Today, on this beautiful October day in the Northeast, I think of my grandmother, my father's mother. This photograph is always how I see her in my mind because I think it captures her perfectly. I don't know when it was taken. Her hair had turned snow white when she was very young. Her name was Angelina, which means 'little angel'. And because of her hair, I always think of her as a snow angel.
She had the softest, smoothest skin of anyone I have ever known. She used to hold both of my hands in hers when I was a little girl. My hands are like ice. They've always been like that. She held on to them for hours at a time to keep them warm. I liked it that way.
My grandmother spoke very softly too. She told me that she used to sing on the radio. I never knew more than that simple fact. To this day, I wonder about it. I imagine she must have had a beautiful singing voice. And even though she did not have a lot of money, I remember that she had exquisite taste. Her clothing was absolutely impeccable. She had all of these beautiful treasures in her tiny one bedroom apartment. The most fragile Lladro figurines, ceramic sculptures, and stained glass lamps. She let me touch everything. I never once heard her raise her voice.
She had the largest stack of coloring books I had ever seen. When I stayed with her, she colored with me for hours. I was never happier than at my Grandmother's kitchen table with my cousin Priscilla, all of us making our way through endless pages of coloring books. We would show one another our creations. How beautiful, one of us would remark. We always signed our names in the bottom right hand corner and dedicated them to one another before we moved on to the next page.
When I was older I remember sitting at her kitchen table talking with her and she said, " You know something, I feel like having a cigarette. I haven't had a cigarette in 40 years." She stood up, opened a drawer, and took out a pack of cigarettes. She had kept that pack there for forty years in case she ever felt the urge.
I can't imagine it tasted very good forty years later but she sat and savored that one cigarette and, as far as I know, never had another one. But, then again, it was like her to always practice such tremendous restraint.
It was such a strange and wonderful moment. And I think of it often. My grandmother sitting with legs crossed, in her silk blouse and pearls, smoke curling up around her perfectly coiffed hair.