Grandma’s Birthday Party

ScanScan 3When she turned 85, my Grandma Jane decided to throw a party.

This would be her first birthday since my grandfather, and her twin sister, died and though hers was the party house and she was the hostess for everyone’s birthdays (including great grandchildren), this was the first where the light would be shining directly on her. It was unlike her to put herself front and center. And yet, she loved parties, so it was, indeed, like her.

In celebration of the woman who was surfacing, I wanted to make her a collage of her life. I gathered all the photographs we had from her young womanhood to the present day. I wanted to see who see was, separate from her role as my grandmother. But of hundreds of pictures, there wasn’t a single one in which she was there, alone. I remember feeling frustrated by that. Where was the graduation photo? A glamour shot? The one of her, alone, in her wedding dress? I had to cut her face from her twin sisters’ and from babies’ cheeks. I had to remove her body from clinging children and cover up the throngs of guests in the background or foreground. She was, in every sense of the word, a people person.

On February 7, Grandma Jane would have turned 100. When I think of her now, I remember those  photographs. I may have extracted her from others with a small scissors, but she is definitely not alone. She will always be attached, to all of us.

Photos by Ellen Blum Barish