The mind’s eye can be like a funhouse mirror. You know that there’s a “normal” person standing there, but the reflection is twisted and turned into something not quite real. So it was in my mind’s eye with my great-grandmother Clara (Mason) Young.
My family doesn’t have many ancestral photos. We’re pretty thin in that department until the 1960s when my dad started taking slides and Polaroids. Though I met Grandma Young, I don’t remember her; she died when I was 3. Growing up, there were lots of photos of her. In all of them, she was an old woman with thinning white hair who wore simple dresses. She was usually sitting and often surrounded by her great-grandchildren.
My young brain tried to fill in the gaps and used the information at hand. Great-grandmother + white hair + frail = OLD. When thinking of Grandma Young, my mind’s eye would fill her in as an old woman.
But there’s another photo of Grandma Young, one that sits on a shelf behind my desk. It’s from around 1903, when she married my great-grandfather Robert Young. In this photo, she is anything but old.
Instead of a simple house dress, she’s wearing something stylish. She has a bow in her hair and a brooch on her blouse, Her eyes are big; her hair is thick. She looks determined, yet gentle.
She hadn’t yet experienced the birth of any of her 10 children… nor the loss of a 2-year-old son. She hadn’t yet seen her home swept away in the great flood of 1913. She hadn’t yet moved from town to town as her husband looked for work.
The mind’s eye can play tricks on us. It’s good to get a different view to get a clearer picture.