Worn, a slight head tilt, lips pressed thin
wavy tumble of hair, she sat beside
her clapboard house, surrounded by a clump
of children. The mystery woman fixed
resigned eyes on me from across a century.
A discarded thought
the day I scanned in the photos I'd found
inside a rugged leather valise -- secreted
in a safe corner of my Mom's cat-rampaged house --
the thought eventually returned, as all
thoughts do when you are finally
quiet enough to hear them.
I knew that head tilt.
I knew those eyes.
Amongst all the family photos -- some so old
they'd escaped even my Mom's memory -- Mom
had pointed out my grandmother,
matrilineal history mattering more
to her than men.
In gray dusk, I pulled up the 1929
portrait of Senora Hinkle, my great-
grandmother -- her last formal portrait.
That head tilt.
Plumper, yes, dressed in a shapeless dark dress
(I'd thought her a widow, but her husband
lived a decade more, fathered six more kids)
Clockwise, I ticked off the roster of children --
gauging age by relative size. Harriet, Jennie,
John, Ella (my Nana), Joseph, Elmer
and chubby baby Harry. As tired as she looked,
Senora would birth four children more, losing
the last at age 6. Senora lived just 3 years more.
My Nana seemed to wink at me, the one dark carrier
of her father's hair, as well as the blonde gene
she would pass to my Mom
and my Mom would pass to me.
"You got it, Bud!" I could almost hear her cheer.
(In life, it sounded like "butt," to my perpetual
reclaimed from memory's abyss.
- November 23, 2016