Sitting on 80 acres of land previous owned by Indian tribes, around the large wood table built by my great-great relatives, my childhood Saturday nights often took place in my grandmothers 60 year old home, filled with adults playing Eucre and kids watching Hee-Haw. In the summer time, we would be left to play unsupervised in the fields & creek, and in the winter I have a distinct memory of us discovering that when we turned on the ceiling vent in the bathroom, snow would start blowing down on us. We were an extended family of great laughter and little wealth.
As a young married couple, my parents had us move quite a bit in effort (and success) of building and providing a good life for us but in the center of it all stood the stability of my grandmother’s home. From it came stories of my father as a baby climbing out to the barn and up the rafters; my aunt being Homecoming queen; marriages starting and ending; babies being born. And in the middle of it all, my grandmother’s high school senior portrait would hang, smiling down on all of us.
I loved to study this portrait of a young woman that, at the time, had such a full life waiting for her. As a young girl, it intrigued me to see how different she looked back then – yet have the same kindness & determination in her eyes. To think, when she had the portrait taken, none of us were even born yet! To have this reminder of my grandmother at a time when we didn’t know her, to see the same beautiful smile she would give us when we came to her home, was almost a sweet declaration to me, saying, “So much came before you, to guide you and shape you. I was a young girl like you, too”. This simple, hand painted portrait let my mind wonder so often to how much more we were connected to one anther, despite the years.
My grandmother’s portrait now hangs in my own living room now. I still think about what she was like at my age, if I received any of her personality traits, and if I will pass them to my own children. I love the opportunity to share small snippets of stories with people who ask, “Who is that a portrait of?” and smile, knowing that she would be proud to know the woman I am today, the women I am raising, and would more than likely shrug off the suggestion that she had anything to do with it – let alone her high school senior portrait be a token of security, roots, and inspiration to generations ahead.