Keepsake

When I sit down and think about what it means to be possessed and trapped, all the while knowing that someone can be amused by my panic and that raspy sound I make when I’m so scared I have to force myself to breath I think about Mrs O’Hara’s garage.

In Mrs O’Hara’s garage, stacked against a wall covered with pale green wallpaper are pictures in heavy gold frames and cracked silver frames that range in size from something you could fit into the palm of your hand to ones that could only be moved by at least two people and a pickup truck.

It didn’t take us long to figure out that everyone in those pictures which were turned so that they faced the wall was dead.

Me and my friend Delilah found them the summer we had taken to breaking into people’s garages.

We had broken into every single garage on our street- we never took anything.  We were 11 years old and bored and nobody else would hang out with us because me and Delilah looked ” Arabic ” according to Mrs. Lee and to make it worse we looked like we had ‘some Mexican ‘ in us too ( according to Mr Lee ) and both of us had white Fathers and ” foreign looking Moms” so all we had was each other and because of that me and Delilah learned to make a heck of team.

Anyway we would bust into these garages and go through boxes and look through magazines and books and we use to cover our hands with chalk dust and leave imprints on the floors or sometimes we would get into the parked cars and pretend to drive to ” Arabic ” where apparently everyone looked like us.

Mrs O’Hara’s garage was the last one we broke into and the one we always went back to because every Friday Mrs O’Hara would drive up in her Station Wagon and take a new picture into her garage.

We must have spent the entire Summer trying to figure out why Mrs. O’Hara had pictures of dead people in her garage and it got to the point where we decided to either forget our once a week trip into Mrs. O’Hara’s garage or we find out, once and for all why she had pictures of dead people…

facing her garage wall.

Finally we came up with a plan to strike up a conversation with Mrs. O’Hara and it involved Mrs Swanson.

We were always trying to find ways to get at Mrs Swanson because she wouldn’t let us join her Girl Scout Troop- every single girl in the neighborhood belonged to that Troop and when she said that me and Delilah couldn’t join because we weren’t ” Girl Scout Material ” that put the nail in our social coffin. 

 Services were held shortly thereafter that and we never were accepted by any of our neighbors.

I know- it’s sad.

Anyway.

Every year Mrs. Swanson’s Girl Scout Troop sold cookies- someone would show up in their Scout Outfit with all these badges and pins on their chest and they’d unload boxes and boxes of cookies onto Mrs. Swanson’s front porch.

Right after they showed up me and Delilah would sneak up to the porch and we would each steal once box of cookies from each of the big boxes.

Later, Mrs. Swanson and her little troopers would show up and they would pull out these check lists and figure out they were about a dozen boxes short and Mrs Swanson would go into heart failure because in Mrs. Swanson’s world there wasn’t room for funny looking kids with mismatched parents or for shortages on her order forms.

So she would call in her missing cookie count and then she would race up and down the street trying to find someone who would be home during the day to receive the cookies.

I’ll give Mrs. Swanson this much- she was so focused that she didn’t even notice me and Delilah following her up and down the street with cookie crumbs smeared all over our faces.

So we were strolling behind Mrs. Swanson who was talking to Mrs Parnell about the cookies when I told Delilah, ” if I have to eat another cookie my guts are going to blow. “

” We could give them to your dog “

” Or…” I said as Mrs O’Hara’s station wagon purred by us ” we could sell them to Mrs. O’Hara”

In the end we decided to use the remaining boxes of cookies as bait, looking back at it thinking of the cookies as bait should have told us something about Mrs. O’Hara.

Mrs. O’Hara was late returning home from Picture Day but we were ready for her. We walked up her driveway with an assortment of cookies and offered to sell them to her.

Mrs. O’Hara had this round face and tiny blue eyes and white teeth that clicked when she talked and she said, ” Since when did you girls become Scouts. “

” We’re helping them out. ” Delilah said.

” That’s a relief. I thought you girls had joined them. I was sure you both had more sense then that “

Mrs O’Hara agreed to take the cookies off of our hands for half the price we had asked for and of course we didn’t press the point and after she took the bags of cookies from us she pointed to two small portraits on her back seat and asked if we would take them into the garage for her.

Glad too we told her.

So we each took a picture into the garage and leaned them against the wall with the rest and that’s when we saw that the pictures we had carried in were of a babies with a rose clenched in their chubby little baby fists and even an 11 yeras old kid could pick up on the fact that babies and roses just don’t look right together.

We looked back at Mrs. O’Hara.

“Twins.” she told us and then Mrs O’Hara reached over and turned both pictures against the wall.

” Who were they?” I asked looking at the rows and rows of pictures.

” Those are pictures of dead people. They all died a very long time ago. It hardly matters now to learn their names now, does it?”

” Why do you want pictures of Dead People Mrs. O’Hara? ” Delilah asked.

We turned back and looked up into Mrs. O’Hara’s round pleasant face and she smiled down on us and said, ” Some people believe  that when you take a picture of a person you steal their Souls…and I have stolen all of these…so that means ” she said as she rested her hand on one of the frames ” that means they’re mine now.”

Mrs. O’Hara either laughed or growled- I’m not sure which and then she said in her real voice:

” Mine. “

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4 thoughts on “Keepsake

  1. There’s an intersting note to this picture:

    I found it at a clip art site and found out later that it was a Momento Mori Picture- there was a tradition of superimposing the figure of a person who had passed on ( the picture was one taken when they were alive as opposed to the ‘death ‘ pictures ) into shots with their living family memebers or friends.

    So the faint image of the child on the left who is looking in the other direction, was a dead child.

    a.m.

    Like

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