Pictures of the Past

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For almost every Saturday for as long as I can remember, I’ve spent the day cleaning house. It’s a lovely constant in my life, being able to know that I won’t wander far from the house that day. Instead I’ll be sleeping in and cleaning until the family gathers for dinner around seven. It’s therapeutic. Some of my happiest memories of the house we live in are cleaning memories.

We’re getting new carpet put in upstairs this week. That means my room needs a major cleaning and reorganization. There needs to be as little on the floor as possible so things can be moved out of the room fairly easily, or at least moved around.

Today I tackled a closet.

I have two small closets in my room—one on either side of a recessed window. The one on the right holds my rainbow of clothing, arranged in the proper order of colors 9how else will I know what I have?). The other holds junk. It is the closet where I put things that are important to me, if to no one else, but aren’t very pretty to look at. It’s also the place where I put things I want to forget about. Or things I want to remember, but not all the time.

The trouble with cleaning things out is, for me, the temptation to stop and examine everything. The relics of my high school days are holed up in that closet. Boxes of them. Notebooks full of them. I have old high school newspapers. Photographs. Assignments. Class notes. Competition ballots from high school speech tournaments. That one grading sheet that has legible proof that my speech teacher thought I did well in a duo scene. Hundreds of doodles. Old plays scripts I wrote. Old poems.

All I wanted to do was to re-read everything. I was surprised at what I saw in skimming things. I remembered things I had forgotten. Good things. High school was great.

Looking through photographs of our senior year, I see how much younger we all looked, even though it was only four years ago that the pictures were taken. We’re more tired now, I think, and it’s strange to see us looking so awake and alert and alive.

For decades, mankind has discussed the possibilities of time travel. More like impossibilities—but humans have dreamt for years of being able to build a machine or a box or a car that could take us back and forth in time. There are movies about it, and TV shows and books that discuss the subject.

But honestly, I think we’ve had time machines for a long, long time. They’re in our closets and under our beds and stored on our computers. Time machines are wherever we keep those pictures that mean the most to us.

And I catch myself wondering—just what pictures will still be dear to me four years from now?

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