The eyes looked back at me. They were my eyes, and they were everywhere. Sitting on the dusty floor of my old aunty's back room, in the stillness of a late summer afternoon, she told me stories. As she did, she passed me the old brittle photos, one after another. A seemingly endless procession of faces, all looking vaguely like each other. Hands held a certain way, the heads on one side, the dry straight faces, held still for the photographer. Family after family, she told me the stories.
Was it just this one afternoon, or were there many that have all blended in to one? I remember this one afternoon. I remember the stillness and the heat and the feeling of the dust on my hands and knees. I still smell the smell of that wonderful room, with its towers of old English Women's Weekly’s, and catalogues of farming supplies.
But it was the eyes that are still with me. My own. In every generation it seemed there were those who wore my face. As I grow older I become more like those photos. I have no doubt that my own face and eyes, waved away the sons and daughters who took the coffin ships to Ellis Island, never to know whether they were still living, or if they even made it off the boats. I know that my own eyes, looked after the children as they made their way down as many roads as they could, to survive the famine years. I know that those whose face I wear, made it off the boats, well some must have anyway. But as well as knowing this I know with a great sadness, that those mothers and fathers would have said goodbye forever, and it would have been like dying, except that they weren't dead. But then they could be. It would have been the not knowing, which would have broken the hearts, and made the lips get thinner and more set.