It’s been almost a year now since I started making a family tree. I don’t know why I started making a family tree, I just did. I’ve made some progress, but not much considering all the people I have to include. I’ve already finished Dad’s side of the tree. What’s slowed me down the most with Mom’s side is trying to find photos of everyone. I found it near impossible to find old pictures of Mom’s family. I had only found two photos taken before I was born, one was a Christmas card of Mom’s family and the other one was a Polaroid Dad had taken of Mom when they were dating.
Which brings me to today. Maybe a year ago I’d be spending a beautiful summer day like this outside with friends. Now I have more important things to do, like spend all day in my attic looking for pictures of people. Which is exactly what I am doing, or at least trying to.
I sighed as I pushed away yet another box of Mom’s old clothes. I started going through the next box, which was filled with old toys. I was ready to toss this box aside as well when something caught my eye. It was an old black and white photograph of a man, maybe 23 years old. He wasn’t looking at the camera and his hair was messy, but he was wearing a very nice tuxedo. I couldn’t help but think the picture was strange. I flipped it over in my hand and found writing on the back in small blocky lettering, it read:
“My dear Fawn, I’m sorry, but I won’t be here for you any more. I don’t want to leave, but I have no choice. I wish I could at least give you a proper good-bye, but I think it’s for the best that I can’t. I know you’ll grow up to be a wonderful person. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me. You mean the world to me Fawn, I love you.”
I couldn’t help but wonder who Fawn was. I re-read the note several times unable to figure it out. It sounds almost like it could be a letter to a lover, but the sentence “I know you’ll grow up to be a wonderful person.” contradicts that. Maybe they wrote it to their child? I wondered, also why is a note like this written on the back of a photograph? My head was spinning with confusion. I re-read the note at least ten more times before Mom called me down for dinner. I put the photo in my back pocket and ran down stairs.
As I entered the dinning room my nose was immediately assaulted with the smell of Mom’s asparagus casserole. Mom’s cooking was always so good, she could cook amazingly good things. With the exception of her asparagus casserole. I gag on the smell alone, when it comes time to actually put some in my mouth I have to fight back the urge to puke.
“Zoey, would you mind setting the table?” Mom asked me. I set the table grabbing plates and silverware as quickly as possible, I wanted to spend the least amount of time in the kitchen where the smell was far worse. As soon as the table was set I sat down in my seat and awaited my doom about to be served to me.
After we had all sat down (except for Leo who was at work) and had said grace, Mom dished out the casserole.
“Zoey how’s that family tree of yours coming?” Dad asked.
“Not great. I still can’t find any pictures.” I told him as I choked down a bite of casserole. I didn’t want anyone to know about the weird picture and note I had found until I figured it out.
“I don’t want to say that you can’t make a family tree or that you have to stop, but I think it would be best if you just gave up,” Mom said.
I shoved my mouth full of food so I could have a second to think, why does Mom not want me to make a family tree? She was never huge on the idea of a family tree and ever since I decided to find pictures of everyone she’s become even less helpful. I force my massive bite of food down and give Mom a questioning look.
“Why?” I ask. “I’ve made significant progress.”
Mom gets this cloudy I’m-thinking-about-the past look in her eyes, “well I just worry you’ll be disappointed, that’s all”
Why would I be disappointed? I wondered. I had so many questions, but I decide to let the subject drop for now.
After dinner, I sat in my room to try and figure out the note again. I read it to myself, quietly. Maybe the man in the picture is Fawn? I floated the idea around my head, but it didn’t make sense to me. I sat staring at the picture for what must have been an hour because suddenly Leo was home.
Leo knocked on my door frame as he stepped into my room. I quickly shoved the picture into my desk drawer. I loved my brother dearly, but I didn’t want to let him in on my secret just yet.
“How was work?” I asked him as I got up.
“Can’t complain. Though I do smell like I’ve been working in fast food all day.”
“Leo, what would you do if you found something you were probably never meant to see?” I ask.
“Well if it were a dead body I’d probably call the cops.” Leo says, chuckling, then, seeing the seriousness in my eyes, gives me a real answer. “It depends on what it is, but I would either try and cover up that I had seen anything at all and just try to forget about it, or I’d try to get some answers.”
I thanked Leo and we said goodnight to each other. “By the way Zoey, I recommend the latter.” Leo says as he leaves my room.
As I got ready for bed I thought about what had Leo said. I knew that there was no way I would ever forget about the photo. I guess I have no choice, I have to confront Mom.
I wake up to the smell of French toast and bacon cooking. I shower and throw on a light pink t-shirt and dark jeans as quick as I can, I want to get answers as soon as possible.
