a photo


There's a photo we took that was never developed.

It was lucky we had that disposable camera in the car, but even if we hadn't, we'd always have that day. Photographic in its shifting light, the winds in our hair, the music we played, the way she smiled. I loved the way she looked. Not only her appearance, but the way she actively looked at the world around her. So curious. I knew right then where I got it from.

We drove up a windy mountain road I’d been on dozens of times in the aimless drives I did alone. I never knew what it was I was looking at or looking for, but the act of looking was a verb that made me feel lighter. Getting lost on my own terms always made me feel a little less so. And with her there, I felt like I was safe. Found.

I can’t remember what we did before or after or if we did anything at all except wind our way around the city, which would've been rare for two people who loved getting frozen yogurt together. She talked about how she’d never seen those hills despite having grown up and up and up, from baby to mother to my Gramma, in the valleys that surrounded them. She marveled at the views. The clouds that felt closer than ever before at those heights. The houses that rested along the crests of hillsides with only beams of wood supporting them, as sturdy as tree trunks and as fragile as toothpicks at the same time (I'm positive she prayed for the safety of their inhabitants, this being the land of mudslides and hers being the heart of all compassion.) The way we couldn't really see the ocean as we sat on the top of the tallest peak, but knew of its existence from the way the reflected sun created a bright ribbon of light along the horizon. Something about that will always remind me of her faith in God, and in good. 

We stopped along a dirt road to stretch our legs and pointed the camera at ourselves, the skyline our background and the wild mustard framing our faces. We never saw how that photo turned out – the camera was lost in the shuffle of everything to come. Still I remember those few moments, with my arm outstretched in front of us and my other around her and hers around me, as vividly as any picture I've ever held.

There's a photo we took that was never developed. My memories still can be, I think, if I give them a home in words and in art. There is no tangible memory of that day. There are plenty others, but none with the connection to her saying “I’ve never seen any of this before” with a smile on her face, right before the click. I love how she stayed wide-eyed and through her whole life, right up until the end. Steadfast in her love and her looking. I hope, when I am her age, I will know where I got it from.

HERvanessa hernandezGRIEF