Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ghostly Images

Yesterday I was "Ghosted" (tagged) by Heidi, the Milk Man's Wife. The idea is to post a ghostly image and tag three more people to do the same. This is the perfect opportunity to post a photo I've been mulling over for quite awhile.

Photobucket

The person on the left is a ghost, my maternal grandmother who died six weeks after my mother was born. The person on the right is her daughter-in-law Pearl. Back in the day men outlived their wives as so many women died from complications in childbirth and the lack of rural medical care. My grandfather had buried his first wife and had grown children when he married my much younger grandmother.

This photo tells a story on so many levels.

Pearl and her sisters were raised in rural Tennessee. They all married and moved out of the area, vowing to leave their simple and poor childhood behind. Remember the saying, "How you gonna keep them down on the farm, after they've seen Paree?" It certainly applied in this case. It was the roaring '20's and the excitement of the city made country life seem undesirable.

Pearl had married a wealthy heir to a coffee fortune and this image proclaims her status. Her hair is styled in the cold finger waves that were all the rage. Silk stockings, beautiful shoes and a spectacular coat trimmed in black fox complete the image of a well-heeled woman.

In contrast my grandmother stands looking at the camera, appearing to be very unsure and shy. In the few photos that exist of her she is always shyly peeking out from under her hair. Her coat looks like a hand-me-down and her Mary Jane shoes are worn. She's pregnant in this photo and in a few short months she will die of undetected preeclampsia. It was a terrible and painful death for such a sweet looking spirit.

Her life was difficult beyond imagining. She bore a son out of wedlock years earlier which made her a pariah in the tiny rural community. Her own family barely tolerated her and she basically became their indentured servant. Her and my grandfather married and started a family of their own. My mother was so tiny at birth and after her mother died she was declared by the traveling doctor to be too frail to survive. My poor grandfather was in no position to care for and raise an ailing newborn and so my mother was adopted by her married half sister Anne, traveling from Tennessee to Chicago tucked in a dresser drawer!

The spooky part is that looking this image is like looking in a mirror.

I see my mother.
I see myself.
And unfortunately in this case, I see a ghost.

26 comments:

Mainly a midwife said...

That is a beautiful, sad post.

Lori said...

No matter how bad things get, it only takes stories like these to remind us we don't have it so bad. What a nice tribute to your grandmother though.

chocolatechic said...

What an endearing post.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and your words made it better.

Melissa said...

What a beautiful story about your grandmother, This is the first time I've been to your blog and it was a great read. The music made it even more dramatic! I want music on my blog now!!!!! Thank you for sharing your grandmother's story.

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

Sometimes your writing is achingly beautiful. Today is such a time.

Molly said...

I got goosebumps reading this...what a beautiful post.

Kim said...

Amazing post and amazing picture. I have chills. I love hearing stories about your relatives. I can see you in your grandmother, most definitely.

American in Norway said...

You always have the best posts.. I love the photo, & I love that you know so much about your families history... I need to be better... i too, see you in your grandmother....

Chris said...

What a moving story. Hopefully those who have passed know that we hold them in our hearts and remember them always.
Chris

Mom Taxi Julie said...

Wow what a sad story :O(

Anne Marie said...

Being close to our past in being peaceful within.
Wonderful post.

Mamahut said...

I can definetely see the resemblences. Your pictures are lined up perfect. That's how they live on...through our memories.

jan said...

Thanks for sharing this story. I loved your telling of it.

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Dejoni said...

Beautiful post!!!!
I think you look a little like your grandmother.
My grandmother's mother died when he was young and left his father with 7 kids. He then remarried a neighborhood widow who had seven kids. They then together had 7 kids.
I wonder how her uterus didn't just drag the ground but I understand they had to have a large family to get the crops in. Their marriage was out of convienence and necessity.
I'm so glad I don't have to have 21 kids to eat...I'd lose my mind.

Dejoni said...

I meant my grandfather. My brain was working faster than my fingers...

Barry said...

I've said it once, and I'll say it again. I love your blog. I love the stories you tell and how you portray them! Thanks for this amazing story!

Design Gal said...

That last comment was from me, not my brother (who was logged into my computer)

EMBELLISHER said...

What a remarkable story.you do look like your grandmother.

EMBELLISHER said...

What a remarkable story.You do look like your grandmother.I was dericted to your blog by a friend and I really enjoy your posts

Heidi said...

What a great story, but so sad.... What ever happened to her son? Do you know her daughter in law pearl... wierd how they are about the same age isnt it? :) What a great story!!!!

Cottage Rose said...

Hello Suzanne; What a lovely post about your family history. Such sadness at the loss of your Grand mother, and then the joy of you Mother surviving to bring you into the world. How amazing the Lord works.

Hugs;
Alaura

Rue said...

Such a sad post Suzanne. She was beautiful though, just like you.

Linda said...

This is an incredible picture--not just two people standing together, but two eras, but also sharing love and affection. And your grandmother's hardships are haunting, making us think what we can do in our lives to amend. God bless.

jill amoni's life said...

Suzanne-your beauty is more than skin deep! Thank you for yet another window into the nuances of humanity.
Your mother lost her mommy before any memories of her could be etched in her mind, but through the grace of God, he has given you insight into who you are--a living tapestry of empathy, compassion and understanding, --a product of God's love!

Louise said...

This story is so touching. So young and innocent looking. Dying so young. I can't imagine what it is like when it is your own grandmother.