myself and dress, heading downstairs to investigating the freezer dinner, I’d been promised. And as expected there’s another note from Mom attached by a magnet that I read as I the leftover lasagna reheats in the microwave,
“Was going through your kid stuff in the attic, if you wanted to go through some of the stuff and help me decide what to keep I’d appreciate it, Mom”
I’m a little surprised, ever since Mom and Dad split she hadn’t been particularly interested in going back to old memories. I mean, she wasn’t being unhealthy about it, she just preferred to keep her focus on moving forwards. I really respected that about her, I could never let anything go.
I figured I should probably do what I can to help out while I’m in town, so after washing my plate and leaving it to dry, I made my way up to the attic. Mom never let anything get too out of control around her house, and the attic was no exception. There was no layer of dust you might expect in storage, instead I could see the handiwork of Mom’s cleaning and two big boxes marked “Kristian’s Kid Stuff” had been separated from the rest and waited for me.
Opening the box I start going through plenty of nostalgic books, toys, clothes and more. It’s not long before I’m sitting there, surrounded by piles of stuff, completely having forgotten what I was there for. I’m flicking through what was once my favourite book when I notice a photo album at the bottom of the box. Putting aside the book for now, I pull the photo album out and open it on my lap.
I don’t think I had ever seen a photo album from when I was a kid before, neither Mom or Dad had ever spent much time taking photographs that I could remember, so this was certainly an interesting and unexpected find. The first page has pictures of my parents when they were younger holding a newborn baby I assume was me at the hospital. It’s nice seeing how they used to be happy together, I have fond memories of a birthday party when I was something like six when Mom and Dad first let me try to ride my bike without training wheels. The memory is hazy because I was so young, of course, but I can remember being super proud of myself when I managed to ride from Dad to Mom unaided on the road.
I flick forward through my early years, continuing to be surprised by just how many pictures there are, relative to how rarely I remember seeing a camera. My first day at pre-school, a trip to the zoo, five birthday parties and finally I find my first day of school. I don’t remember anything really from then, but somehow the pictures still bring a nostalgic smile to my face.
Next comes the pictures I’ve been looking for, my sixth birthday party. I’m surprised by how accurately I remember everything; the cake, the decorations, and even the type and size of the bike are exactly like I remember. There were some things that I don’t quite remember, like who this one beautiful couple were that showed up in number of the pictures. The final picture documenting the party is an absolutely stunningly beautiful picture taken from behind. In it I’m holding the hands of the beautiful couple and we’re walking away from the camera through a door I don’t quite recognise.
And that’s where the album finishes. I flick back and forwards through a few of the blank pages that followed expecting to see more, but the remaining pages are completely blank. I’m more than a little confused by this sudden and dramatic change, but there’s nothing I can do until Mom gets home so I can ask her about it.
I pack everything away, sorting the boxes into the important stuff and everything else. I keep the photo album with me, carrying it back downstairs under my arm. I’m still leafing absently through it when Mom gets home. I’m so engrossed in the album I don’t hear her come in and startle at the sound of her voice greeting me. We hug and talk, about college for me and how work was for her, when I turn the conversation towards the photo album.
Mom seems just as surprised as I was by the existence of the album, telling me she has no memory of it and that it must have been my fathers doing. We sit together in the lounge and go through the album. Mom is getting all sappy and maternal, telling me about how cute I was as a baby and filling in the blanks in my memories of the pictures. At last we make it to the pictures for my sixth birthday party and Mom suddenly starts crying uncontrollably. I ask her what’s wrong but she says she doesn’t know, and that she can’t explain why she’s suddenly so distraught. I close the album and comfort her, she quickly regains control now that the pictures are out of sight and apologises.
We decide to put the album aside for now and look at them again in the morning. Mom suggests we could call Dad and ask him about them, but I tell her I’ll wait for another time. It’s strange, I think to myself as I turn the light off for bed. The doorway in that last picture kind of looked more like my wardrobe than any of the other doors.