searching for the memories recalled in a photograph
Looking at the young woman sitting on the arm of the vinyl covered recliner and leaning back onto the ample stomach of a smiling silver haired man, his arm around her with their hands clasped and fingers intertwined; I hardly recognize myself. The picture was taken Christmas of 1983 at my maternal grandmother’s apartment, a small one bedroom close to the bus stop, she loved taking the bus and refused, despite her entire family’s urging, to ever learn to drive. She lived many years of her life in NY during the depression, she and my grandfather came to America in the early 1930’s, he was a barber with a little shop next to Yankee Stadium. There was a room in the back and that’s where they lived when my father was born. For the rest of her life, she stayed in little apartments and used public transportation even though she left NY and moved to Virginia, I guess it just seemed natural to her. She and my Grandfather divorced before I was born, I was the only kid I knew with divorced grandparents; I thought it was weird but my grandmother seemed very happy with her life. She worked at an insurance company and took the bus to and from work her entire career, at Christmas we used to buy long plastic candy canes filled with Hersey Kisses, remove all the candy and fill them with quarters so she would always have change for the bus. She was my favorite grandparent warm and kind with twinkly eyes and a tobacco scarred laugh. Her tiny kitchen produced wonderful meals of cheese covered lasagna and giant meatballs, homemade Cannoli shells waiting to be stuffed hung on wall pegs next to the counter. The whole family would gather there at holidays, crammed around card tables, coffee tables and anywhere else you could set a plate, laughing and eating it was simple and wonderful.
A black and white TV with a picture just fuzzy enough to be interesting would play quietly in the background as we gathered in the living room to rest after every family feast. Here is where my picture was taken, the silver haired man was my father and I was 20 years old. I don’t see anything of the woman I am now reflected in her, this seems almost impossible but it is true. Her short brown hair is neatly combed and cut just like the late Princess Diana. She is wearing a teal ruffled sweater, a pale wool skirt of the same hue with her legs encased in panty hose and on her feet a pair of conservative taupe heels. There is little if no make-up on her young skin and her earrings are tiny dots, there is no hint of the creative young woman who lived in that body. This could not be the same girl who dreamed one day she would change the world; the girl who wanted to join Green Peace and save the whales. My father always looked the same; he was dressed like most Dads in plain brown pants and a short sleeved shirt buttoned down the front. His cheeks were pushed up on his eyes as he smiled giving them a funny half-moon shape, his free hand was resting on his stomach, clearly we had already eaten.