Friday, February 20, 2009

ghost images ~

Grandma Mabel always tensed up when I wanted to play with her old red camera in the buffet drawer (the drawer that held all the mysterious and old treasures). Sometimes she'd let me just hold and look at the camera, but when she was out of the room I always tried to open it. I was amazed by how it unfolded like an accordion. I knew it was hard to close again once I pulled it all the way out. Even today, the thought of fully expanding it to the "open" position makes me nervous. Nervous not just because I still think I won't be able to close the camera properly, but surely nervous grandma was always hesitant to let me "play" with the camera ~ a c. 1925 Kodak Rainbow-Hawkeye.
Every so often when I was feeling really sneaky, I'd slip the camera out of the drawer and pretend I was a photographer. I click the shutter a few times and then swiftly secure the camera back in its buffet drawer home. It was my little secret....
Sometime in the late 1980s grandma told me to take the camera home with me. I can't remember how or why the topic of the camera came up. Since by this time I was a young adult, and I can't imagine I was still trying to steal away into the dining room to open the buffet drawer. I could have been that the camera was out on the dining room table.
By the mid 1980s, grandma wasn't completely "in touch" fully and would sometimes set items out and tell me that "it didn't belong to her" or that "the boys left it at the house." I knew there wasn't any "boys" around, and the matriarchal balance of the family certainly meant there wasn't any "boys" visiting. Grandmas would just simply forget what was in the house. We all knew that she spent time going through her own cupboards probably on a treasure hunt discovering items she had owned for 50+ years but had not memory of.

During this time I quickly learned that if grandma offered you something, you'd best take it home or it will disappear completely. So on that particular afternoon, the red Hawkeye went home with me.
Sometime later, I was looking at the camera and discovered there was film in it. Amazing! What the heck ~ who'd a thought after 25 or more years! I'd never seen the camera used by anyone, so I was curious to see what might literally develop. I took the film down to a local photographer who developed the film by hand. I was so excited to see if there were actually any photos on the roll.
So here they were finally, the developed photos. I opened the envelope and was confused. Here were these eerie, ghostly images ~ so very strange. I know it took me awhile to figure out that these were the photos I had taken some 15 or more years earlier on those Friday afternoons at grandma's when I'd sneak into the dining room to "play" photographer.
Oh my god! Those were her drapes, her frilly sheers on the windows, the oak trees in the park, the window next to the fireplace...all double and triple exposures...and one remarkable photo of her living room taken so low that I was probably just a tike at the time. Within one extended frame, you can see the oak trees in different angles and different seasons ~ with and without leaves.
These ghost images leave me melancholy and a bit unsure about how time has moved so fast. Of the three shots that aren't ghost images, one is of grandma in the kitchen. She's at the stove and her hands can be clearly seen. Her hands. I miss her hands. Just looking at the curve of her thumb ~ melancholy. She was so good to me. Ghost images ~


  1. Oh wow, your blog rocks Julieta- This post is amazing- haunting and sad and joyful- It could be an entire story, a book. Lovely! Hope you don't mind I am posting you on my bloggishness.

  2. What a fabulous story - I thank Linda for sending me here to read and I'll be back!

  3. How precious. What a wonderful camera! I have NEVER seen a red one before. WOW. I love the photos it takes. Don't you love how relatives just tell you to "take it home with you." Aww, this brought back so many wonderful memories. Thanks.