My Grandmother, Paris

As the only child of two only children, all the family photographs have been Passed down to me—I now have a remarkable collection of history in my

Basement, isn’t that where everything tends to fall in the end—because no One seemed to like to make albums, most of the pictures are scattered into

Piles, drawers, files, everywhere—every time I open a new box I discover Another image—and each one pulls me back into a different time and

Place—it is like a kaleidoscope of familial and generational history—I never Know what I might find—each visit down cellar, as they say in New England

Leaves me feeling amazed at how little I really know about my family—a Friend once said my family specialized in secrets, and she might just have

Been right—but my family also took to adventure with a vengeance—my Father’s ancestors exploring and charting the Sierras, his grandfather

Finding and then naming Wallace Lake—my mother’s side traveling east to Europe—my grandmother at a time when most women were expected to

Stay home—interesting that I found this picture today on what would have Been her one hundred and sixteenth birthday—she was disappointed not to

Make it to one hundred, but I tried to persuade her that I thought Ninety-eight would do—she was a formidable woman, a force of nature who

Made her own name as a journalist both in New York and abroad, including A Brief stint in Hollywood—she had many stories, of course, and now I

Wish I had listened better than I did at the time—if I had, I would know Perhaps where and when this photograph was taken—if I had to guess I

Would say it documented her years in Paris as a fashion reporter in the early Twenties—she had persuaded her parents that she would only be gone for

Six weeks—that voyage turned into five years, and Paris turned into Shanghai where she met my grandfather, married him, and conceived my

Mother on their honeymoon, or so the story went—they sent telegrams to Their families to announce their marriage, then their journey to Honolulu

So that my mother could be born on American soil—in case she was a he Who wanted to be president—but instead she became a writer in her own

Name, a name she wanted me also to have—she used to whisper in my ear That she hoped I would be a writer, that it was the best life anyone could

Have—it was our secret, she said—she and I were close—and what I most Like about this photograph is that it shows her sense of style, her interest

In fine clothes, shoes, and hats—she never wore flats—and she was very Proud of her slender ankles, one of her best features she used to say—but

More than anything, the photograph shows her in motion—she was always Moving—from New York to California then back again, from New York to

Paris to Shanghai, at one point to Hong Kong, back to China briefly once—I love the moment this photograph captures—the idea that she is between

One place and another, ready for anything, certainly never looking back.

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