This is the picture of my grandma Bunny that I pulled out of my aunt’s basement last Sunday. I had never seen this photo before that moment, and at first glance, I had to struggle to match up this face with the one I carry around with me in my mind. The detail that helped me understand that it was Bunny was the engagement ring she is wearing. It is the ring I’ve looked at on my mom’s hand all my life and so it is deeply familiar to me, even when this young girl is not.
I propped the frame up on my living room bookshelf when I came home Sunday. I look at it every time I pass by and I continually think about what this young woman would have been like. In this picture, she is younger than I am now, freshly graduated from Smith and soon to get married. Comfortable and safe in a photography studio on Germantown Ave, she myopically gazes off to the left.
From my position almost 70 years ahead, stocked with a fairly complete knowledge of her personal lifetime, I wonder what her worries and hopes were on this day. I’m sure she didn’t have an inkling of the life she would lead, of her three sons, her divorce and remarriage. Of life in Virginia, Philadelphia, Hawaii, Boston and finally Southern California. Of six grandchildren (3 girls and 3 boys), two of whom she never got to meet. An angry eventual surrender to lung cancer. I’m grateful to see her before any of those experiences show on her face. I have those pictures. Seeing her this way, fresh and bright with life, somehow helps me love her more.
(I have no idea what she was doing wearing a cross. She was a lifelong Unitarian (just like me), and we don’t typically embrace Christian symbology. It’s strange).
I like old photos. We found a bunch of them from my father’s family a while back, as well as some journals from about 150 years ago. I’m always fascinated to look at things like this and wonder what the people were like in real life.
As a side note, I’ve always been under the impression that Unitarianism is born from the Christian tradition with the most significant ideological separation being the denial of the Trinity, favoring a single, unified God instead. I often compare the Unitarian evolution with the Society of Friends, which also launched from a Christian foundation, even though many modern Friends don’t adhere to that anymore.
Of course, most traditions have evolved since then, but you must have noticed the Christian symbolic influences on the building in which you congregate, haven’t you?
In my one time inside your church’s sanctuary, I noticed a ton of Christian-centric symbolism, but I may be a bit more sensitive to those influences, as I was reared in a Christian tradition.
Marisa: She has great cheack bones. And as you said you wonder what her hopes and dreams were on that day. I guess a picture does not tell a 1000 words. Bonnie
I loved this post. I have a photo of my late mother on my wall from when she was about 26 –before she got married and had six kids. It’s neat to think about who she was then, what her dreams were, nearly 20 years before I would meet her.
Your dad gave me the heads up to this post. I see you’ve inherited your mom’s gift for writing (and Bunny’s for that matter!)
This picture was taken on Bunny’s wedding day. As for the cross, Bunny was a Unitarian but she also was a Quaker. And as Uncle Mike puts it “…Unitarians were more liberal back then…” Hah!
Bunny’s dress and the simple veil she wore were the essence of beauty. Just like Bun. I have a couple more pictures from that day, I’ll e-mail them to you.
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