Suzanne searched the grounds around her mothers old house, under the porch and into the laundry room that sat at the back of the house. She walked into the kitchen and headed toward the living room, a long hallway was lit by the Eastern sun, just the way her mother had planned it so long before.
In the sitting room a young photo of her mother, as she was remembered, sat beside a table holding her mothers antique vase collection filled with yellow, orange, and red roses, white lilies and hydrangeas the size of a grown mans head. Laid amongst the fallen petals on the table were her mothers pearls, and a pair of gloves she had never seen her mother wear in her life, they were white leather and had crimson red pearl buttons and red stitching. She reached out and touched the soft leather gloves, twisting the pearls around her finger. Bringing the back of her hand up the side of the cold white china vase, she noticed the detailed black painted scene of a tiger stalking in the jungle, the tops of the trees when the vase was inverted would resemble a man stalking the same scene. Suzanne found this fascinating, how the scene would switch from one perspective to the next and the warmth that emanated from the image could be contrast by the coldness of the porcelain and weight of the water. As she worked her way down the table toward the photo she saw the broach her mother quite often had worn, a large jewelled dragonfly, its wings spread almost three inches on each side of the thin sapphire blue body, on its head a tiny silver crown rested on two large red stones. Suzanne touched the realistic insect broach, her memories flooding back, her mothers light auburn hair falling across her lapel nestling into the shiny blue and green and red stones.
A quick bang came from the second floor and Suzanne's memory was cut short, she raced up the stairs and stalked toward the far left room, her mothers bedroom. In the en suite, in the middle of the white tiled floor sat her crumpled daughter, her face covered in bright red lipstick. Suzanne grabbed a wash cloth and rinsed it in warm water before settling down beside her only daughter.
“Do you want to talk about it?” She placed the cloth next to her daughters cheek so she could feel the warm kiss of the water. “Ouisa?” She wiped the redness from her eyes.
“She said we’d get all dolled up and break some hearts.”
Suzanne let out a sobbing laugh. “She did, did she?”
“She said when I graduate we’d go adventuring like she used to, we’d get all dolled up, throw on our lipstick and beak some hearts.”
“Oh Ouisa” Suzanne hugged her daughter tightly, the cloth dripping its warm soapy red tears down the front of her black satin suit. “G.G. Fern would have wanted nothing more from us than to pick ourselves up and find the adventure on our own. She loved all of us but she would not have wanted us to give up just because she wasn’t here to push us.”
“But I don’t know how.”
Suzanne pulled herself away and smiled, wiping most of the tears and lipstick away she looked her daughter in the eyes and said. “Did G.G. ever tell you she used to take me and Bert on her adventures?”
Louisa’s tear filled eyes spread wide. “She did?”
“Yeah, your boring old mom has had some of her own too.”
She smiled “Why don’t you ever talk about them?”
“Well, you know.” Suzanne swallows her tears. “Its G.G.” She stops to wipe her face “Sometimes just spending a minute with her felt like... That minute was created just for you. It was too special to share”
Louisa nodded leaning into her mothers shoulder.
"But I'm sorry I didn't" Susanne looked her daughter in the eyes. “You know what? You come with me” she lifted her daughter up, walked into G.G. Ferns room and placed Louisa on the crisp white linen comforter. “Crawl under there. It’s okay.”
Her grandmother would always lift the covers and invite her in. Her feet sliding along its warm cool comfort, her head resting on the thick feather pillow. Her mother walked to the far wall as Louisa pictured her grandmothers arms wrapping themselves across her shoulders, the back of her hand resting under Lousia’s chin.
Suzanne returned carrying a large brown leather album, with several yellow ribbons poking out the top and bottom. “This ribbon” She climbed up on to the bed next to her daughter “Marks the day your G.G. adopted me and Auntie Bert.” She opened the book to the page about three pages in. There are several pictures: in one a young boy about three years old smiles, in another the same boy stands as a newborn girl rests in the arms of a middle aged woman wearing a white skirt and grey button up blouse. The woman's hair is rolled up and pinned back, a scarf is pinned to her right shoulder by a large broach Louisa recognized right away.
“And this one” Suzanne flipped the page. “Is the day G.G. bought this farm... and the next is my tenth birthday.” Suzanne flipped quickly through the first three quarters of the book stroking Louisa’s curly dark brown hair as she recollected the memories of her childhood before she came to “...the first time G.G. took us to Costa Rica to visit her friend Dr Laurence.”
