November 12, 2014
Personal Narrative Draft 1
I close the door softly behind me, making sure no one has seen me enter my grandfather’s study, the forbidden chamber of this big house in Virginia Beach. I survey the room, waiting for my eyes to adjust to the dimness. My grandfather’s large mahogany desk rests in one corner, stuffed with secret papers and classified documents. The walls are lined with framed certificates, each announcing important milestones in my grandfather’s life.
One frame in particular draws my attention - it’s the reason I ever dared to venture here in the first place. I step forward to inspect the black and white image, a familiar routine. A young woman is kneeling on the beach, holding a stick pointed at the tip of a heart that has been drawn in the sand. Her skin is smooth and glowing, her hair artfully curled and pinned away from her face. With a hand poised on her hip, the black swimsuit she wears accentuates her shapely figure.
My grandmother beams at me in this snapshot, taken in 1950.
My mind wanders to the same thoughts I have every time I sneak in here to look at this picture. I imagine my grandfather behind the lens of the camera shouting over the roar of the waves - say cheese! I imagine my grandmother squealing afterwards, as the water races up onto the bank and tickles her toes. I imagine a whole lifetime before mine, a whole collection of possibilities for what my grandmother could have done and could have become.
Instead, she became a wife of more than sixty years. She has spent most of her life in this house in Virginia Beach, watching her husband travel the world as an officer in the Navy, watching her four children grow up and move to different corners of the country. I cannot imagine that the grandmother I know today- soft wrinkled skin, sparse silver hair, crow’s feet stemming from the corners of her eyes like branches of a tree - is the same young woman squinting at me from the photo.
My grandmother, who graduated with a degree in business from Y University at the age of twenty one, could have led a life brimming with opportunity and new possibilities. Yet, she met my grandfather at the Naval Officer’s club Single’s night. A few weeks later, they got married in August 1951. As was typical of most women during her generation, my grandmother believed that the greatest happiness could only come from settling down in marriage.
I step back from the photo, realizing I have been transfixed by my thoughts for a dangerously long amount of time. My grandfather could wake up from his nap any minute now and catch me snooping around in his secret papers and classified documents. I close the door softly behind me as I leave this forbidden chamber, making sure no one has seen me enter.