This post might not make much sense if you didn’t read the essay I wrote earlier this year about the road trip I made last spring with my 98-year-old grandmother and my Uncle Doug. We took my grandmother to Midland so she could see her old house and her daughter, possibly for the last time. While we were there, I had also hoped to retrieve a photograph of my mother as a child that had been hanging in my grandmother’s bedroom when my cousin’s girlfriend cleaned out her house. Unfortunately the photo wasn’t tucked safely away in storage as I thought. Instead I discovered that it was lost forever…probably sold in a garage sale.
Fast forward to last month. In the whirlwind that led up to Christmas, I decided one day to dig up some photos to order a photo blanket for my granny. At 98 there’s not a lot she needs other than warmth and cheese puffs. I started by going through all my photo albums. I found a few photos of Mitch and Granny playing dominoes and Granny making Christmas pies with my mother. I knew that somewhere I had some older photos of my grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins, so I climbed the stepstool to get a box of loose photos from the top of my closet.
I carried the box to the couch, opened it, and took photos out by the handful. There I was as a little girl squatting beside a flowerbed and as a teenager in an inner tube at Lake Travis. I found a stack of extra wedding photos that hadn’t fit in the album and all of Mitch’s class photos from elementary school. Then I came across a brown envelope. I thought it must have been something my dad had passed on to me. Maybe the letter he received from LBJ when he graduated from high school or the obituary of my grandfather from the local newspaper. I opened the envelope to see what was inside and pulled out the lost photo of my mother. That’s when I knew I was dreaming. Except I wasn’t. I gasped for breath. I fell to the floor. It was the first time I’d ever experienced a miracle.
After a few minutes it dawned on me that finding that photo wasn’t a miracle. The paper was cracked and torn, and I realized that when I’d taken it to the shop to be restored and framed, they must have simply made a copy and digitally restored it. They must have handed me the envelope along with the nicely framed copy, and I’d taken it home and thoughtlessly tossed it in the box. Unless I hadn’t. I have no memory of it, and it seems like the kind of thing I should remember. The more I think about it, the less sure I am.
And so I’ve decided to believe in the miracle. Doesn’t really matter if that photo has been in the box the whole time or if it magically appeared the day I took the box from the shelf. I thought my mother’s photo was lost to me forever and now it’s safely back in my possession. With all that’s going on in our country right now, I need to believe that miracles are possible, so I bought a frame for the photo and put it on my bedside table. It’s the first thing I see every morning, reminding me that sometimes the things I think I’ve lost are simply waiting for me to find them again.