Thursday, July 30, 2009
I got this faded and slightly damaged little photo in yesterday's mail, from my same-age cousin, Emily.
Until now, I had never seen a childhood photo of our grandmother. Not one. The most youthful photo I had was this one :
...in which she's certainly over 18, and probably 20-something. She and her sister are the two young ladies on the righthand side of the picture. She's standing, her arm affectionately linked through that of an unknown young man, and her sister is seated in front of them. The other members of this party - no idea who they are!
Of course I knew her only when she was well over 60, but the young lady she is in this outing party photo has always been as familiar as can be, in personality as well as appearance.
Grandmother was charming, witty, bossy, and absolutely NOT someone you lightly chose to cross. I could imagine her easily as that cheerful young woman of the outing photo, in her element -- she and her sister were the Belles of every ball, and she changed not a whit as she aged, loving parties and, as long as she was in charge of things, enjoying the matron role only a little less than she'd enjoyed being young and sought-after.
As Emily and I approached dating age, she once remarked to us, "I can't imagine anything nicer than a nice boy." Remembering that makes me smile.
Grandmother had two sons (Here she is with my dad, who is uncooperatively blurring the photo, 1929 or so):
...but when those sons married and each produced a granddaughter for her within a few weeks, she at last had -- she thought! -- budding debutantes to groom for social success. Our tomboyish ways were a great disappointment to her, and I don't mean that in a particularly cheerful way. I think that, to some small degree, it broke her heart.
Even the shot of her at age 18-22 is "Grandmother." The woman I knew. Someone we all found a bit overpowering, so we fortified ourselves by putting her in a "box" defined by all the family anecdotes: tales of her funny quips, the things she found outrageous, her liking for control. But the childhood photo -- that wide-eyed little girl? That's Katherine, and it's the first glimpse I've ever had of her, and that's kind of scrambling my head. But I'm so SO glad to glimpse her at all.