Jenna was on her way home from university one night last week.
“I was on the southbound train from Downsview around 9:45 p.m. I looked around for something to read. I found an old paper; underneath it was a ripped grocery bag. Strewn about the seat were these.”
She held a plastic baggie as if it contained the most precious thing in the world – a handful of old photos.
The photos are creased and dog-eared and softened by time; they are a record of a family’s life, the kind of images anyone might use to tell the stories of the generations.
What is the name of the boy on the pony? Who is the man with the babe in his arms? What is the woman typing?
“I looked around to see if anyone was getting off, in case they might have left the photos behind. There was no one. I asked one of the other students if they were hers. She said no, but she said the photos looked important.”
Who are the three women sitting on the sofa – are they sisters, aunties, grannies? – and why did they get perms?
Jenna said, “My heart sank. This is a Jewish family; often, photos are the only things people have left. I feel horrible that someone’s family would be without these.”
The photos had been in a small paper envelope bearing the name of an ocean liner, the S.S. Shalom. Jenna had done some research, and found that the S.S. Shalom had carried passengers between New York to Haifa for a brief period, not long after the state of Israel was formed.
Those old couples standing by the house one summer long ago, are they refugees, and is that pain behind their smiles? And what are the names of those kids by the car at the lake?
There is no way of knowing how long the pictures were on the subway. Who knows how many passengers pawed over them before Jenna found them.
“I can’t imagine what the person who lost these is going through.”
Who is the tyke in the summer dress? How old is she, and where is the other half of the photo, and why was it torn?
Full story by Joe Fiorito at Toronto Star.