As I stepped into the kitchen I was surprised to see Leo sitting at the kitchen counter. He’s almost always long gone by the time I get up. I glance at the clock on the microwave, it reads 6:22. I sigh and grab a cup of coffee.
“How’d you sleep Zoey?” Mom asked me.
“I slept fine.” I told her this even though it wasn’t true, I had tossed and turned all night wondering about the note and what it meant.
“Well I’m glad to hear that,” Mom said as she passed Leo and I both a plate with French toast, eggs, and bacon.
“Thanks Mom.” Leo said, then started shoveling food into his mouth. After Leo finished his breakfast, he left for work and then it was just me and Mom. I still had quite a bit on my plate, I couldn’t eat as fast as Leo, so Mom and I talked well I finished my breakfast and she sipped her coffee. First, we talked about school I was gonna and about how I was gonna be a freshman. Then, we talked about how I would be learning how to drive in another year.
When there was finally a break in the conversation I worked up the courage to ask my question, “Mom, who’s Fawn?”
Mom let out a long, heavy sigh before answering. “I guess it was only a matter of time before you asked that. Finish your breakfast, then I’ll tell you.”
I ate the last of my Breakfast as fast as I could. I really hadn’t expected Mom to give in so easily. I set my plate in the sink and told Mom I was ready for her to tell me who Fawn was.
“Alright Zoey, follow me.” Mom led me to her closet and started rooting around on the floor looking for something.
“What are you looking for?” I asked, but Mom didn’t answer.
After what felt like forever, Mom finally stood up holding a small wooden box in her hands. Mom led me out of her closet and we sat at the foot of her bed.
Mom looked sad suddenly, “I used to have a sister, her name was Vivian, but we all called her Fawn. She had the same desire to make a family tree as you do. She put years of her life into making one. And just like you, she wanted pictures of everyone. She had a photo of just about everyone, except for our Dad. One day he just diapered, and shortly after Fawn announced that her family tree was done. a year latter Fawn died in a car accident. She was only fifteen. When I got home from school that day I found this box on my desk with a note saying to give it to whoever had the same interest in making a family tree as she did.” Mom handed me the box “So here you go, you can chose when you open it.” I stared at the box in my hand, not knowing what to do.
“I... I think it would be best if I opened it in my room.” I said.
“I think you’re right.” Mom gave me a sad smile and I left her to cry on her own.
I set the box on my desk and just looked at it for a long time. Well, It’s not going to open its self. I though to myself. I took a deep breath and opened the box. inside where two pieces of paper the one on top was a letter, it read:
Dear whoever I’m writing this to, I trust you have a interest in family trees. I made one almost a year ago, I have pictures to match as well. Though, I lost the picture I had of Dad. It was the one I worked the hardest to get too. Anyway if you tried to make a family tree like me, you may have noticed something. There are very few pictures. I worked for years to get the pictures that I have and a lot of them I had to take myself. And I have to find out why. I understand not wanting to get your picture taken I’m a bit camera shy myself, but to have so few photographs is kinda strange. I plan on meeting every relative I have until I find out the reason. I’m leaving this on my sisters desk in case something happens. I will get to the bottom of the mystery even if it takes a life time to solve.
I didn’t know what to make of what I had just read, so I continued on to the next paper. I unfolded it to reveal a family tree. I looked over it for a long time. I soon noticed where a picture was missing and I opened my desk drawer to grab the picture of my grandpa and a stick of glue. I carefully glued the picture back on.
It had been a week since I had read Fawn’s letter and I had finished my family tree. Dad had let me take over the basement and I had put Mom’s family on part of a wall and Dad’s family on the other. I left plenty of room for future generations to put themselves on the wall too.
I admired mine and Fawn’s hard work and effort as I stared at the basement walls. Maybe we would never know why there were so few pictures, but that was okay. when I had asked Mom why she thought there were so few pictures she told me that her Grandmas house had burned down and she had all the pictures. But I refuse to believe that, I think it’s something much more exciting. When I told Mom that she laughed and told me Fawn had said the same thing.
I had figured out who Fawn was like I had wanted to and I was happy because of it. I wish I could have met Fawn, but in a way I still feel like I got to meet her and know who she was. And I’m happy I learned everything I did. I’m not disappointed like Mom said I’d be, I’m not even sad. I smile as I take one last look at my family, my history. And I smiled even wider when the thought occurred, the next time I come down here I’ll be with my kid, to put there picture on the wall and to tell them there history.
“Zoey dinner!” I hear Mom call.
“Coming” I call back and leave the basement. I was glad for the kind of adventure I had had.
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