Before my parent’s home went up for sale, I came across an old photograph in the back of mother’s closet, the one she’d kept locked for as long as I could remember. It was a picture of us at the park, me with missing front teeth, sitting cross legged between my parents who spent their life thinking it was the fashion to not smile in pictures.
There were many moments of my childhood spent there, but none so memorable as my ninth birthday. Mother wore a bright red dress with cream tulips embroidered over it. She had her hair in a braid down her back, and wore a blue butterfly clip just above her ear. Father doused his comb in almond oil that morning so that he could fashion his hair in a slick side-parting. He waxed his mustache and wore the deep blue blazer that always hung in a plastic wrap and was only used for special occasions.
Mother must have bought the picnic blanket after being inspired by one of the English films she loved so dearly. It was red and white, and cropped into a perfect square just large enough to seat our small little family. While Father set out the plates and napkins and mother began to unveil her small dishes of chicken korma, lentil soup, and folded chapatis, I took the opportunity to mount the swings.
I wrapped my small fingers over the rusted metal chains that held the peeling pink seat in place, and moved my feet back and forth. It was tradition to keep my eyes closed until enough height had been achieved, meaning until my hair was in a frenzy, and my palms began to sweat. I looked up and saw my parents, father tucking a loose strand of mother’s hair behind her ear, and mother smiling demurely as though it were their first of such encounters.
I yelled out to them and they looked at me, waving and smiling the most glorious of smiles. And in that moment I was happy. The kind of unadulterated joy that can only be felt through the innocence of a child.
Now that I’m older I can’t help but dilute such memories with sadness. So much has changed since then, left behind in a sepia photograph with curling corners and a curious ink-stain in its top left corner.
Truly, it makes you wonder what moment you’d choose to make your last if that were a luxury afforded mankind.
*In memory of those lost to the terrorist attack on March 27, 2016 in Lahore (Pakistan) that killed at least 70 people and injured more than 350 others.