Tuesday, October 26, 2010

inheritance is most often an involuntary affair

Amy Lee Davis thought often about what she would leave her children. She made lists and speculations, but she never guessed at what she was really leaving. Opening her files and boxes and drawers after she was gone revealed a life of collection, a devotion to particular topics and finally perhaps an effort to not forget the things she loved.
She took hundreds of snapshots focusing on three themes: her family, flowers, and Mt. Rainier. I grew up with these photos and never thought anything about them. But as I unwrapped the envelopes, opened the scrapbooks, and found duplicates tucked in-between everything, I discovered her obsession.
Amy Lee worked in libraries. She couldn’t help cataloging. As her collection revealed itself, I was pulled in. I began making stacks and re-stacking. It was the photos of Mt. Rainier I couldn’t leave alone, perhaps because she talked about it so much before she died. Or perhaps it was because the mountain was her longest enduring topic. I started putting photos together that held the same silhouette, searching out where they were taken from. Was that an obsession? What had I really inherited?

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