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).