Hashtag Throwback Thursday takes famous photographs and uses them as a basis for an ongoing exploration and somewhat fictionalized account of my life growing up on the east side during the deindustrialization of Buffalo, New York.
Hashtag Throwback Thursday. Here is a photograph of the backyard of 7 Dorris Avenue on the east side of Buffalo, New York. It doesn’t look like much. This was the tiny patch that was my grandmother’s backyard. When I was little she would pull out a wooden sandbox with a little colored canvas roof and set it there so I could climb in to play. She’d give me a bucket of water so that I could make rivers and lakes. She hung laundry on the line that blew in the breeze like ghosts. I have a photograph of my grandfather standing in that backyard. He is with my mother when she was a little girl. He died when she was five. In the photograph, I can see the laundry line pole and I can see the little wire fence. There is no sandbox. There is a little terrier I never knew. I look into the eyes of my mother as a child and see her as an adult. I look at the plants in the photograph. Scrutinize them. One summer I hacked away the overgrowth in her backyard and came to a cluster of hyacinth. They were planted from Easter gifts from the past and all at once, below the overgrowth from the scrub trees and shrubs, there they were again. Off-handedly, she told me the date she planted them, cut some flowers and brought them inside. The wood of the sandbox rotted away. My grandmother and mother are just photographs now. The house still stands, last one nearest the corner now after a fire took the neighboring one. I like to imagine the hyacinth she planted has taken over and blooms in purples and whites. It is the fragrance of the hyacinth that brings me back to her. There she is again with the scissors cutting the stems at an angle. The heavy flower heads bending the weak stalk. There is my mother again. There is the sandbox with its river of tap water. There is the colored canvas and the sheets blowing on the line. The photograph is the silent reminder. I want to be able to hear her Polish accent in it, I want to hear her swear when she drops a wooden clothesline and takes another from her pocket. I want to hear the sound of the shovel in the sand, hear the water carve away the river. I want to see the hyacinth in the glass on the kitchen table, the room a perfume. I go back there. To the glass on the table. I stand at the sink and look out the window to the backyard, to the wire fence, to that summer’s overgrowth and everything I carry within.