Ginny was eleven when her beloved father passed away. It was a very sad day for her as she always felt loved and protected when he was around. Her father, who was much older than her mother, worked as a manager in a department store. He would always stop some place on his way back from work to get something for her mother, always entering the house with a big wide smile, where he would be greeted with a hug from her.
Ginny’s mother always seemed too busy with more important things as far as herself or her father were concerned. But the same was not true in respect to Ann, Ginny’s sister, who was five years younger. In the eyes of her mother, Ann was the bright, athletic one. Ginny was dumb, awkward and sloppy.
Fortunately for Ginny, she had a few good friends in school and her aunt Elsie would come at least once a week to visit them. Elsie was her dad’s younger sister and as kind as he was. During her visits, Elsie was always interested in what she was learning in school, in hearing about her friends and always asking what she wanted to do when she grew up. Besides telling funny stories, she also praised Ginny a lot, which made her feel more confident. Ginny had a very artistic side and wanted to be a photographer. She loved nature and could spend hours watching a butterfly, a flower or a cloud.
Ann became very spoiled and selfish and Ginny never felt closed to her, despite trying to. Her mother never seemed to have mourned her father’s death, pushing Ginny even farther away from her.
Ginny was almost eighteen years old when she mentioned to Aunt Elsie her disbelief at the lack of grief on her mother’s behalf at the time of her father’s death. Aunt Elsie replied that perhaps she was now old enough to know the truth about her parents.
“As you know, your father was much older than your mother and the moment he saw her, he felt madly in love with her. She had just graduated from college and did not want any serious commitment. But your father was always making himself present and demonstrating how much he cared for her. She finally decided to accept his invitation for a night out, and he took her to the best restaurant in town for dinner. They went out a couple more times and soon after she became pregnant. She was so scared that she refused to tell her parents. Instead they decided to get married. But I don’t believe she ever forgave him.”
Time went by and even though she knew now the reason for her mother’s rejection, the way her mother treated her sister Ann still puzzled her.
A few years later Ginny managed to graduate in Arts and started working as a freelancer, photographing lingerie models for a catalog. Sometimes an agency would hire her for fashion shows but that was only for her survival and not necessarily what she really wanted to do. One day, after a fashion show, she decided to go for a walk at the city’s park. It was starting to get dark but she could still appreciate the beauty of the trees, the swans in the lake and the fantastic colors that the setting sun left in the sky. After five minutes or so, Ginny heard a funny sound from above her. When she looked up at the sky, a strange object became visible amid the shadows of the trees that surrounded her. Not knowing at first what to make of it, Ginny attempted to get closer to the object to get a better view. After a few seconds, she finally realized a beautiful owl was looking back at her.
Immediately she grabbed her camera and took several shots of the owl.
The next day she sat down to choose the best shots from the fashion show and stumbled over the photos she had taken in the park. There was a particular one she loved: the light was perfect, making it seem like the owl had almost been posing for it. She thought for a moment and decided to send it to the National Geographic Magazine. And so she did. One week after that, she received an e-mail from the magazine asking her to go to their office for an interview and three days later she was hired. She was so thrilled she could hardly keep still. Finally she was going to do what she had always dreamed of.
The first person that she wanted to bring the good news to was her aunt Elsie, who had stopped visiting the family because of her present poor health.
“I knew you could do it! I always believed in you and you deserve every bit of this glory!”
Ginny started traveling around the United States. Alaska, Hawaii, Colorado, etc… Her photos were original and unique. You could feel that she put her heart and soul in them.
Around that same time, Ann graduated from college. But Ginny could tell her sister was not that interested in a career for herself. A few months later, Ann came home announcing she would marry her boyfriend of 8 months, and that they planned on moving to California. And despite Ginny’s attempts at bringing her sister back to reality – which had been viewed by Ann as simple jealousy – and her mother’s tears of happiness, that’s exactly what took place shortly after.
Ann’s departure led Ginny to cancel her plans for renting her own place, since she found herself unable to leave her mother alone in that house. Her mother still seemed to enjoy good health despite a few scares, but her old age and her longtime loneliness were simply too much of a concern for her.
One day, after a trip to the Amazon forest, Ginny found her mother in a deplorable state. She had a very high fever and was too weak to get up. She immediately called an ambulance that took her to the nearest hospital. After a long list of exams she was diagnosed with stage 3 liver cancer. Ginny was shocked and didn’t know what to do. She tried to convince her sister Ann to come and stay with her and her mother, but Ann claimed to be too busy with her own life at the time. Ginny saw no alternative but to ask to leave her job, but was surprised when her boss told her to take whatever time was necessary with her mother, and come back to work whenever she felt she was ready.
During the following months, she took her mother twice a week for chemotherapy, which made the two of them weaker.
Ginny’s mother was very disappointed with Ann, and, as consequence was becoming more of the mother that Ginny always wanted her to be while growing up. Ginny finally had the soft and loving mother she felt she could have had.
Her mother knew Ginny had always been puzzled with the different way she behaved around her two daughters and three days before her death, she decided to share her secret with her daughter.
“Do you remember when I would take you to play in the park? You were very young. But while you played with other children, a gentleman used to come and sit by my side. Well, long before that, while still in college, I had been very much in love with him. He was a foreign student here in Boston and after the graduation he went back to his country. We never saw each other again until one morning, when I bumped into him in the middle of the street. He had come back to live here with his family, working as a senior executive of a bank. I was married and so was he but our love was very much still alive. He, not your father, is Ann’s father.”
The day of Ginny’s mother passing was sad and confusing for Ginny. She had been thankful for the closeness she enjoyed with her mother during the last days of her life. And she could almost pity her for her pain in loving someone she could not openly love. But the pain she felt for her father’s ignorance of her mother’s feelings and her own anguish over how her relationship to her mother had been most of her life would not live her. Perhaps ever.
As Ginny made her way out of the funeral, finally able to cry her sadness alone, she looked up at the sky only to see a bunch of colored balloons flying away in the wind. She stared at them for a few seconds. And then, relieved at that site, she takes her camera out and register that moment.
© Gisele Rosenwald, 2019. All rights reserved.