I wiped the thin veil of dust off the photograph album. Opening its thick embossed cover, a faint musty odour wafted up at me. I slowly began flicking through the pages with each photo staring back at me like a moment captured forever in its time. It was hard to believe that those fragments from a way-back yesteryear, in black and white and clouded in dullness, were ever real; that they could have ever been somebody’s present—somebody’s now! Slices of a distant life frozen in time stare back at me like ghosts with each page I turn; all there in an age long gone and no more.
My attention scantly flickered from one picture to another until one strangely caught my eye. There was nothing about this particular picture that begged or demanded attention. In fact it was very much in similar standing to the rest—old fashioned and very antiquated.
The old lady on it was dressed in a frock of different shades of grey that flowed almost down to the ground and was standing with a gentle fixed expression next to a young boy. The age-gap suggested that he was maybe her grandson, there in his Sunday best, aged four or maybe five and appearing quiet oblivious to it all as the old ‘Box Brownie’ captured the moment for posterity.
On closer inspection though, within the old lady’s fixed expression, there does appear somewhat a hint of a smile. Maybe a weary smile, like as if she’d grown a little tired with the ‘cheese’ pose while awaiting the click from the camera. Her eyes seem slightly offset as if someone or something had caught her attention at the decisive moment. In fact, the picture seemed to have a very distinct ‘excuse me’ feel to it, like as though someone had just happened to have had a camera and suggested taking a photograph. Yeah it all looked rather impromptu and informal.
The young boy in the picture was me and the old woman was my grandmother. I was also informed by the scribbled information on the reverse side that the photo was taken in my grandmother’s back garden on a sunny afternoon in September 1959.
It’s strange but I didn’t recognize either of them. They were both long gone, and in different respects, both dead.