|Jan/Feb 2017 Poetry Special Feature|
© 2016 Elizabeth P. Glixman
"A Girl I Know" by Heidi Kell
I would know my mother's handwriting anywhere, even though she created this photo album and family tree in 1959, nine years before I was born. This was a project from her senior year, a look backward to puzzle out grandparents and great-grandparents before time's silence enveloped them whole.
On the title page, I can still make out an "A" from Miss Hawes in faded red pen, and where my mother has written "December 18, 1959" under "English 7 & 8," Miss Hawes has also written "single space" in looping cursive and drawn a large arrow.
There is a table of contents offering us "A Backward Glance" and "Those Wonderful Years." This is followed by the fold-out family tree, and what I notice on the third line of names and dates is my mother has written in the years in a different-colored pen. I imagine her learning from her own mother that Elizabeth Jane Johnson, her maternal grandmother, was born in 1895 and that her grandfather, Howard C. Schrandt from Duluth, Minnesota, was born in 1892, and then filling in the blanks.
But what really stands out to me is how no one has been given a date of death, not even the great-grandparents from Quebec who would have been well over 100 had they been alive. My 18-year-old mother must have known this, just as I know the date of her own death. In the "Prospectus" section, she writes, "Twenty-five years from 1960 is a long time," and, "In that time, I hope to be a person of many worthwhile accomplishments." And sounding exactly like the mother I knew, she also tells us, "Walking was, and still is, one of my favorite exercises."
And when I go out for a walk later today, I'll feel my 18-year-old mother is heading down Sheridan Road beside me, that she stands almost hypnotized by the shimmer of sun on the lake. The extra letter "c" she has added to the word "exercises" has been removed by Miss Hawes's red pen, and I imagine telling my mother not to worry about it. I imagine skipping that letter like a stone across the lake, never seeing where it finally disappears.