The Keeper of My History
My excitement was building as I saw the New York skyline grow bigger and bigger as our plane prepared to touch down at LaGuardia Airport. It is hard to fathom that many of these gleaming skyscrapers had not even been built when G.G. was born. Who is G.G.? She is my great-grandmother and she was born November 6, 1907, so she’s 100 years old.
Yes, that’s right folks: 100 years. She was 4 ½ years old when the Titanic sank, she was a young adult during the Great Depression and she was there through all the wars that have plagued America during the 20th century. My name is Miriam, and I’m 13 years old. This past June I took a trip with my 11-year old sister and my dad to New York to visit G.G. and the rest of our extended family.
I am one of the fortunate few who still have a great-grandparent to visit. We live in Charlotte, NC, so I hadn’t seen G.G. since I was seven or eight. Now that I’m older, I really understand what it means to have lived 100 years. G.G. was born in the Bronx. Back then, the local baseball team was the Highlanders. They didn’t become the Yankees until G.G. was seven. In 1907, the world’s tallest building was the Park Row Building which stood 30 stories tall.
Not only is G.G. a living witness to New York City’s history, but she is the keeper of my father’s family history, too. What do you say to someone like that? I didn’t know. I wanted to ask her so much, but I didn’t know what to say. It’s almost like talking to a history textbook, but much more sincere and caring. My dad gently reminded me that this could very well be the last time I see her alive.
Here’s what I did: I sat down next to her, grasped her hand, and said, “Hi G.G. (G.G. stands for great-grandma. That’s what we call her). How are you? You look wonderful.” And she said, “I’m fine dear. How are you?”
What did I do? I profited from that occasion. I got the chance to explore her house, and pick her brain a little bit. I wandered through her room and saw all the photos. They were amazing: some of them had been taken over 50 years ago! Some were people I knew, some were total strangers to me, even though they were part of my family.
There were photos of my dad and uncles back in the 1970’s. Those were really hilarious. I couldn’t believe they had such long hair and wore such bad clothes! Dad said they were really stylish back then. Yeah, whatever. What really drew me in were the pictures of my grandfather, George. He died before I was born. In his face I could see the “Smallman” face; strong features that he had handed down to his sons.
I didn’t really see myself, though, until I saw a photo of G.G. as a young woman. She was maybe 19 or 20 and I was surprised to see myself reflected in her features. G.G. had been old for as long as I can remember. To see her smiling out at me, young and lovely was astonishing. My mom always says I look like G.G., and here was the proof.
See above, a photo of me with my great-grandmother from our trip to New York.
I love my great-grandmother so much. I will always remember that trip and treasure that day that I spent with her.
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