Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

The Day I Might Have Died

“I have a photo you might want.” my Mom said, rummaging under the bed in the office, where I am sleeping while I have a working holiday here in Seattle, running errands and helping her with things she can no longer do easily for herself. I have two sisters living here who take good care of Mom, and I want to do some small part, too.

She pulled out an envelope and looked through it.

“No, not this one, but you might want this one,” and she handed me this photo.

I know to you it looks like a very strange photo; it looks like a very strange photo to me, too. Old photo, probably taken with some kind of brownie box camera, you cannot tell anything, it looks misty and indistinct.

It was taken at an airport ‘lake,’ like a water retention pond, in Juneau, Alaska, when I was around three. In Juneau, the lakes and ponds might stay very cold the entire summer, but these man-made lakes were fairly shallow, and might warm up a little when the temperatures reached the 70’s (F), like in July or August.

What I remember is dropping off, but not being afraid. I was under water, but my eyes were open, and the colors were beautiful and I was just watching the play of color and light, and I just kind of bobbed along.

My aunt tells me that she saw me drop out of sight and not return. She ran out into the water, found me, and pulled me to the shore. She saved my life. Later, when I was grown, she told me the old Chinese adage that if you save a person’s life you are responsible for them as long as you – or they – live. I always felt a special connection to that sweet aunt.

I wonder now if my memory is as I have always remembered it? I can still see the green and gold flickering, just as clearly as when it was happening. I can remember the shock of being grabbed, and hustled to shore, and fussed over, as everyone wanted to make sure I was OK. I remember having to stay on the blanket for what seemed like a lifetime, and then only being allowed to play in the very shallow water. And I wonder if I remember it all, or if I have heard the story so many times that I just think I remember it?

I love this photo. I love the indistinct nature, and mistiness. It is a metaphor for my memory of that day, and I am delighted that a photo exists.

December 9, 2011 - Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Biography, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Relationships | ,


  1. it’s a beautiful story, I do think those are real memories. And a beautiful photo. Perfect!

    Comment by Aafke-Art | December 9, 2011 | Reply

  2. eerie yet enthralling photo. Im so drawn to it!

    poetic story and events. this may be my favorite entry.

    Comment by Mrm | December 10, 2011 | Reply

  3. Aafke, I am so happy to see you. I think of you often, and hope all is well with you. 🙂

    Eerie. I like that word, Mrm. I am surprised a photo exists. And delighted that it does. I’m glad you like this entry; I think near-death experiences sort of stick with you,

    Comment by intlxpatr | December 11, 2011 | Reply

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