Browsing through an antique store, I came across an old photo album filled with snapshots of a family who once lived near a beach. California? Florida? The pictures focused on two girls, maybe seven, who might have been sisters. Besides seeing the two of them over and over again, I saw a house with a palm tree, a Chevrolet station wagon, and a dog that looked at the girls, never at the camera. A seemingly happy family from the 1950s was my best guess, but how had their pictures had ended up in an antique shop with a price tag on them—cheap. We grow tired of chairs and china cabinets. We remodel our houses and find old couches no longer fit new lifestyles. However, we usually hang on to our pictures, no matter what.
Next, I wondered who would buy a book of old family pictures.
Someone who had assumed a new identity? Maybe, someone in the U.S. Marshal’s Witness Protection Program I told myself in overly dramatic undertones. In that case, adding an old album to the décor would be like saying, “See, I have old photos. I am a genuine person with a real past.” Of course, if anyone took that seriously and asked about the pictures, a story would have to be invented.
That’s what I was doing, while I was standing there, making up a story because a family photo is worthless without a memory. And that, I suspected, was the real reason the album had been given away. No one remembered the stories.
As I continued to thumb through the pages, it was hard not to notice the way each picture had been carefully mounted under clear plastic covers. Someone had valued the pictures, had wanted to keep them secure. They were secure in the album, but they’d slipped life.