I was probably 9 the first time I ever saw a picture of myself and thought, "wow, that is unflattering."
I guess I'm lucky it happened so early on, dulling the painful surprises that awaited me in subsequent years' candid pictures.
My mom was really into making photo albums when I was young.
There was one time that I looked through our family's vacation photos and felt mortified by the reality of what I looked like. I resolved then that before my mom could arrange our most recent family vacation photos into an album, that I would remove the pictures of me that I didn't like and throw them in the trash.
My mom also had a propensity for going through my trash. When I got bad grades, I would throw away those graded papers only to find them, miraculously un-crumpled and hung on our refrigerator. Mind you, she never hung up all my good grades, this was specifically done for the purpose of humiliating me. Worth noting, she also "lost" my law degree for a year; only for me to find it in a garbage bag in the back of my brother's closet one day while looking for vintage basketball hoodies.
I point this out (aside from the desire of revealing the horror of my childhood) to say that I shouldn't have been surprised when my mom came into my room later that afternoon, brandishing the pictures I'd thrown away and shouting, nay sobbing--my mom had a flare for drama--about how "these are our memories! Our goddamn memories, Lauren! & you just throw them away like trash! You are the MOST UNGRATEFUL CHILD!" It was true; children in Africa never got to experience the nagging anxiety that comes from sitting in the back of a toyota van for 2 days while your parents screamed at each other all the way to a dude ranch in Oklahoma. Or the soul crushing realization that you would have to endure a similarly hellish 2 day ride home.
I'd like to jump ahead in the story and talk about how my brother inherited our family couches when he went away for college. And when we moved in together several years later, they became our couches. And when he moved away for work in a different city a couple of years after that, they were my couches for another year until I graduated from law school and sold them to a friend of a friend.
Imagine my surprise then, when one morning I woke up to a group thread and noticed that my friends were all commenting on embarrassing pictures of me from a family vacation to Puerto Rico.
If you haven't pieced it together, it went something like this:
My eleven-year-old self never quite recovered from the episode where I had been caught throwing pictures in the trash. Having found several of the recent vacation pictures of me to be unsympathetic and unfavorable and harsh, I decided not to repeat my earlier folly. But what then of the pictures?
I couldn't just let them exist in the same world that I did.
& in my childhood home, there was no privacy. Nothing was sacred from the all-seeing mother.
& so I decided to hide the pictures.
I pulled a couch cushion from its place,
unzipped the leather upholstery,
shoved the pictures inside,
zipped the upholstery closed,
and put the cushion back in its rightful spot.
And then forgot.
But the universe does not forget such transgressions.
And so it was that I acquired this same couch 15 years later and needed to be free from them as I moved to a new home in a new city.
I sold them to a friend of a friend and was happy to be rid of them.
How could I have known then that this mutual acquaintance twice removed would find these pictures, a year later, while re-upholstering that same couch?