A photo of May in Marchby Lisal Kayati Roberts on 03/11/10
A photo sent to me recently has had an unexpected effect. It was taken sometime in the 1920's. It has that nostalgic sepia tone to it, the kind that seems like it should evoke a memory, a history. The woman in the picture is sweetly beautiful. Her face speaks to me of strength and innocence. She must have been in her twenties, but the spirit that shines through to the photographer's lens is infinitely older. Something in her eyes and the enigmatic set of her Mona Lisa smile tells us about her depth and intuitive wisdom.
M. May Buchanan was my paternal grandmother. She died two years before I was born. She was only 51.
My parents divorced when I was a toddler. I returned to Germany with my mother to live with Oma and Opa in Berlin. Distance and circumstance in a little girl's life - my relationship with my father ended before it ever had a chance to develop. Years later, at twelve, my birth father contacted me and wrote a few letters, but by then, I had become another man's child. I had already absorbed his family and his history as part of my own.
I'm not sure I'll ever understand how I lost my real father's family. My early history was too dark and tangled to safely plunge its secrets. For me, it was probably simple survival that kept me from knowing too much truth. My damaged psyche could only deal with the daily dysfunction I already lived within - another family could only add to that burden and pain. It never occured to me that this family, my birth family, one I never knew, could have helped me. So I chose not to open too many doors to them. Life went on as I knew it.
My father's sister, Louise, never gave up on me. Through these many years she has always managed to find me on my birthday. Each year, I could always count on birthday wishes and tidbits of information about her family, my father's family, my family. I couldn't bring myself to embrace them, but I still hungered for their particular history. I love my Aunt Louise for keeping me in the loop even when it seemed like I didn't want to be in it. She loved me enough to send me a picture of her mother, May.
I look at my grandmother's photo daily now. I wished that I had known her, been a part of her everyday life, as she is part of mine now. She looks like a kindred spirit, a person I would choose to hang out with. A kind woman. A woman who loved her family and cherished her friends.
May Buchanan, a woman I never knew, is a treasure recently unearthed. I didn't seek her out, she came to me through the love of her daughter, Louise.