The River Thames

My grandmother handed me a blue photo album recently, of our time spent together in NYC, London and Paris in 1997.  I was eager to look through it but struggled to find the right time.  

And then more time went on and I started to get irritated with myself that I hadn’t yet made the time to look through it.

One can’t think of traveling these days like we used to.  To say that out loud makes me feel old and seasoned.  But that wasn’t quite what was bothering me.  

My Grandmother is now almost 20 years older.  To say that out loud makes me realize how timeless I really think she is; in my mind’s eye she hasn’t aged a bit and yet Time is telling me otherwise.

Then one night I found myself up late in the quiet of my living room with a glass of wine and the perfect amount of solitude to take the time I wanted to spend recalling the events of those 10 days.  Guided by my Grandmother’s penmanship and impeccably detailed account of the events which she planned for us, I found myself back in the memories — some which I had since forgotten yet felt eager to recall.

Hotel Room at the Waldorf-Astoria New York; front row seats of 'Le Miserables'; the umbrella that hit my Grandma during lunch at Rockefeller Center; audience of the Today Show; lunch at Tavern on the Green and hair done at Vidal Sassoon by Joseph.  

Pictures she took of me and my Pentax Camera hanging from my neck, water bottle in my hand, khaki shorts, young soccer legs … with looks on my face that … started to … concern me.   

Did I know how lucky I was?  Did I appreciate this opportunity?  Please tell me I didn’t act like an annoyed teenager.

The Twin Towers stood tall across the waters from the ferry ride. The power of a photograph’s ability to contain something that no longer exists. 

The pictures of the Statue of Liberty — what did I think she stood for?  Were times easier then?  They simply must have been.

And then to London, the changing of the guards and my “first” “sip" of beer at the Shakespeare Pub; the Ancient City; Big Ben; the Changing of the Guards; Tower Bridge; Westminster Abbey.

Did I take this all in?  Did I appreciate what my Grandmother had planned for me?  Please tell me I was polite and courteous. 

And then I came across this picture:

on the River Thames. 

And though I don’t totally recognize the girl in this picture I recognized her joy.  And I have to trust that my Grandmother felt it from me, too.  

Please, please tell me she felt it from me.  

The Chunnel Train through the countryside of England into France; tour boat on the Seine; the Alexander III Bridge; the Eiffel Tower; Notre Dame the Louvre and Versailles. She boasted in cursive about me talking in French to the driver on the way to Charles De Gaulle Airport, boy I must have had her fooled!

Now every time I open this blue scrapbook, I see something new, I feel something different, I remember something tucked away.  

But mostly I see a young woman whom I feel somewhat disconnected from, who makes me think more of my children than I do of myself.  And maybe I can lighten up on her a little, and trust that she was capable.  And kind.  And grateful.  And fun.  And like the relief I feel when I see my kids with my grandparents — that there is no judgement, only love — maybe I can give myself some of that stuff, too.  And trust that maybe sometimes those who know me well maybe know me better than I know myself. And that maybe I can worry a little less about if I am saying enough, doing enough and showing appreciation enough … and trust a little more that I am capable of conveying that just by being me.  

 © Houseman 2013