My mother had plenty of secrets, some of which I found out after she died, some of which I knew about but she wouldn't discuss, and some I only have vague clues to. As of August 2021, she will have been gone 25 years. She was incapacitated by dementia for about 4 years before that. So my latest memories of my mother are almost 29 years in the past. That seems impossible, but it is true. I feel as though she has a surprisingly significant presence in my life today, even with all that time passed, because I live with her artifacts around me. They are interesting and mysterious objects in and of themselves, even without any personal connection.
There were quite a few things I seldom look at that I pulled out to include in "Belongings" because of the unknown (to me) stories attached to them. There is a photo album with a horse embossed on its ivory leatherette cover half filled with small photographs of my mother at a summer camp called Camp Sheldrake along with other campers enjoying camp-type activities like basket weaving, horseback riding, lake swimming and the like. The pages are black. The photos are tucked into white photo corners. A few of them appear to be missing based on spaces with corners and no photos in them. Some are dated 1944. She came to the United States in the winter of 1941. Three years later, she went to this summer camp. She would have been 14. How? Why? Who are the other kids? I have tried to look for any history I could find of Camp Sheldrake or another camp that children of Jewish refugees might have gone to and come up empty.
I chose a few of the photos for the chapter of Belongings in which Ellen arrives in the US, goes to school and gets a job.