grandma’s album

Shortly after my grandmother died at the age of ninety-five—just two years before her son died—my dad tugged a large trunk out of a downstairs closet. He told me to go through the things she had left in it and choose whatever I’d like to have.

The trunk was a dark wood lined with thin brittle tea-stained paper, bubbling and separating from its edges. In it were several empty wooden frames, a few purses, a rosary, handkerchiefs, gloves, a bible and other knickknacks you’d expect to find in a musty old trunk owned by a woman born in 1899.

I chose one of the rosaries, not because I was raised Catholic—I’m not religious at all—but because of its beauty and the knowledge that my grandmother’s supple, thin-skinned fingers ran over its beads. Then a red velvet booklet caught my eye, slightly smaller than a half sheet of paper, about an inch thick with rounded corners. A decorative font embossed diagonally across the front reads “ALBUM” surrounded by what were velvet curlicues and sprinkles, though long worn thin and threadbare from being handled. An old piece of shiny amber tape secures a tear on the inside page where my grandma wrote her name in the familiar cursive I remember from her correspondences to me. The opposing page is prettily adorned with three delicate budding tea roses.

Most of the book’s pages are empty, though the beginning is filled with various quotes, all written in my grandmothers hand. The first is about the affects of the caustic tone of voice and is attributed simply to “mother”. Following are quotes from Emerson, Longfellow, Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed, Plato, Goethe and President John F. Kennedy. Brotherhood, kindness, love, self-discipline and hope are common themes. One of my favorites reads:

“If I keep a green bough in my heart, the singing bird will come.” - Old Chinese saying

I’ve read these quotes many times, lightly touching the yellowed paper and faded black ink, always remembering the common thread of biology that runs from her through my father then to me. I wish I had known her. I really didn’t. She lived so far away. I only know she had Spanish blood, bore two sons, was well read though not college educated, played the guitar on the radio and lived in San Francisco, as did I. But through the selection of passages she has transcribed I realize we are so alike, and that feels wonderful. I have continued to write favorite poems and quotes in the album. I only wish Calvin could, one day, read them all and add his own. Something else to dream about.
My dad and Grandma with one of my brothers

1 comment:

  1. Hi Christy, love your writings and photos. You are doing a great service to share your experiences with Calvin.

    I can only guess that the rate at which leaps in epilepsy research is being made through world wide shared efforts that a cure is just around the corner.

    Keep up the good thought and also keep a green bough. The cure is coming.

    Tim P.