I am hoping someone somewhere can help me solve a minor personal mystery.
The past was not often recorded in my family. There was seldom any money available for cameras and, even when there was, nobody had any interest in taking snapshots. Thus, very few photographs exist of me as a child. Indeed, very few photographs exist of me at all. Perhaps that is why I have so little recollection of my childhood, and why the earliest thing I can recall is of something that happened at the relatively ripe old age of four or five.
I possess three or four photographs of my childhood years. They are all in faded monochrome and I have no idea who is the photographer – given my family’s circumstances and attitudes, it seems unlikely that any of them are responsible, but who knows?
Some things I think I do know. I believe all these pictures were taken in Canada in the early 1960s. At least one is in Saskatoon, where we used to live. The photo here is also in Canada and I think it is Québec City. Isn’t that rather magnificent, ethereal building behind me the Chateau Frontenac?
I presume that the chateau meant nothing to me at the time. Now, however, I cannot look at this picture without hearing the dreamlike music that Dimitri Tiomkin wrote for the film I Confess (dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1953). Thus, I ‘remember’ this day as a child via a beloved film made ten years earlier, before I was born, and of which I knew nothing at the time. Strange things happen with the passing of the years.
When I look at this picture, I see a stranger who is also in some sense myself. He squints out at me, eyes narrowed against the sunlight, front teeth already betraying signs of future dental problems about which nothing was done, his hair hacked about in a careless fringe.
The mystery is this: I’d like to know where I stood on that summer day all those years ago. It looks like a park. Is it the Parc Félix-Leclerc, the Jardins des Gouverneurs, the Monument de la Foi, Montmorency Park or somewhere else? What is that spire visible over my left shoulder? And what would I have been looking at beyond the camera?
I’m hoping the truth really is out there and some kind Québécois will be able to enlighten me.
This post is dedicated to Presto, a courageous and precious friend who has crossed the meadow ahead of us.