The construction of a family photo collage is an emotional roller coaster ride that should not be embarked upon lightly or often. One requires an enormous amount of time to find the requisite snaps, and the fortitude to take necessary risks such as crawling into the murky netherworld beneath the bed in search of old shoe boxes. I put several there just last spring, full of old photos, I know I did!
Patience is needed to search through dusty piles of sentimentality or tearfully endure the decaying pages of family photo albums until those distant golden childhood moments suddenly reappear. Then great care must be taken to choose the right selection of images, the one that ties people together by lineage, gender, or pain, and collectively delivers the emotional punch that is suddenly so needed in this new fractured and isolated world.
I am astounded at the number of days I spend searching for blue tac and sturdy backing cardboard which I’m sure all exist here in the house, no need to go out. I eventually find enough tac on the back of children’s kindergarten paintings to form a small dry lump. There is hair and other questionable particles embedded in the little blue ball, but it will do. It must do. I have no choice in this or many other matters at the moment.
I stick my four chosen photos onto the cardboard, one beneath the other in a slightly crooked line. Then, as all great artists do, I leave my creation alone for a day, just to let it settle. I spend the time looking for a ruler and pencil. Even House and Garden hosts need to pencil guides onto their walls or garden furniture projects to make them perfect, always so perfect. When I return to my picture, I am reassured by the fact that the images still please me, that the concept is sound. I gingerly draw a guiding line onto the backing cardboard to help straighten the arrangement. After several attempts at sticking the photos down, I finally achieve linear perfection and hold the frame up triumphantly. Two of the photos swivel on the tiny pieces of blue tac holding them in place and the effect is immediately ruined.
There is a reason I never turn to home decoration, DIY or arts and crafts, I think, as I wrestle the picture glass back into the frame, imperfections still in place. No amount of boredom, personal trauma or global apocalypse justifies this degree of effort or failure. But adaptation is the key to survival, my calmer self replies. So I try to stare philosophically at the slightly misaligned selection of snaps. The effect is both unsettling and quirky, like me I think, so I suppose that’s ok. It’s authentic.
Then I come to the final hurdle; the hanging. My first thoughts are conventional – picture hooks hammered into the plasterboard. I know I saw a bag of hooks just the other day, in a drawer or a box, somewhere, somewhere, somewhere. I listen to Barbara Streisand bellowing out Bernstein as I go searching. In the back of my mind, the saga of the living room curtain rail begins to play; two and a half days of hell, trying to drill three holes in the window frame, attach several rail hooks and then settle an extendable curtain rail gently into place. In the process I split the wooden window frame, shattered half a wall of plasterboard, broke the drill and had to endure listening to a history of the screw head delivered by my neighbour, Brian, who had come over in response to my sobbing. Brian is also the keeper of the history of the whipper snipper, safety glasses and weed killer.
Fortunately for the house and my sanity, I am unable to find picture hooks or a hammer. Then, oh great fortune, I discover a long abandoned pack of no-hook-no-worries picture hanging thingies that I must have bought last time I was forced into a DIY frenzy by unfortunate circumstances. This twenty first century wonder product involves an ingenious combination of Velcro (love Velcro!), a bit of pressure (I can do that) and a knack with placement (oh God).
My hands shake as I mark the perfect spot on my lemon yellow bedroom wall and then, with a meditation on centrality and perfection guiding my wobbly soul, I push the sturdy, black frame onto the velcroed wall, where it will sit for all eternity. My picture is hung.
I wake up with energy and hope for another day in my personal odyssey. The first thing I see are the beaming faces of my glowing babies and a happy girl at their side. The picture is beautiful but it’s a bit off centre, just like me. So that is ok.