memories and time by phoenix.writing

21 Feb

Alfred had come across the box while cleaning out the basement.  Neither he nor Madge were really packrats by nature, but after living for almost eight decades, a certain amount of accumulation was inevitable.  They’d been in this house for almost forty years, and periodic thorough cleanings ensured that it stayed controllable.

He couldn’t think how the box had survived the last time they’d done this; photos were labelled properly in albums, or they were done away with because realistically, no one was going to know anything about the lot of them when he and Madge were dead and gone, and although they’d been doing well so far, it was only a matter of time until their memories were shot, and then what use would the unlabelled photos be?  He was surprised that the box had survived the last cleaning.

He should simply have thrown out the box directly, but he found himself sitting down on the old couch and looking through it.  The photos were from decades ago, most of them, some of people that he didn’t recognize—Madge’s photos or his memory going after all?—many in black and white, some made through processes that didn’t even exist anymore, especially now that everyone was using those newfangled digital things.  George had bought them one, and they left it in a drawer to eat batteries.

Near the bottom of the box, he came across a photo that gave him pause.  Bright blue eyes unobscured by glasses, slim, athletic form, bright smile that revealed natural teeth, full head of dark hair.  There was the man that Madge had married, hidden away in this box.  Slowly, piece by piece and year by year, he had been stolen away, and all that was left was the old man with the thinning hair and the big ears and nose that Alfred saw in the mirror every day.

“Alfred?  Alfred, are you all right?”

It was too late for him to hide the incriminating evidence; he’d just look guilty if he shuffled everything around.  She was already downstairs and making her way towards him, the look of concern in her eyes indicating that she must have tried calling him earlier, and he had not responded.

“I’m fine,” he told her, trying to smile.  “Caught up in old memories.”

Ancient memories, more like.  Dust and ashes.

She made her way to his side and peered down at the photo in his hands.

“Ah, yes.”  He could hear the smile in her voice.  “I always say that’s where Patrick got all his good looks while George is a throwback to your Grandfather Fred.”

“Do you ever miss him?” Alfred asked.

“Your Grandfather Fred?”

“This man.”  Alfred pointed to the photo.  “The man you married.”

She nudged him.  “No point in missing him, since he’s right in front of me.”

“No, I mean, look at him.”  Alfred sighed.  “You’re still as beautiful as the day I married you, and I’ve gotten old.”

Madge laughed softly and leaned over to kiss his cheek.  “Oh, Alfred, you charmer.  We’ve both gotten old, but you will always be the man I married.  Come on, I’ll make tea.”

Alfred obediently put the box of photos away, realizing that they were going to be tucked back into the cupboard and preserved for another few years yet.

They began to make their way up the stairs together.

“Besides,” Madge said teasingly, “can you imagine how everyone would react if I looked like this and you still looked like you did in that photo?  You’d keep getting called out for being a gold-digger, and they wouldn’t think there was a midlife crisis big enough for what I was doing.”

Alfred laughed, feeling a surge of happiness go through him.  “I love you, Margaret Rose.”

She made growing old worthwhile.


8 Responses to “memories and time by phoenix.writing”

  1. jadamthwaite February 21, 2010 at 9:12 pm #

    Ah, this is lovely. George had bought them one, and they left it in a drawer to eat batteries – I love this line! It’s a lovely image and it says a lot about Margaret and Alfred and their way of looking at the world.

    • phoenix.writing March 7, 2010 at 4:46 pm #

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I’ve tried to show that George tries, he just doesn’t quite connect to his parents, who really do see things differently than he does.

  2. ingridfnl February 21, 2010 at 9:35 pm #

    Very nice. Your perspective makes me think of things my dad has said about aging and his relationship with his aging body. Beautifully rendered.

    • phoenix.writing March 7, 2010 at 4:47 pm #

      Thank you. I’ve always found people’s relationships with their bodies fascinating.

  3. juleshg February 24, 2010 at 2:18 am #

    Very nice — I got teary when they were chatting about the photo and you made me laugh at the end. They seem like a really solid, happy couple

    • phoenix.writing March 7, 2010 at 4:48 pm #

      I really wanted to go back in the past a bit to before Margaret lost Alfred. Nothing’s perfect, of course, but I think they were very happy, yes.

  4. Parenthesized February 25, 2010 at 4:42 am #

    I love the image you created of him having his youth stolen away from him.

    • phoenix.writing March 7, 2010 at 4:49 pm #

      I’m not that old, but the longer I live, the more I feel that time is speeding up, slipping by faster and faster; I can only imagine what it’s going to feel like when I’m Alfred’s age, and that’s part of what I was trying to get across here.

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