On three things on the walls of my grandmother’s house

1. A photo of my grandfather. His smiling face, gold tooth and bare forehead, in a small wooden frame. This photo and a recording of his voice (in which the timbre of his voice falls somewhere between my father’s and my uncle’s) and apocryphal stories of his life, and death, is all I remember of him. My grandmother used to have a photo that she carried in her purse of me and my grandfather eating ice creams we’d bought from a Mr Whippy truck. I am tiny, we both wear shorts; my grandmother liked to compare our legs. I remember this too, but this photo is gone.

2. A print of the Sacred Heart. Jesus dwells in my grandmother’s bedroom. He is pained, haloed, a pierced hand raised, a ruby heart at his chest. He has been turned sepia by the sun. As a child, I was careful to avoid his melancholy eyes, peering from above my grandmother’s bed, afraid he knew my secret thoughts.

3. A painting by my maternal grandmother. Thin paperbark trees clustered around a small lake done in the style of the Impressionists. The story goes that her painting teacher would help her; I wonder if she ever went to the locations that were her subject, or if she painted from the pictures in calendars. These landscapes are passed around in the family, ownerless. It is not amateurish, but I thought it was better than it is. There is a fine balance of colour, of the blues of the distant mountain range, but it displays an impatience, lacks fullness. I wish it was more complete.

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