I've been collecting antiques for years, which means collecting things that used to belong to someone else a long time ago. They are things that had other lives. Things that created memories and meant something to someone else before they were cast aside, thrown away or simply forgotten in an attic. And now they are part of my life. Furniture, rugs, vases, pieces of jewelry, photos, journals--just about everything I own is old. But I like to think I am giving these treasures new life, new meaning, and somehow honoring their original stories.
It's startling to realize that someday my things could end up in a flea market or antique store and no one will know where they came from or who owned them, or whose story to honor, which is what happened to this photograph, courtesy of the Minneapolis Public Schools, of a classroom of students and Toby, the ancient tortoise, who crawled, stalled and enthralled for years at Como Zoo.
One night my husband and I were reminiscing about the old tortoise and trying to remember his name, so I Googled "tortoise" and "Como Zoo" and up came an online article, published by the Minneapolis StarTribune a few years ago, accompanied by this picture of Toby visiting a Minneapolis school--an unidentified Minneapolis school and a bunch of unidentified kids.
Unidentified kids. . . Except I'm 99% sure that's me with the short dark hair and white shirt with her hand on Toby's back. The school would be Bancroft, and the little girl in the saddle shoes and checkered dress is my friend Cherie. I can only be 99% sure because I have no recollection of this event. Nor does Cherie. But my sister, who is 13 years my senior, recognized me as fast as I did. No one else's mother butchered a child's bangs as badly as mine did.
So now I can honor this cast-off, forgotten picture with its true story, fill in the blanks, and create a memory I didn't even know I had. Hm. . . Sounds a little like writing fiction if you ask me.