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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Bold (emotionally) (08/30/07)

TITLE: The Sepia Woman
By Judith Hope


Late last evening it happened. The lounge room was shadowy and cool as usual. I find it hard to ever forget.

A loud knocking sound had come from the heater in the corner! It was persistent and steady. My mind had frozen. It had kept on. When it did stop, minutes later, the silence seemed to fill the room. My mind then thawed a little. I had heard my heart thumping. I remained seated. It was eirie.

All remained quiet for some time. I sought the window and as I absorbed the familiar view of the little lane I was soothed. I took in the loved sight of the old tree just outside my window, and watched, as I often did, the daylight settling into the growing darkness. I felt my strength return.

I asked God to be with me, as, timidly, yet curiously I approached the heater and tried to reproduce the noise I had heard. No amount of effort or combination of methods could make the sound again. Yet, it had come from the heater.

I made a cup of tea. I used the china cup with the roses on it. It had been my grandmother’s. As I sat down to drink the tea, I looked at her picture on the shelf. She had found lately that she looked at it more often. In fact she was thinking of Grandma at the very moment of the very start of the strange knocking. Her name was Annie Wood.

It was an old sepia photograph, in an oval frame. Grandma was actually smiling in the picture, with near-gentle eyes. This was a rare thing. As the matriarch of the family she had seldom smiled. Since her death she was generally remembered as capable, proud and not a little haughty. She impatient with those she perceived as fools.

Sometimes, when I dwelled on the photograph, I felt I knew my Grandma very well, In fact, had been a young adult when she had died. And, I had been both in awe of her and afraid of her.

Grandma was a remarkable woman. The story was that she had left home at sixteen. She took a city job and lived at a Christian Hostel for girls. She fled her alcoholic father, and helped, in this way, to support her mother and six brothers and sisters. I know, the whole family revered and spoke of Sister Carter, who had virtually fostered Grandma, and remained with her through her life. Grandma was a godly woman.

She married, had two daughters, two granddaughters and later her own house. Before a garden was possible, Grandma, I recall vividly, had grown a profuse array of Hyacinths in the front porch planter box. Their perfume swept through the entire house and sweetened the dry north winds. The scent of those Hyacinth filled my young senses and my memory to this day.

Grandma read the Bible daily and had a fine collection of books. She was self educated, highly spiritual and a self-proclaimed advisor to her family, friends and others.

The sepia tones of the photograph, mellowed my memories. I sank into them. The brown lent an earthy warmth, and made the deep, dark folds of the draped bosom seem full of comfort. The milk-cream lace edge prettily about the neck. I loved the photograph. I thought my Grandmother must have been lonely, too, at times. Her knowledge stood her apart from her family … and she was removed from their understanding. Yes, she must have often been lonely.

Had been feeling lonely when I sat in front of the heater. I was lonely as a child. Yet, that was a barrier not a link to Grandma. Lonely people have something guarded about them. Grandma could have befriended the little girl of the past. She never had. In Grandma’s declining years, her heart had tired. Her daughters cosseted her. It killed Annie Wood.

I, the granddaughter, returned to the lounge to turn off the light, and to prepare for bed. A faint fragrance caught my senses, or was it my mind? Whichever, it had gone on. I went to bed, sleep came very slowly, with dreams of Hyacinths.

When I awoke, I was sure that Grandma was with me. That she loved me. I thanked God on my knees. For His love, for my Grandma and for her mentorship to my life.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Jennifer Johnson09/06/07
Great story of a memorable grandmother. We forget how much grit it took to survive then, but you've captured it here. Some misspelled words appear...like eirie, which should be eerie. I didn't understand the beginning of this sentence, either: "Before a garden was possible, Grandma, I recall vividly, had grown a profuse array of Hyacinths in the front porch planter box." Just fill in some of the blanks for those of us who didn't actually know her. Praise god for grandparents!
Amy Michelle Wiley 09/09/07
What lovely bittersweet memories. There are a number of grammatical errors in this piece, but the writing talent is evident. Keep at it!