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First Snow

I had thrown the photos in an old shoebox years ago, when I was clearing out my parents' house in Belgium. The box had been shipped over to Australia together with some delft blue china and a painting of a country lane – all objects that would feel out of place as soon as I unpacked them here among the gum trees, but I wanted some keepsakes from my parents and some mementoes of my youth.

As I lifted the cardboard lid off the shoebox, the pile of compressed memories heaved upwards and a black and white rectangle slid off the top and onto the table. And so life served up a school photo, showing my grade six class on the granite stairs of the Our Lady of Lourdes College in the early 60s. There's twenty-three of us, standing next to the form teacher. We were eleven–year–olds then, still in short pants, and twenty-two of us have now become old men, slightly curved, like the photograph.

And oh, the smiles as we faced the camera. We were obviously relishing the break from school routine or someone must have cracked a good joke. Two boys have their arms crossed tightly in front of their chests, but in the front right, Daniel, the golden boy, stands relaxed, his arm poised on the shoulder of the bespectacled boy next to him, fully at ease with a world he would be leaving soon.

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