By the end of the day, after the sorting and the winnowing and the careful packing, I had put together a large carton full of slides, and a smaller box of photographs – black and white prints made in the converted bedroom I had turned into a darkroom in the early days in Umtata, thirty years ago; family photos, pictures from my travels. In the carton of slides were two carousels, rescued from the back stoep where Eve had found them, exposed to the rain and the sun, after Eileen left, and countless boxes of slides alongside stacks I had carefully gathered together from where I had found them, loose and scattered, and fastened with rubber bands. It will take a couple of days, if not more, to go through this trove; who knows what lost family treasures may come to light? There is no time now, but once we have moved, I shall find some time – my heart is already full, at the thought of what I might find, and the memories and imaginings that this journey through the photographs will provoke.
Amongst the photos, as we were packing up house on Friday, I came across a miniature album entitled ‘Holiday Memories’ – nothing more than a small cardboard folder from Cameraland, the shop where my father would spend many happy hours discussing lenses and filters, cameras and film, with a few plastic sleeves for pictures. Inside were just three photos: the first, of me and my sisters Laura and Dianne, in our early teens I think, on the rocks at Glen Beach, with a grey and creamy sea behind us; the second, a photo of my mother on Clifton beach. She is lying on her tummy in a bikini, and the two girls are sitting back-to-back on her bottom. To the right and left are pairs of sunglasses, one of which I imagine must have belonged to my father, who no doubt was behind the camera. And the third picture is from much later – my mom is cutting what looks like a wedding cake, perhaps it was an anniversary celebration; my dad is pouring champagne, and Laura, Dianne and I are laughing and smiling, caught up in the moment.
There were letters, too – old letters from the days when people still wrote to each other, and the coming of the postman was a moment of anticipation and sometimes of grief or celebration; old poetry magazines; a bag full of stamps and first-day covers; scrapbooks, including the scrapbook I had made on the moon landing, and another, covering the drama and intensity of the clashes with police, on the University of Cape Town campus, and downtown at St George’s Cathedral, that to this day are integral to my memories of being a student. Copies of my children’s birth certificates; school and music reports; the programme from Kathy’s graduation ceremony at Wits University. The results from the psychometric tests my parents made me do, in high school; my graduation photo, at UCT.
As I have said before, this is our last weekend at Emmarentia. We are moving forward with our lives, Rob and I – we are both amazed, at how much has changed, how much we have accomplished, since we moved here at the beginning of the year; since we got back here, from Canada, only a month ago. And as we move, it seems, we draw behind us like the tide, the objects, the fragments, that are the remaindered artifacts of our lives.
Friday, let me add, was Heritage Day.