56. Photograph: Write a story or journal entry influenced by a photograph.
There is this blog on Tumblr that I follow called, Dear Photograph. The idea is that you take a photograph from your past and take a picture of it in the present, in the same or similar location as the original photograph.
The feature image above is the City Chambers building in Glasgow. The tiny picture is, you guessed it, also the City Chambers in Glasgow. It didn’t originally belong to me, it belonged to my grandmother on my mother’s side. The picture was actually part of a tiny photo album that folded into a book, and you could wear it as a pin. It was one of the random objects found in my grandmother’s jewelry box after she passed away, that was five years ago.
My grandmother was born in Glasgow, but at the age of three she moved to the States with her brother and her parents. When my mom was a girl her family traveled back to Scotland and England, but as far as I know they never went back to Glasgow. My grandmother did not have an easy life. After they moved to the states her mother passed away from cancer, and her father became secluded. He took a backseat to raising his children and my grandmother found herself being raised by her bossy aunts. She wasn’t even allowed to attend her mother’s funeral.
As if her childhood wasn’t painful enough she herself had health issues as she got older. She developed rheumatoid arthritis, lost weight drastically, and passed away due to respiratory issues. I was seventeen. I had been away on senior week to celebrate graduation with my high school friends, and then after I returned she was gone. In her later years I didn’t necessarily have the best relationship with my grandmother. The joke in our family was that my brother was the favorite grandchild and everyone else paled in comparison.
Even years later I still possess complicated feelings about the whole matter, but when I decided to take a backpacking trip I knew I had to go to Glasgow. To be frank, the only reason I was able to embark on the trip in the first place was because of my grandmother. When she was in the hospital she communicated to my mom that she felt bad that there was nothing specifically set aside in her will for her grandchildren so after she passed, and we sold her house my mom divided up the earnings between my brother and I.
Right before I left my mom gave me the pin so I could take a little piece of my grandmother with me when I got there. Every few days I would flip open the pin and see different landmarks of Scotland on the tiny pages. The first place I stayed in Scotland was Edinburgh and in the book there was a tiny picture of Arthur’s Seat. I remember standing on the hill with my eyes filling with tears because I was so overwhelmed.
Overwhelmed with how much you could miss a person, and how you could still feel them thousands of miles away from your home, even after they’re gone. When I finally did reach Glasgow it felt kind of surreal. I was a solid seven or so weeks into my trip and everything after the first four was kind of spontaneous and a spur of the moment type planning. I like to think it worked out because she was behind me the whole way, pushing me forward.
So if I had to do my own dear photograph it would be something like this:
At some point in your existence you were given to my grandmother. She held you in her hands and took you to a new country where her life would unfold like the pages of the photo album you belong to do. She would never return to your landmarks, so I’m doing it for her. Holding you in my hands, and holding her love in my heart.