As I should have predicted, my “things to do in Germany” list turned out not to be that important. I accomplished most of the list without thinking, but have neglected the meat-eating part so as not to offend my vegetarian Oma too much. I’ll try to catch up on that tonight, when I meet my friends in the Stadt for some German food.
Apparently there are pictures of us in the bath tub together– now, we’ve all grown up and are starting to form our own families. It still feel surreal to me. I’m sure this feeling– growing up– is not uncommon, but I’ve been working on number 5 on the list (diving into old photos) and that’s why it’s on my mind more so than usual.
Last night, I found the goldmine: an entire bookshelf of photo albums in Oma’s room. The familiar and unfamiliar faces from the 60s-70s made me wish I lived back then, if only for the hairstyles and dresses. However, I was more absorbed by the album my mom made, that captured the years ’99-2000. I’m always thinking about the past and the evolving versions of myself, trying to figure out how I got from there to here.
Maybe we all do this to some extent, as a form of self-preservation– as the researchers and writers of our autobiographies, even if we never put pen to paper.
Those photos brought back some powerful memories. In one, I’m sitting hypnotized in front of a bulky Windows monitor, looking at a Prodigy Internet site. I wish I could make out the information on the screen. My AIM buddy list, showing all of buffy1547’s friends and some non-friends, is minimized in the bottom left corner. In the snapshot above this one, a conversation is captured on the screen. One name in dark blue, the other in red. The red correspondent is writing in acqua-blue Lucida Handwriting.
Instant Messenger was such a vital, drama-enabling tool of being a teen in the late 90s and into the next millennium. I got teased about my short pants (before they made “tall” jeans) and crush on the popular boy, because clearly, I was out of his league.
I also got dumped by my first boyfriend online. It happened right before my family and I went out to see a play. I’m sure I didn’t pay attention to whatever was happening on stage, because I was replaying that Instant Messenger conversation over and over, wishing I never signed online. Although, it would’ve happened sooner or later.
Of course, I forgive him now (mostly. You have to admit, that’s a cowardly move).
In another photo, it’s my dad’s 39th birthday and my mom wrote about how I’d get up for school an hour and a half early for my “beauty ritual.” I wish I could go back and tell 13-year-old Clea (confession: I had to pause for 2 minutes and count on my fingers) to sleep in and focus less on conforming to whatever the standard of beauty was at the time (answer: Britney Spears. In another photo, Emily is showing off a “B.S.” figurine out of homemade playdough).
I probably wouldn’t have listened to my older and wiser self, though. She still doesn’t know much about fitting in, after all. (She’s much happier, but ’99 Clea won’t believe that).
When I finally shut the album and went to wash my face, I looked in the mirror and was a little surprised. I was half-expecting to see my blue-rimmed eyes staring back, shaded by overly tweezed eyebrows, furrowed in a slight frown.
Then I wondered what my 2027 self will look like. Will she be expecting to see ’99 or ’13 Clea? Facebook albums have replaced photo albums, and I haven’t been keeping inventory as carefully as my mother.
Will my 41-year-old self wish that she could tell my 2013 self to do x, y, z differently, even though it won’t make a difference, and maybe that’s not a bad thing? I guess only time, and photographs, will tell.