Today we are very honoured to welcome Susannah Conway.
I write things down to remember them, which sounds ludicrously obvious, I know, but wait for a moment. On my kitchen table there is a Post It note that holds the words: kale, lemons, broccoli. Beside my computer there is a piece of paper that holds the words: book gas appointment, pay tax, email Rose. Neither of these will be kept, the words simply memory-joggers, used and then discarded just as quickly.
But then there are the other lists I keep, like the running list in my journal of my nephew’s first words: apple, tractor, mama, moo cow. At some point Noah’s new words will outrun my list-keeping abilities, but for now I scribble down each new word as if receiving dictation from above.
On the 16th of November 2011, I wrote: “New words he said to me on Skype today: orange, melon, horsie. Horsie is the best.” In the years to come, when I’m helping him with his homework or watching him get married, I want to be able to remember how pleased he looked when he held up a little plastic horse and said horsie!
We never know which days will be full of meaning until we look back at them and understand. In 2005 I lost my partner, and as I went through bereavement I found it wasn’t the photographs or his clothes that I clung to for comfort: it was my journals. I had a pile of black Moleskines filled with the trivia of our life together — the celebrations and milestones as well as the arguments and frustrations. The first time he told me he loved me was chronicled with as much detail as the last row we ever had. All of it mattered, and all of it was relived as I re-read my own words in the months after his death.
And now I am here, recording new memories in my notebooks. This afternoon my sister told me Noah said please for the first time; last week he said “look daddy!” I scribble the words down with lots of exclamation marks and underlinings. I take my auntie role very seriously, as I watch Noah climb on the sofa, help to tuck him in at night, and collect the small stones of our shared story in paper, ink and so much love.
Susannah Conway is a photographer, writer and e-course creator. A Polaroid addict and very proud aunt, her first book, This I Know: Notes on Unraveling the Heart (Globe Pequot Press), launches in June 2012.
You can read more about her shenanigans on her blog at SusannahConway.com and connect with her on Twitter.
Photo by Susannah.