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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: The Reader (04/15/10)

TITLE: A Thousand Words
By Rikki Akeo


The vultures had officially gutted their prey. Thanks to Uncle Selfish and Aunt Greedy, 2054 Clint Avenue stands empty with a new lawn ornament invasively plunged among Grandma's shrubs. Soon, shoe-wearing strangers will be traipsing through her home at the invitation of that blasted 'FOR SALE' sign. Most of her belongings now sweating in a metal unit, save her precious photos. Grandma treasured her photos, sometimes even taking photos of photos, if that makes any sense. All that matters is that it mattered to her. She was meticulous at writing down the names of each individual whose soul was captured in a single click. If ever I should get included in a will, I would hope to inherit photos. So, naturally, when Grandma's collection was offered to me for the duty of scanning them to disk, I eagerly accepted.

Somehow, the two Rubbermaid containers didn't quite seem to match her lengthy eighty-plus years, but, I was excited nonetheless. Grandma's life was about to unfold at the opening of each handwritten envelope. She was always so secretive and private, emphasizing 'private' because of a little conversation we had when my son was tracking his heritage for a school project assigned him a few years ago.

"I survived without knowing all the details and so can you," Grandma snapped when I asked her about our ancestors. I truly thought she was personally attacking me as evidenced by my streaming tears. I have few memories with her, although Mom tells me that while married to dad, we visited her every Thursday. That was back in the days of Polaroid.

The mounds of photos failed to intimidate my need to know who Grandma really was. I randomly pull from the pile a handful snapshots from her nursing years. She was so young and beautiful in her traditional uniform. Until recently, I didn't even know she was a registered nurse. The caption identified each fellow student and the event as her graduation celebration.

The next set of photos were precisely dated, Christmas 1976. I didn't have to read her ink to recognize my brothers, sisters and me standing in front of her tree- smack dab in the middle of her living room on Clint Ave. I also saw a young photo of my mother which prompted my call.

"Guess what?" I say. "I'm looking at a photo of you taken years ago by Grandma!"

"Oh, yea?" She says. "I told you we visited a lot when you were younger."

"Gotta go, Mom. Lots to see."

According to another caption under a smashed up T-Bird, Grandma was 'hit by a Japanese man in Lady Bird on November 24, 1992 as I was heading home from jury duty'. To my shame, I didn't know.

Wouldn’t have recognized my own father in the next set of photos either, if not for the explanation beneath that read, "Jojo aged 15, St. Augustine Graduation 1962." Wow. Grandma put Dad in Catholic School?

As I continued through each batch, I realized that Grandma wrote in fine detail fit for the utterly clueless. Each picture offered its clear interpretation. Her notes trailed all along the edge of each Polaroid and across the backs of each snapshot; pen-permitting on such a stubborn surface.

You would think that aging photos would show signs of fading, but, in Grandma's collection, it was in her recent photos. Family faces had slowly been replaced with bell hops and tour guides. There were upwards of fifteen developed rolls of strangers standing with Grandma as she accepted her black belt at seventy years old. Grocery clerks and food servers smiled into Grandma's camera. Where was our family? Where was I?

I walked into Sunny Meadows before visiting hours were over and made a beeline for Grandma‘s room. Her frail body was seated in an overstuffed recliner and she was gumming down macadamias.

"Grandma, doesn't that hurt your mouth?" I ask as I embrace her.

"Don't…worry," she manages in spite of her stroke induced speech impairment.

Her life is no longer a mystery novel, but, a beautiful memoir of which I have read.

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This article has been read 631 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Mildred Sheldon04/22/10
I enjoyed this. Reading a story through pictures of ones life. Interesting. Thanks for sharing and keep writing.
Patricia Turner04/25/10
I like your take on the topic. Fine writing too.
Well done.
Gerald Shuler 04/25/10
What I like about this entry is that, even though a picture is worth a thousand words, none of them meant anything until a few written words were read on each photo. Our value and importance as writers is restored!

Great approach to the topic and very well written.
Joan Campbell04/25/10
You did very well creating the Grandmother's character. I struggled a little to figure out the family structure, which made the reading less smooth for me.
Beth LaBuff 04/26/10
I'm an "old photo" person too! Especially of family. I loved this, and getting to know your Grandma a little. I'm glad she's still living for you to continue this new relationship. Your first paragraph was so cleverly written. You drew me into this story and I enjoyed every word (and picture.)
AnneRene' Capp04/26/10
You grabbed me right from the beginning. What a blessing your Grandma has in you with your love and appreciation for her!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 04/27/10
This is sad but beautiful.
Lyn Churchyard04/28/10
Your opening paragraph set the scene beautifully. I could visualise the rampaging hordes going through the house. Love looking at old photos-they are so important to family history. Well done!
harvestgal Ndaguba04/28/10
Wow, touching! Shows the importance of family and being there for them. Glad the MC got the message before it was to late.
Loren T. Lowery04/28/10
You've endeared this reader to your grandmother and her way to chronicle life. I wish we had more like her (maybe become one ourselves)scribing down in pictures the stories of our lives and those around us. Great job!
Mona Purvis04/28/10
This hits home to me as I've been doing family research.
One of the saddest things is the family home being sold. For some reason we have stopped valuing the family 'home' and see our houses as financial investments.

Verna Cole Mitchell 04/28/10
You created a good picture yourself of your Grandma as you sought to know her through her pictures.
Carole Robishaw 04/28/10
I have been going thru old family photos found after our parents died. I only wish somebody had thought to wrote anything, even just names, one them. Their was very good. Good story, good writing.
Ruth Stromquist04/28/10
I loved the analogy to the fading of the older photos versus the fading of the newer photos through what was actually happening in reality -- their reflection of that. Plus, the whole piece was very well done.
Beth LaBuff 04/29/10
Rikki, congrats on your ribbon!!
Charla Diehl 04/30/10
Great opening paragraphs keeps the readers reading, and yours certainly did. So happy for you in your placements/wins with this touching story. Looking forward to reading more of your work.
Gregory Kane05/11/10
Very well done. I also enjoyed your opening paragraph, although I felt that the strong imagery (vultures, Aunt Greedy) was somewhat at odds with the tone of the rest of your story. Nevertheless a well written tale with a very appropriate message.