Sunday, June 05, 2005

Nine years ago, Karen and I chased sheep, picked flowers, read Washington Square and fought off attacking chickens. The sorts of things one usually does if one visits a Transylvanian village on a hilltop. The maternal grandmother made us chiftele; Karen was too polite to let her know they were raw.

The night ended with us clamouring to see old photos. There were a few photos of my immediate family soon after we immigrated to Canada. None of my murdered cousin or my living cousin. One of my tragic uncle. Three or four of my mother as a young girl. Most of the photos were of my other uncle, the darling one.

It seems like everyone else fancied him too. In every photo, with the exception of the one posted here, a different woman had her arms around him.

"How many girlfriends did Unchiu Tanu have?" I asked.

My grandmother couldn't answer.

After my grandmother's death, I cleaned out all the photos and letters. Everything is in a suitcase in a closet in Alba Iulia. I one day will extract all the photos of Unchiu Tanu and count all the different women. I might even ask him who each woman is.

He kept all his old photos at his parents' house, far out of town, in that hilltop village where Karen and I found ourselves. They were very safe there until I collected them and now they are very safe in that old suitcase.

My old photos are a blink among the rest. Many, in youthful disgust, met their fate at the blades of scissors or at the pinnacle atop a match. Of the remaining photos, good friends get the thorough explanations: "That is the German guy, can't remember his name, but I met him in Italy" and "This is Walter, unfortunately the photo is not so good." You would miss them if I didn't tell you.

My old photos had the protection of my parents' house and, if a someone new was around, I slapped on the disguise. "Oh, those are some people from school" or "He was my French tutor in high school" or "My father's coworker's cousin's son - I think."

Now, however, a whole six years can't be reduced to a blip. I can't cull the offending photos or the entire narrative of one-fifth of my life is gone. I can't segregate them either - imagine: two albums telling the same story, one sanitized and the other forbidden.

I will keep my photos in my parents' basement, like a sort of Bluebeard's secret. (Mind you, even though I reassured her that the photos are in a box in a part of the basement I rarely visit, my mother keeps threatening to burn them when I am not looking.)

A friend in the same position entrusted her memories to another friend. Then, on second thought, made two backup copies of the everything and gave a copy each to two more friends.

MaikoPunk pointed out that our parents never had the chance to collect mementoes. They probably married their firsts. Even if they had other chances, in those days affairs were illicit and would hardly be commemmorated.

Carrie Bradshaw probably asked this question already: "When do you get rid of everything?"

I don't intend to get rid of anything. I liked my six years. Who cares if it all ended tragically and the Capulets and Montagues shot each other to pieces and the world cracked in two?

My excuse is better than the other girl's excuse for keeping everything and its backup. She thinks she'll never marry and she'll browse her photos in her spinsterly state.

My best friend gave me the best excuse; "Awww, it's so romantic. When you're old, you'll sift through your photos and remember all the affairs you've had."

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