Family still eludes me

My father’s sister had recently moved back home to Little Rock, Arkansas. I received the customary tour on my only visit. In her guest bedroom was a lovely little antique table with a Living Bible-sized, very old, white leather bound photo album resting on a round doily that hung, as it should, off the front of the table forming the perfect semi-circle between the table’s two front legs. It was flanked by a few standing pictures of her parents and siblings I recognized and some candles.

“Ooooo, what is this?”

“It’s a family photo album.”

“Can I look through it?”


“Who’s this?”

”I don’t know.”

“Who’s that?”

“I don’t know.”

“Are they Mahanays?”

“Yes, of course they are.”

“But you don’t know who they are?”


“Are their names on the backs of the photos?”

“I don’t know.”

“You’ve never looked?”


“Can I look?”

“I’d rather you didn’t. They could tear.”

“And that matters?”

“Of course that matters.”

“Does anyone in the family know who these people are?”

“I doubt it.”

"Well, where'd you get it?"

"Grandma and Pop's things."


"KAREN. Don't be ugly."

"So, you never saw it while they were alive?"

"No, it was in a box in a closet. It probably had been there for years."


"Can we just go now? I'm hungry."

“Who could we ask?”

“I don’t know. I don’t really want to open a huge can of worms.”


"It'd be a lot of work. I don't want to bother anyone."

"So, you're okay with a shrine to people you don’t know?”

“They’re family.”

"I assume you’re going to pass this album of unknown relatives to your kids?”

“Well, certainly. It’ll be nice for them to have.”

"But it's meaningless."

"You just don't understand family, Karen. You never did."