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Some Fox Trails in Virginia

ISSUE:  Winter 2011
A brown hearse in the author's childhood driveway. The sun is setting and the ground is littered with leaves.
Hearse in My Childhood Driveway
The author's neighbor, Mrs. Daniel, looking out her window.  A container of black walnuts sits on the table before her.
Black Walnut Bride
A chair with a painting of the bust of a young girl resting atop it.  On the chair is also a plate of food.
The Beekeeper’s Other Daughter

I grew up at 15 Bostwick Lane, in Richmond, Virginia. My father was a chemistry teacher at the local university, and we lived in a house built on the school’s property. We were surrounded by woods and an extended family of other professors and their children. When I spent time indoors, it was in front of the big picture window in our family room. It was here that I encountered death for the first time, watching birds fly into the invisible glass and fall lifeless onto the front porch. My second encounter was in the third grade when my father died of a heart attack. My favorite memory of my dad was when he came to show-and-tell at my school. Like a magician, he dipped beautiful roses into liquid nitrogen and shattered them on our desks.

Two young girls in leotards resting on a bedroom floor.  One had several black plums in her lap.
Max with Black Plums

At the age of thirty-four, I came back to Virginia to care for my mother, who died shortly after my return. With the last of my family gone, I returned to the house where I grew up and began taking pictures there. The man who lives there now keeps snakes in my father’s old office and rests them in my old bedroom while he changes their cages. My mother always promised that there were no snakes in my room, but, now that she is gone, there are. A hearse sits in my childhood driveway, representing to me, both the passing of my father and the suicide of my brother.

A bed with a black and white picture of a woman without a frame and a large snake sitting atop it.
Snakes on My Childhood Bed
A small open box on a red linoleum tile. It contains a diamond ring.
Mrs. Daniel’s Wedding Rings

Some of the magic of my childhood can still be found in the basement of my oldest neighbor Margaret Daniel. Old Whitman’s chocolate boxes hold sweet memories. One box holds Margaret and Harrison’s wedding pictures, another a luna moth that came to her window in 1967. I call Margaret my Black Walnut Bride. When she married, she brought with her black walnuts from the mountains of Virginia, a dowry that, like her, planted roots on Bostwick Lane. In her basement are dozens of boxes of walnuts labeled by the years they fell.

Bostwick Lane is a place I go to hear stories of my childhood, to bridge the gap between past and present. One of my father’s ancestors wrote a book titled Some Fox Trails In Virginia, to track the lineage of the Fox family in Virginia. For me, it acts as a metaphorical map of the rediscovered paths of my childhood home, and these photographs are my signposts. They are not meant to be purely autobiographical, but rather representations of the small deaths of innocence that occur on the road to becoming an adult.

Susan Worsham’s book Some Fox Trails in Virginia, from which these photos are taken, was first runner-up in the 2009 Blurb Photography Book Now International Juried Competition in the Fine Art Category.

Mrs. Daniels sitting near a window.
Margaret Daniel
The picture window in Mrs. Daniels house.  There is a technicolor sign resting against the glass.
Mrs. Daniel’s Picture Window


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