I collect old photographs of forgotten people. Each one comes with a flawed face. I love the mismatched smiles, the dejected eyes, the primly clasped hands. The camera captures tiny insights like a time machine.
We fear that our lives are insignificant.
I grew up in a New England farmhouse that—I swear—was haunted. The rooms breathed. The foundation was made out of crumbling stones. You could hear insects chewing into the windowsills. The narrow attic stairs pitched upwards into darkness. My sisters and I hurried past that awful door.
We fear that our lives are meaningless.
We were poor. We took one bath a week. We shared one hair-dryer. We had one phone, nailed to the hallway wall, with a long cord that stretched around the corner and into the basement. I would close the basement door behind me, sit on the top step, and tell my best friend my worst secret.
We doubt the wisdom of our choices.
In the summer, we went barefoot. We had a beautiful wildness. We shrieked with laughter and slammed screen doors. We competed to see who could hit the most black walnuts into the woods with a golf club. We wore hand-me-downs. We ran into the fields like heathens.
Nobody has it all worked out.
My father struggled to keep us afloat. His car was always in the garage getting fixed. My mother cut our hair in the kitchen. She combed my bangs, then cut them straight across with a pair of scissors, like she was hemming curtains.
We fumble along.
Here’s a picture of me. My eyes are happy bright. I look a little goofy. I didn’t feel poor.