Louisa’s eyes shot open when she saw the young doctor, his chiseled jaw and dewy eyes. Both of his hands were resting on a teenage Bert’s shoulders. A slight smile turning up in the corners of his mouth G.G. Fern stood with an arm wrapped around the doctors toned arm. “You're not in the photo.”
“I took this photo, I was only thirteen.” Suzanne traced the contours of the doctors arm. “He was a very attractive man Louisa.”
“Was he?” Louisa poked her mother. “And Daddy is?”
“I didn’t know your father then.”
“And G.G. liked this doctor too?”
“It was hard to find a person that your G.G. didn't like, but the doctor was just a friend." Susanne poked her daughter. "You know, Doctor Laurence is actually the reason I became a biologist, he was an anthropological zoologist and a species of monkey had lost the ability to reproduce a certain gene and the doctor had been living in Costa Rica studying them for...”
Louisa interrupted pointing at another photo “Is that you?” Susanne was young sitting in a wicker chair on a porch, a small monkey sat on her shoulder looked into the camera.
“Oh yes!" Susanne replied noticing in the washed out photo the youthful dark freckles she had long lost. "I had forgotten about the monkey." she giggled. "The doctor had taken Auntie Bert for a walk along the tree line and G.G. Fern and I stayed behind to make some tea and listen to the jungle. This little monkey trotted up to the house and climbed up on my shoulder, he must have been there an hour or two, he just sat there looking at me, like he was fascinated by me. I had never felt anything like that before, like we had connected, G.G. was so excited she kept staring at us repeating 'thats great', 'thats just wonderful', 'a perfect likeness' she was so happy, I asked her to snap this photo of us.”
“Did the monkey live there?”
“He was gone when Bertie and the doctor came back. The doctor said he had never heard of anything like that in a wild monkey and that I should count my stars the monkey didn’t try to eat me.”
“That little thing?” Louisa laughed
“What I know now, I think he was right, these monkeys can be very aggressive. But sadly I never saw him again.”
“Or the doctor for that matter"
"Couldn't you look him up?"
"Oh I suppose I could have. He must be in his seventies by now, I wouldn't even know where to start, he'd probably never remember me.” Suzanne flipped to a bright blue ribbon in the book. “Oh here is the my Fourteenth birthday." She continued to flip through the book "Oh and here is our trip to Kenya.”
“You went to Africa when you were fourteen?”
“Yes, we flew into Nairobi and spent nearly three months exploring the continent. Just your Auntie Bert, G.G. Fern, myself and an African friend. Gosh what was his name” She searched the photos. “Here” pointing at a young broad gentleman in a white button down shirt and green dress pants, retrieved the photo and turned it over. “Yes, Mr. Fikre Debela.”
Louisa looks closer at the photo. “and who is this?” pointing at a young blonde man in traditional african attire.
“That is Sam, he was a missionary we met” Suzanne said. “He and your Auntie Bert were very close, in fact they were lovers for almost ten years before Sam died."
"What? he died?"
"He was missioning in India, and got an infection.” She traced his face. “He was such a beautiful young boy.”
“What was Africa like?”
“Well, we arrived in the middle so summer, so June or July I think.” Suzanne shuffled back and forth through the pages looking for a date. “The flight was so long and the heat was strong enough that I could hardly breath. Yes July, there we are, taking a Matatu from the airport to the hotel.” Pointing to a picture of she and Bertie standing next to Fikre Debela and a crowded van like bus “I wanted to sleep so badly but G.G. said walking was better, so when we arrived at the hotel we excused ourselves from the boys, in GG’s own unique way of course - Ladies must have our time - and we walked the streets of the art district. I remember looking into the windows and feeling the essence of our locale, how foreign this city really was. Bert and Mr Debela must have left just as promptly because we arrived back at the room to get changed, we found a man had been waiting for us in the lobby. I felt so ashamed for wasting his time, but you know what GG told me?” Suzanne took her daughters face in her hands. “She told me we hadn’t wasted a minute.”
“Cause you got to spend time with her.”
“And that 'adventure is destined to change lives'. Indeed, I was told, as the man waited he met a woman who would later become his wife.”
“Well of course I never really know, G.G. was prone to dramatic stories wasn’t she?” Suzanne flipped the pages carefully holding back her emotions.
“G.G. really took you all over the world?”
“Once in a while.”
“What happened? Why did she stop her adventures?”
“Well sweetie, I'm not sure she ever wanted to, but i did. you see adventure really is destined to change lives.” Susanne held her daughter close. "and those changes are permanent."