Rummaging through old dusty boxes in a dark forgotten corner of the house that is seldom visited by beings other than spiders. Oversized Ralph Lauren button-down. Vintage linen. Hair in messy bun. Random strands either stick out, electrified, or rest lazily on my face. Bare feet. Black nail polish. I look down at my finger to see my grandmother’s beloved sapphire ring that she gifted to me four years ago. It was gifted to her in the seventies. I look like my grandma when she was young. The ring hasn’t left my finger, an adopted appendage. I notice it can use a cleaning.
These boxes are overflowing with photos, spilling, drowning, each a tiny memento of the history of my family. My mother documented it well, and she documented it vigorously. These happy moments – as people tend to see it – are long gone. But I just finished Slaughterhouse-5, and I know that no moment is gone, but was always in existence. It exists now and will also exist in the future. Crystallized, the plan of the world and every person in it is immovable and always has been. The world moves on, changes, but these moments stay forever, like bugs in amber.
My mother traveled to South America in the early 80s. She’s from Poland, as is my father, but she moved to the United States in the 70s so that my uncle could get a college education. Other than that, her family didn’t travel much. There were more practical things to tend to. School, work, sex, kids, work, rinse, repeat.
I will not speak for my mother, but she tells me her time in Peru and Bolivia was wonderful, of course. She was coming out of her shell, you see. She was traveling, exploring, seeing the world as it was. Learning broken phrases in Spanish. Trying new sorts of meats and fruits that couldn’t be found in America. It was brave of her to do that. Too many people are afraid of the unknown and refuse to leave their yard as a result. But not my mom. Not only did she adventure about the South American continent in her early-twenties, she made sure I did the same. She is why I am the way I am. I am the luckiest.
She trudged around the world with her old Zorki, the same way I trudge around the world with my Nikon D60.
The following are her photos and mementos from her time there.
A short plane ride away. The world is smaller with flying pressurized metal tubes in the air. My mom rocks her hair, glasses, and that fucking awesome sweater.
Postcards from Arequipa.
South America was in turmoil at the time, more so than now. I praise my mother for going against government travel warnings. Maybe she’d praise me?
If I’m ever half the photographer she was, I’ll die happy.
I adventured in South America a number of times. I fell in love. My heart is there. It’s true that I fall in love with every country, all the time, a not-so-convenient side effect of seeing the beauty in all things, in seizing the moment, in embracing the unknown. But I feel a breeze and I’m whisked away to Patagonia or the Uruguayan coast or the Andes or the Uros Islands. They’re waiting for me. My Argentine estancia is waiting for me. It may be in the future, but it exists now.
Mom – I’d be nothing without you! Any chance you still have that hat?