It was a stroke of dear luck I’d felt when I spotted the note size antique photo of my family that day. Over fifteen years since I last visited the old farm house where Mistress D and her husband brother B lived, so it felt refreshing, nostalgic.
Obviously Mistress D didn’t wish for me to see the photograph, so borrowing it to make a duplicate was out of the bright question. She pointed out that that old wrinkled black and white piece, taken way back in the sixties was the one dear token she had left of her closet friends and it wasn’t leaving her vanity. She rattled on that it represented a special time in her life with my folks and now that my dad had died bless his soul, she had more reason to cherish the delicate and fading Wilkinson print.
I understood her strong sentiments but also was wrestling with a new-found surging passion of my own. It was impacting and I tried to watered down her obstinacy. My tone now was reduced to a desperate whisper as I pleaded with her to let me borrow the photo for a few hours. She blatantly scolded me and appeared agitated and dismissive. I was vexed but tried to mask it under a crooked smile. Failing to accept defeat, I started to sweet talk her of how the photo studios these days offer excellent and prompt one hour service but the old woman sat on deaf ears. She wasn’t parting with it, not even for a few hours. For Christ sakes it was my family here, I need this precious memory I thought feeling injured and disappointed.
I was about two and a half, three years old I stood there second guessing, gazing into the life that the one photo brought me back to. Funny how one little photo could take you that back into era you had lost. Not that I remembered much or any of it but I was in awe. It was grand and the first picture I had seen of me so young. Can you imagine how that felt seeing that old shabby black and white photo yet it was so instantly precious, a fine antique to my heart, I just couldn’t let it go. Darn I was now forty odd and I had never seen anything before my eighteen birthday and that was my high school graduation photo.
With heart wrenching ache mixed anger my eyes sat on the photo and just wouldn’t look away. They flitted automatically, momentarily from one sibling to the other. My entire family including me, all standing there on the veranda of our old family house only minutes away from Mistress D’s. We didn’t have the most beautiful pose but to me it meant the world. My eldest sister was just two years older. I stood there tugging at my tongue as if that was cuter than those two feet closely set together in a neat pose and showing bare legs in a pretty mini doll dress. Aha I didn’t think so- mini dress no way, it was out-grown fun. My eldest brother looked identical to his little son today and my little sister was just sitting up on a chair at the center in white christening dress and soft baby shoes.
My mom was so young and beautiful in her white tunic dress and looked more like me now and my aunt looked as big as my mother. Dad was the handsomest man I’d ever seen in tailored suit and Felt hat. My little brother who was born right after me was so short and had the biggest head. A smile crept up at my mouth corner when I noticed he had his hands behind his head. I bet my mom had a struggle to get him to settled down for this snap, he was a rebellious child. I was so deeply engrossed in the photo and all the memories it brought back of my childhood that I left my mother’s old friends farm on a verge of tears.
For over a week, I was troubled and was consumed with an urge to see the photo again. I couldn’t dismissed the thought of having a copy of it from my mind no matter how I tried. It was too vivid in my head I had to see it again. It wouldn’t be easy I know, imagining the dept of Mistress D’s emotions regarding the photo so I allowed a few tormenting weeks to slide before I paid her another visit. I brought her a few large bags of grocery as I knew she would appreciate that, and hope then I could put my best calculated plan into action.
To my relief Mistress D. wasn’t home. Brother B said she would be back before evening and that was all the time I needed. I quickly took the bags inside with brother B’s grateful help and as I passed through the room my eyes quickly flitted across the vanity where I had last seen the photo. There it was! My spirit came alive and I barely could contain myself. I wanted that picture so badly I had sleepless nights. Just then Brother B asked me if I wanted a drink and that was my chance so I happily accepted. As soon as he went to the kitchen I snatched the flimsy Wilkinson paper photo and slipped it in my bosom against the fabric of my bra and blouse . I had to get this copied and am going to need at least an hour and a half to get back so I had to act fast. I pulled a fast card and told Bro B. that I left the soaps on the counter by the cashier at the supermarket.
”Oh my Lord and she don’t have any you know.” He said.
“No problem I’ll get it,” I said quickly and wheeled back out to my car.
I had parked badly and almost got a parking ticket, had I not known the cop. I told the photo studio clerk I wanted express ten minutes if possible, I’ll pay double I sweet talked her but she said one hour. I accepted anyway and sat there tapping my foot impatiently. I had to think of something to tell Bro B why I had taken so long and in the meantime dreaded him finding out the photo was missing from the display.
“Those old people from back in the day dark bad you know. Kill them dead, they not letting go off what they hold as precious.” I whispered sitting there feeling restless.
I spent two hours alone at the photo studio. The photographer said the picture was badly damaged and it was black and white so it was harder to capture but it came out fine to me I thought relieved it was all over.
I got back five minutes before Miss D’s. return, and forgotten altogether about the issue with the soap. You should have seen my face when I finally remembered staring at the vanity with the photo was in my hand, only seconds away from where it belonged when Mistress D burst the hall door and saw me.
“A tell you already a not giving you me photo child.” she blurted out. “Why you’re so ‘fi-tee-ging’. You come here today to bother me piece of mind.” She accused.
” No Mistress D am just looking at it again.” I lied trying to mask my nervousness. Just then Brother B came up and said, give the’ child’ the little piece of old picture D, she probably happy that she can see something of herself when she was a little baby.” He hissed.
To my astonishment Mistress D mood softened and she looked at me, her face set in a sweet smile and then she gave out . “Aal- right, take it then.”
I could burst with shock, after all I went through for the pass two weeks, scheming and planning to get a copy and then today alone, I shook my head in disbelief. With my fingers crossed tightly willing Bro Bee to forget the soap I was to collect, I quickly walk to the gate now with two pictures, $2500 less in my pocket for the copy and another $5000 in groceries..So this family photo is a dear old keepsake.