Keeping a journal during all those dark days gave me an outlet, a foundation, something to grab and weather the everyday changes that shaped everything. It was a time of life folding back in on itself, the view from the hospital window of the old neighborhood, the history there, where even Jennifer lived as a child, and the history of the hospital itself, where I was born, where family members had died. Life repeating familiar patterns and doing the best to make memory make some sense of it all—and both memory and events co-existing in the now, both alive and in a dance as one.
Growing up in Mississippi, my father farms with his father and fights with his brothers, spends money his mother complains about building an automobile from the parts of many, maybe even spending money on film packs for a No. 2 Film Pack Hawk-Eye Camera. Bought for $25, it includes a shoulder strap and leather case and comes loaded with enough film for 100 exposures. When all the exposures are taken, someone, Grandparents or my father or his brothers, Duvaw, Dulith, Kellon, mails the entire camera to Rochester, New York, along with $10 to cover the cost of the new roll of film. Those huge negatives are still stored in the suitcase—some showing Great Grandfather Elijah Cothern, posing with his fiddle, another of the Brister boys, my Grandmother’s brothers, seated outside in a row of chairs, looking uncannily like the Dalton Gang, another one of Great Grandmother Sarah, one arm missing, sitting under a huge pecan tree—a stringy-haired dog blurring as he trots by behind her chair.
An inheritance of images still piled haphazardly in the suitcase with worn corners. Surely one day the roaches will chew their way into the hoard of negatives and photographs and nest next to those images of grays and stark whites and blacks like smudges of charcoal. All those photographs whose tones have faded like a pile of slippery fish losing their color in an ice chest, still stored in that suitcase like random statements, no doubt curling from the heat, needing to be flattened and then straightened in order of exposure like facts in a story.