Overexposed

When I was young, my mother came out of the closet.

And went back in. And came back out. And went back in.

It had nothing to do with sexual preference and everything to do with photography.

The broom closet was where she developed film. Scrunched next to the varnish and car wax and insect repellent, she worked in pitch blackness, cracking open roll after roll and transferring its contents to a reel inside a small metal tank.

Everyone within a two-room radius was put on notice: DO NOT turn on the lights. Mom is working.

And she worked all the time. As yearbook and newspaper adviser for the high school where she taught, she brought journalism into the lives of hundreds of students.

She took pictures. She developed pictures. She printed pictures.

Our home was the Kodak of the Midwest.

The bathroom was the darkroom. There was an enlarger. An easel.

To the right of the sink was the chemical shampoo. Developer. Stop bath. Fixer. Repeat.

Photos were washed in the tub, dried in the hallway.

Negatives dangled from hangers in the dining room, from the clothesline in the basement.

Students came and went. Award-winning publications were produced. Years passed.

The images of a generation lie within that house. I picture them clearly, as if they, and I, have never aged.

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