My mother photographs dead people for her scrapbook. Scrapbooks I should say. There are many. Each one’s labeled with a volume number and the dates it covers. Each picture has a label that’s been printed and cut into a tiny fortune-cookie-type strip that says “Thanksgiving 2004,” or “Jim’s Graduation,” or “Julie’s first car.” They also say things like “Granny in casket,” and “Mary Nelle’s funeral,” and below each one of those is a crappy, slightly-out-of-focus print of a wrinkly, ashen old lady surrounded by satin and mahogany. The photographs are no more natural than the skin color and facial expression of the subjects, and there’s something inherently creepy about slapping them in a scrapbook between “Gabby’s first tooth,” and “Arnie’s broken forearm.”
There’s nothing like the solemn silence of a funeral being broken by a flash and plastic ratchet of a Kodak disposal camera. She always takes two in case the first one doesn’t come out, then orders double prints. Occasionally she’ll give me an envelope of the duplicates where I’ll find bad pictures of my kids and giant cookie-cakes. She’s never given me a copy of the casket photos.
Someday I’ll inherit these volumes of history and bad taste and show them to my grand kids.