1996, phone call placed to my room in England:

Me: “Hello?”

Dad: “Did you take my camera?”

Me: “I’m sorry, I can’t hear you: must be a bad connection.”

Dad: “I SAID, did you pack MY camera in one of your eight hundred suitcases?”

Me: *crinkling wad of paper in background* “Dad, the static on the line is terrible. I’ll call you later!”

That was the semester I studied abroad and, inadvertently, packed my father’s 1968 Asahi Pentax in one of my eight hundred suitcases. I held it hostage even upon my return, continually evading the question of its whereabouts until he finally conceded and bought me a near-identical model (1972) for my college graduation. I loved the delicate light meter, the sound of the shutter ticking closed after a particularly long exposure, the weight of it in my hands. I loved that the film would slip unless I aligned it perfectly, a fact that prevented me from rushing though the process of readying my camera to shoot. I loved carrying it with me when I traveled, its weight a reassuring presence of an old friend.

The cameras in this photographs are those belonging to my family: a collection that reminds me of holidays, graduations, first communions, vacations, life. They all adorn a shelf in our living room, and my oldest son loves to sneak off with the plastic Diana camera that once belonged to my uncle.

Me: *calling up the stairs to his room* “Danny, where is the little black camera?”

Danny: “What camera?”

Me: “The one that is missing from the shelf.”

Danny: “I can’t hear you mom! What did you say?”

I can’t help but smile. My father, of course, finds it hilarious.

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