7.07.2009

Haunted By Grandmother


Haunted By Grandmother, originally uploaded by redbaerd.

You probably did not know that this is actually an attempt to capture a more subjective essence than even the oversaturated outdoors, the blurry lines, the canted angle, the almost-finished roll of paper towels and the mysterious reflection represented to your immediately conscious aesthetic responses.

This photograph is taken in the kitchen of my family cottage. It is the kitchen where my paternal Grandmother, she who most eminently influenced my own disposition, this is the kitchen where that Grandmother spent a great deal of her life.

This photograph does not reveal to you how very small the kitchen is, but believe me when I tell you that it would be logistically impossible to fit more than five full grown humans in this room at a time. Possibly unless the the sixth was given to crowd surfing, but in general, my Grandmother did very little crowdsurfing.

You cannot feel it right now, but believe me when I tell you that this kitchen contains the most magnificent breeze. The breeze is magnificent because the kitchen is at a corner and the cottage is positioned on a peninsula that juts into a bay with a lagoon and a wide creek on either side. The breeze is so cool and refreshing and the windows make you almost want to stay in the otherwise cramped and inconvenient workspace.

Part of me thinks that my Grandmother loved domesticity in general and this kitchen in particular. (Other parts of me are not so sure, but we will not deal with those doubts tonight.) This was her summer home for thirty-some years. She cooked and entertained with such precision and formality that her dinners were almost always enjoyable if not quite tasty. And in the days when her heart was unclouded, when the darkness was not overwhelming, she was free and garrulous with her laughter and witty stories while serving and eating along with the rest of us.

My whole life I spent occasional days and weekends with my grandparents at our cottage. When I turned seventeen, I started the habit of spending whole weeks with them. My grandmother and I were both writers, thinkers, socialites, archivists, and endlessly sentimental. We had grand times talking. We talked about books and art and music and ideas and all the characters from generations and generations of family trees.

She wrote long overly descriptive letters in perfect palmer script every week to the whole family, and whenever we came to visit, she made glass dishes full of chocolate pudding, chocolate puddings topped with whipped cream as dessert for every single meal.

My grandfather and I took long silent walks which were also grand, but in an altogether different way. I do not think that his silence is unrelated to the subjects of this post, or the feeling of this kitchen or the story of my grandmother, but that is not the story of this post, so I'll not diverge any longer.

I do not believe in ghosts and I have never believed in haunting.

But when I was near thirty three and my grandmother had been gone for two years, I saw her ghost here. In this kitchen. I was standing in front of the window that you're looking at now. And there she was, looking at me. Waiting for me to move, so she could return the serving bowl full of vegetables to the refrigerator.

The next time she was standing in front of the window and the refrigerator.

Nothing about it ever felt frightening or eerie. It all felt very normal and true.

But then a couple years ago I took these pictures to try to capture the feeling of seeing someone who so shaped my imagination...and occasionally returned for a benign haunting.

1 comment:

Ang said...

As I was rummaging in drawers this weekend in the 'master bed room' there, I found several carefully organized Grandma Linda things....a sewing kit in a wrapping-paper covered box with a lid, a hand mirror, some hair clips...it's been so long, so I was taken completely aback by that fact that I smelled...though my better judgement tells me it was just the smell of 'old' and 'must' and 'cabin'..but I thought it was distinctly.... *her*. :)