It was really just a box of old photos, nothing more.
You probably have one too.
That collection handed down through the generations, crammed and stuffed into some old box or valise. From Vilna in Poland to Brooklyn in New York, then to West Palm Beach in Florida. Then to Manhattan with its dreams of the eternal now.
And so it sits in a closet somewhere, percolating. You forget you have it. Then one day it falls or shifts or drops and suddenly history – private history, tactile history – comes skittering out.
That is just what happened and when it did, I tried to stuff it all back in and forget about it again. But for some reason I could not do it. Not any more. Like a cabinet that will no longer stay shut; a secret that refuses to hush. Or maybe just that tune that you cannot get out of your head. I could no longer ignore it.
I kept wondering…who were those people in there? What lives did they lead? And maybe above all, what could they tell me about mine?
It was just a pile of photos sure, but maybe it was more than that as well. Pictures are always more than what they are because they are also promises. From a past that leads to this moment and of a moment that nods to the future. They are a snip out of the onrush of time and timeless because of it. And there are stories in them, if only you can take the time to read.
As I did that, I began to feel that these were not just random snips but something much more stirring. They were the stories of my mazel. The word mazel means luck in Yiddish, so in a way and taken all together, they are the story of my good luck. Strange to say since these were the moments of complete strangers trapped in the scraps. Ancestors I never knew, distant cousins never met.
Yet it was true.
Without their lives, mine would never have come about. We are all the end of a long line of desires and choices. I was only here because they were. And without the old photos, these vivid ghosts would not have lived into my time and if they had not, then I would not be the me that I am. I was sure of that.
So these are the mazel tales of my family in a way.
But even now I hesitate to use that word because luck, as everyone knows, can always run out. And besides, I have heard it said that you only know if you are lucky once it is all over. Only then can you tell. Fine time to find out, I say.