The photographs were hidden in clear sight. You never talked about them and I never asked.
You pose in a floral printed dress of red and green, lipstick and earrings to match. The picture was taken from inside the room looking out, photographer bending slightly to capture an upward look through the patio door of a Juliette balcony. A memento of a special time away. You frolic with an abandonment of caution on the edge of the rail, a look of contentment on a sunny afternoon.
The memories were amongst those from your nursing training, so naturally I assumed they were related, a day out with fellow students, a break from the expectations of school. On the back you marked it with a date, 1953, and a place, Beverwijk, a town half an hour northwest of Amsterdam, ten minutes from the coast.
Wijk Aan Zee is the coastal beach village you visited on your stay. Now a popular destination, in the early fifties it would have been a quiet escape, secluded, away from prying eyes, far from family in the south.
The date, the place, the smile, the face are clear; the reason, the why remains untold.
The pictures are of you alone, nothing of your company. Had the trip been with fellow nursing students, you would have saved a group shot to mark the occasion. You were in a relationship, a serious boyfriend I recall. His name forgotten now, if it was ever told. I am thinking he was the photographer, the person with you on this trip. The footprint in the sand beside you is the only the evidence of his accompaniment. Here he wants to capture the sun, your silhouette, the moment. It remains a lasting memory of a previous love, long-gone, but not forgotten.
And you went away again, in 1956, to another resort town, this time to the south in the town of Zouteland, part of the ‘Zeeland Riviera’, with long and vast beaches. It was likely with him again, sharing time once more in a place meant for togetherness. And why not? You were young, mid-twenties, you were becoming a nurse, the war was over, your world was opening up.
And then he died suddenly, tragically. You didn’t explain, I did not persist in knowing.
In our digital , social media world, images are easily circulated , impossible to expunge, forever out there, somewhere, because someone has a copy. In your printed world, two or three were made, easily discarded when you want to purge their existence, finalized when the negative is destroyed. And that is what you did. All that remains are these few photographs, nothing of him except the places you enjoyed. The thousand words are missing, leaving lots of blank space for questions.
How much do we share with our children of our earlier lives, who only know our current partner, who cannot imagine another? And as adult children how much do we want to know? Does it matter? Should it remain a mystery, a story deduced from piecing together tidbits of information?
What parts of our past do we discuss, what will remain hidden until we are gone? How many pictures of us will go unexplained?
Alone. Away. Anon.