Awanthi at the age of five

 

There is an old shoe box that dwells on the top shelf of my closet. It is where paper photographs of my childhood reside.

I spent a part of the afternoon sitting cross-legged on the floor of my closet, looking through the contents of the box. There are the photographs that never made it to the digital world for various reasons. I don’t even remember that they exist most of the time. But they don’t just exist; they matter.

There is an old pressed flower that is falling apart. The sad thing is that I don’t remember its origins, or its significance. I don’t know why I kept it. The sentiment is lost, but I am loath to throw that flower away.

There are old love letters from my first boyfriend. Again, I have no idea why I keep these. I haven’t seen him since I was eighteen, and the most we ever did was kiss.

There’s a small zipped bag containing Bingo’s hair. Darling Bingo. He remains the only dog I have ever really and truly been in love with. I know I’ll never open it, but as I close my eyes and try to remember what it felt like to hug him, the tears escape anyway. I haven’t cried about him in years, but I suddenly miss him so much.

There are the photographs that never made it to the digital world for various reasons. I look at the picture of me at the age of five, caught, perhaps, in the act of doing my homework. My face hasn’t changed very much at all. I trace the face of the child in the picture with my forefinger. I had no idea then of the woman I would grow up to be, but I will always remember how it felt to be that child. I had just faced rejection from my father, who never wanted to see us again. I wouldn’t see him again for twenty-seven years. I already loved books, and I already loved to dance. They would remain my comforts through a very difficult and often traumatic childhood. I look at the wide grin and I can’t help grinning back. I feel a surge of affection for little Awanthi.

If only I could step through this paper photograph into the past, and tell her that she is beautiful, and set her free.