I absently look at the white board calendar in the mudroom as I pick jackets for the kids from the cedar chest. Pattu is wiping the last of the month with her fingers and dabbing at her sleeve when she thinks I am not looking. I smile and urge her to change into school clothes.
“Amma! It is the last day of February,” she exclaims.
I nod and go back to the island where the lunch bags are in varying stages of being readied. It hits me that this day many, many years ago, Saathi and I got engaged. It has not been an anniversary I keep track of like I do with the day we first met or the day we got married. I mention this casually to the girls and they crowd around me asking questions about how and when and where we got engaged.
“Do you have pictures?” Ammu is reaching for my phone as if all of my past lives in that device. I laugh, grab it from her and remind her that there was an age with no cell phones or cameras in cell phones. The pictures are probably in that orange bag in the study I say and seal Saathi’s lunch box shut with a satisfying click.
Ammu returns a minute later, a slim blue album in her hand. Pattu clutches a slightly larger one. Repeated cries of “Is this it?” rent the air and I indicate the one in Ammu’s hand was probably the one. I eye the now heating pan on the stove and turn the heat down and join them on the sofa. The pictures send a jolt of joy through me. My appa when he was well. My cousins in their younger, innocent versions of themselves, Saathi and I in traditional wear without makeup. Natural, hopeful and happy.
I pull the photo albums from the kids hands and force them to change into their school clothes promising they could look through it as they ate their dosai.
The next twenty minutes went past with me occasionally glancing at the pictures and pointing out people who are now just memories. If I was focusing on people, the twins cried out in joy as they identified the couch now upstairs in the open play area as the one in the pictures of the apartment that the newly wed Saathi and I moved into. They lingered over the pictures of the huge stuffed panda remarking on how white the fur looked in the pictures as against the almost sad looking panda that now sat downstairs in the basement amidst the menagerie of other stuffed toys we have since accumulated. They paused over pictures of our town home, their first home as our children. They pointed out neighbors homes, the now teenagers as then kids and most of all at the younger versions of their grand parents.
Pattu tried to slip in the album into her school bag which I promptly removed and shooed them off to school. Long after they left, I sat on the sofa the maroon and green albums on either side of me marveling at how the present became the past. How innocuous things like faux leather sofas and stuffed bears became markers of time and of a life from a long ago past. I look around the room I am in and notice scuff marks on the tiny minnie mouse table in the corner. I notice the first ever portrait of Saathi and I now gracing the top shelf of the curio cabinet. I linger over my longish tresses, unlined face, youthful face. I notice how young Saathi looked as a newly wed. The pictures in the other shelfs continue our tale. Pictures of my side of the family with my niece the only child in it. Pictures of us with just the twins. There are no pictures yet with Laddu in them.
I tuck away the albums into the orange back and push it back so it lies unobtrusively in a corner only to be dusted again in a few years time when what is present now becomes the past.