Slipping fingers trace each slick page. This happens so rarely these days. Paper, colors, ink, form and function mix into one solid mass. Light and electricity combined these atoms and, as a result, I’m holding these photos of you.
Printing seems obsolete. Even grandmas pull out their phones to show you pictures of their grandchildren. Brightness, smoothness, simulated on the screen.
And yet, there’s something about holding this after-image of you that invokes so much more than scrolling through my phone. Printing photos isn’t obsolete, it’s absolute.
You were here.
You were real.
You now aren’t.
It doesn’t contain your laugh or your smell, but the photo invokes both in my memory. Glossy, fragile, frozen you stand there. How does a small rectangle have the power to both pierce and heal me?
There are books of these photos in a box in my parent’s storage. Frozen snippets of my childhood awaiting reclamation. There are notebooks full of silver nitrate from my grandmother’s journies. Hand-scrawled names and places that are foreign to me. There are shoeboxes full of missing tooth grins, proud smiles, and “firsts” in our closet.
Each page is imbued with laughter, sorrow, pain, and joy.
There’s echoes of the ones who have moved on to their permanent location. There’s sighs that stir forgotten memories. There’s love.
My fingertips trace the only piece of you I have left. Tears form despite my best efforts. I slip into a moment where the world is only me and my loss. Just for a moment, I let myself feel the missing you feeling that hangs in the back of my mind.
I put the photo in a place of prominence. Here I raise my Ebenezer, grateful for the help that gets me through. The help you left behind. The help that is your love.
I think it’s time to print some more photos.
About the author: Tabitha Grace Challis
Tabitha is a social media strategist, writer, blogger, and professional geek. Among her published works are the children’s books Jack the Kitten is Very Brave and Machu the Cat is Very Hungry, both published under the name Tabitha Grace Smith. A California girl (always and forever) she now lives in Maryland with her husband, son, and a collection of cats, dogs, and chickens. Find out more about her on her Amazon author page or follow her on Twitter: @Tabz.