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.
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.