Monday, December 3, 2012

In Her Eyes

I sat looking at the picture of the Johnson women of our family and was overwhelmed with emotion. It wasn't the first time this has happened. So I have decided to investigate a bit and figure out why this picture of my grandmother affects me as deeply as it does. Who was this woman and who now has her face? To begin with, I know very little of my maternal grandmother. Mom Johnson was not the warm, sensitive grandma. At least that is what I have heard. She was a tough woman being married to Pop Johnson, my grandfather. Pop was a hard man with a temper. His discipline to his daughters was often severe. My grandmother never interceded.

Pop and Mom Johnson
I'd always been told that  Mom Johnson was barely a teen when she married Pop, but according to the records, she was seventeen to his twenty years. She raised three daughters and a son. Raising daughters with a man who had no respect for women must have been terrible. I can't begin to imagine her life. She had rebellious daughters who left home as soon as possible leaving my mother who was much younger behind. My uncle was, of course, the apple of the family eye. He would be the one to continue the family name and to work the soil his father and grandfather had cleared.

I see in my grandmother's eyes a tenderness or perhaps a longing. My heart breaks wondering what she endured, knowing that her voice was silenced giving all power to my grandfather.  She had daughters who demanded their freedom, a freedom she never had in her life. They stretched the limits giving voice to their anger while she had to deny her voice and agree with her husband. There is a sadness in her eyes.

My grandmother, great-grandmother and mom.
What stirs me most is the familiarity I feel when I see her face, in her eyes. Do I see my own in hers? Do I see that of my sister June? I don't know, but I see a face I recognize today. And, I am drawn to her. Perhaps in some strange way, I am getting to know my grandmother for the first time. I'm not sure anyone cared to know her story. But I will treat her story with kindness for in her eyes I see eyes I love.

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