March 14, 2013

Grandma's wall.

Growing up my grandmother had a wall of grandchildren. Photos covering a small space next to the loveseat. I wish I had a photo of that wall. A photo of the photos. I would be so happy with that right now.

The focal point were two long, vertical frames that housed school pictures of all the grand kids. Every year those photos changed out, a ritual grandma saved until all the pictures were collected. She would take the frames down from their place on the wall and we'd take out the old pictures one by one comparing them to the new. Noticing things, longer hair, same color shirt, goofy grins, someone who obviously needs retakes...The handwriting on the back, either mom's or the child's, if no one wrote grandma would jot down the year and into the frames the new pictures would go.

One always knew their place on the wall. It didn't change. Those pictures were hung in age order and that certainly was set in stone. Tracy, John, Shaun, Lorinda, Jerrie, Jennifer, Scot, Jeremy, Gina. Always.

six of the nine kids on the wall.
I loved this ritual. I loved being a part of this tribe. Except, oh of course there is an "except," a couple photos were mystery kids. Boys on the wall, but not one of "us." Faces that changed every year without fail but faces none of us had ever seen in person. Occasionally we'd ask a question of grandma, "Who are those boys?" "Why are they on our wall?" "Where do they live?" "Are they are cousins?" The answers were vague and grandma, being grandma, would shut down discussion and move onto something new. Funny, it was as if she satisfied our questions, until we realized that she hadn't answered us at all. She had that way.

I was fascinated with these boys on the wall. Watching their pictures change every year. They grew up right along with me. I imagined walking into grandma and grandpa's house one day an having them sitting there on the loveseat. I imagined a family reunion where I'd be in line for potato salad and I'd glance up and the boys would be getting a drink from the cooler. I imagined them showing up in Glacier and joining our kickball team. These things could happen, I thought, since they were part of us, part of the tribe.

However, these things never happened. We all grew up. Our pictures froze in time. Perpetually 18 years old on the wall. Our faces quit aging, our clothes remained the same, we were all just there, in order forever. The boys on the wall never showed up. They remained mysteries, secrets locked in the vault that was grandma.

Until. Until 2009. Until grandma left us on a chilly January morning with a few of those kids at her bedside. Until we were tasked with the inevitable of clearing out the home that grandma and grandpa had shared our entire lives. Until we had to sift through belongings that we'd always wanted access to but then felt too invasive to actually be doing. Until the end of life as we knew it.

2009. I officially had a new brother. And he had a half-brother who grandma added to her grandchildren. A card, a few more pictures, a notation in grandma's well preserved Bible.

One of those boys on the wall was mine. The first words to escape my lips were, "I've always wanted a brother." Of course this brought a strange look from my aunt and a laugh from my cousin. My aunt who says, "You have two." And my cousin who knew exactly what I was talking about. I had a new brother.

No comments:

Post a Comment