a thousand words

When my grandmother died, I was given her writing desk. It's a small desk, dark wood, with little drawers up top and a wide one below. In the desk was an envelope containing a handful of photos. Among them was what I think is her journalist/photographer file photo, and a wonderful shot of her two daughters and my sister and me. 

Also in that desk was the photo I've pasted below. A simple snapshot of me, in the back yard at my parents' house. That's my sister's old dog Bear in the background. The photo is inscribed on the back Marian, May 1990 in my grandmother's handwriting. That means it was taken at a birthday celebration. My birthday is May 29; my cousin was born one day earlier a year later on May 28. And my grandmother's birthday is May 25. So my extended family always celebrated our three birthdays with a party on Memorial Day weekend.

May 1990 was the spring before I went to law school. I was living with my college boyfriend in Pittsburgh. My grandmother liked him; they both liked jazz. We must have gone up to my folks' house for the day or the weekend. I don't remember this photo being taken, or anything else about that particular day. Or even that shirt I am wearing. Or that haircut, either.

But I remember my grandmother. I remember celebrating our birthdays together, year after year. Everything about her is so present and real for me, down to the rooms in her apartment, the placement of her belongings in that space, the smell of her kitchen, the smell of my grandmother. Her voice. I hear her voice.

She kept this photo of me in her desk. It was a gift to me when she died. This simple snapshot. Her care and keeping of it.