My time at home has come to an end. My exodus impending. It has been a journey, coming back to this place for a relatively long time but it rasa’d my tabula if you will. It was enlightening because of my humbling experience but also because of pictures.
If you are a regular reader, then you read my blog entitled Our Glue, and I thank you for that! If not, it was about my grandmother who passed away and how I saw her, as well as my reflections on her. It was cathartic to say the least but it wasn’t the end. I had trouble dealing with it but made my piece.
Coming home from being away for so long has been interesting. I come back to where my family still lives. I felt like an outsider or as if I was intruding. It took seeing how everything is the same here to see how much I have changed, or so I thought. It all culminated when I went along with my mother to go to an aunt’s house and go through my grandmother’s belongings where they divided up her valuables.
This was such an amazing experience. You never truly know someone until you see their “valuables”. For my grandmother, it was old trinkets and costume jewelry. She loved topaz and opal stoned jewelry; the larger the better. In life, I never saw her go outside of her house much. She would mostly stick to sweaters and these powder blue slacks that she would use to gauge how much weight she gained or lost by how tight they were on her thighs. I never got to see this side of her. The glamorous side. The softer side.
She also was in to quilting. I remember she used to crochet when I was a child but it waned as her memory did. The quilts are small and dense, and incredibly warm may I add. I was given one and it made me happy to have a piece of something she made by hand. Every stitch deliberate.
I found it to be somewhat trivial how my family said what belonged to them in a squabble. I am the youngest of the cousins and the youngest in the room of my family as they debated what was to be divided. At one point I exclaimed, “This isn’t about money and this isn’t about who gets what. She was everyone’s mother here. This is her stuff. Enjoy it while it’s all in front of you.”
Bold, I know. Maybe even out of place but it needed to be said and the air was lighter. We started looking, not at what was to be claimed but what was in front of us. What our grandmother loved.
I have told you the portions of what she liked as in quilting and jewelry but I found her true treasure. Photos. Thousands of photos. They went back to the late 19th century. I saw my great grandfather and many other extended family through the generations and it was truly amazing.
There is this song by The Cure called “Pictures of You” that really put the whole situation in perspective and played on loop in my head.
How these pictures are snapshots of moments. It was about seeing my grandmother in a light that was different than what I knew. She was a teenager. She was happy. She was in love. My grandfather was a handsome devil and looked like trouble.
I look at all of these pictures and then move forward. I see pictures of my mother when she was in grade school and all the way through when she had me. There were myriad pictures of these people whom I never knew but knew. My grandmother was cooky and goofy but also a very stern woman. In those pictures, I saw what she was like before life happened.
There were pictures of me as a youngster; some I had seen, others were new.
These pictures made me realize that as far apart as we are, those pictures taking place in 1949, we both share the commonality of youth. I have always seen her as “Grandma” and not Violet. It was such a long day but by the end I felt as if I knew her much better than I ever had. She took a lot of these photos and to some it may be just a picture but for me it was getting to see through her eyes for one frame in a long life. One window into a life that is a mystery to me. Like some mythological figure of someone. Some ghost.
It is her way of immortality I suppose and I revere these pictures. It makes me want to take more pictures and to be young. Be free. I want to look back at those pictures and think about those people in it. The person I was and built upon. My own ghost.
Ghosts. A city of ghosts. That’s what I realized in that room we all stood in, which seemed so much bigger fifteen years ago. I thought I had changed and they all stayed the same but that isn’t true. That’s impossible. We all shed our personalities like snakes shed their skin. What I saw was only the depth of what I know of them. I hadn’t seen them in years and even then it was fairly superficial. I didn’t know them like I had, I now only see what I knew of them and not what they are. I only see their ghosts.
So, in forty years, I’ll look back and remember these days when I was this and not what I will be and when we were.