Thursday, August 2, 2018

Hometown dreams: 1964

I don't have much time today - I have to be somewhere fast - but I thought I'd post, or re-post this slideshow I made from old family/hometown photos. Some of these are very personal, but since they weren't specifically labelled, I hoped they would  be seen as "found photos", anonymous pictures of the past which often have a  dreamlike, even slightly creepy quality. They're either black and white, or overly-saturated/faded '60s (Instamatic!)  colour.

I had someone contact me about this video, someone I knew in high school. We both lived in this same town. As far as I can remember, we were both miserable. One time, one of HER friends ripped into me and didn't stop ripping into me (though I never knew why) during a 20-minute  walk the three of us took together. My friend said nothing during the whole thing. She was simply a spectator, which was somehow worse than being trashed. I don't remember much about our friendship except episodes like this (that, and her telling me to get off the phone because her boy friend was going to call).

Yet, over the years, and repeatedly, she kept wanting to connect with me - to talk about Chatham. Just about nothing else but Chatham. Chatham-ites are obsessive about  their history and are forever wanting to glom onto you and reminisce about it. Old photos trigger them: "Is that the old Armoury?" "No, that's the old Presbyterian Church." "Oh no, that's the old Kent Museum!" Why did they dig up the lovely flower beds with the delphiniums in Tecumseh Park (35 years ago)? Why did they take down the bandshell? Everyone loved that bandshell. And look - look at that old photo of the Chatham Kiltie Band, with all the band members marching in their kilts! My Uncle Arnold was in that band. Yes, so was my -

Excuse me while I kill myself.

For reasons I do not understand, I did briefly join a Facebook page called "If you grew up in Chatham", but soon regretted it because of its exclusively backward view. For some reason I told someone my "maiden" name, and suddenly there tumbled out of people all sorts of detailed, fond remembrances - of my brother Arthur. Absolutely no one remembered me, and there was no record in their minds that I had ever existed at all. "Now let me seeeee. . . (long pause), no, no, I don't think so. But I'm sure someone - "

Now comes this message from my dubious friend that "people are asking about your video" (which someone had found on YouTube and posted on the "If you grew up" page). It turned out to be one person only, and her name meant nothing to me. But she wanted to get in touch with me for some reason, and wanted my friend to tell her my married name. Since I have three published  novels, a longstanding blog and a (likewise) YouTube channel, if you google my married name, stuff comes up and it is easy to chase me down. I decided it was best to remain neutral and told my once-not-so-great/now-not-at-all friend that I'd rather remain anonymous. Her response had a little dart in it: Sure, OK, that's fine if you don't care about this. But just in case it means anything to you. . .  (more details about the "people/person" who was interested in knowing my name, saying that we used to ride horses together on McNaughton Avenue with another girl whose name also meant nothing).

I had something happen to me which might explain my sensitivity. My mother left my name off her obituary. It was written in advance, probably by my sister, and she didn't just "forget" she had a youngest child. Everyone else's name was mentioned, even a child who had died in infancy. But in her mind, I simply didn't exist. She had never given birth to me, never raised me. It was like those awful family photos with the faces cut out. 

Chatham disowned me a long time ago, and if they want me back now, it's a little too late. It is all too easy to get embroiled in these things, particularly if there are nasty memories involved. Had I thrown this door open, the people from that Facebook page would probably be asking me where I got these pictures, as if I had no right to display them. They would object to the fact that not all the pictures are from 1964. Or they'd want obsessive details on each one, such as: 

"When was this one taken? No, not the year. The DAY!" 
"Was that the summer you had your house painted?" 
"Wasn't it blue?. . . No, I think it must have been yellow."  
"Wasn't that the same year you had your elm tree in the front yard cut down because of that disease?"
". . . Oh, look, there's Arthur Burton. I remember him! Wasn't he special?"