Photo of the Week: In memory of Jeanne Holliger Baldwin
I keep thinking about the beach. My grandmother died two nights ago, which I guess was two mornings ago, and I’m trying to sort out how I feel. Grief, I’ve found, takes time to set in; from half a world away, my grandmother’s death seems unreal. I’m not grieving yet; I’m trying to. I remember thinking of her when I took this photograph on the beach in Hoi An in January. My sisters and I spent many carefree hours playing on the beach in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, where she and my grandfather had retired in the 1980s. We’d build sandcastles, search for crabs and sand dollars, splash in the waves and occasionally find the imprint of a horseshoe crab in the wet sand just after the tide went out.
My memories of my grandmother are few; my family never lived near enough to make visiting often possible and, over the past few years, she rapidly lost her memory. We do, fortunately, have a box of letters written to her throughout her life, the earliest of which is an eighth grade love letter containing the phrase, “Gee whiz, Jeanne” and possibly something about a malt shoppe. And she did give me what was perhaps the most important piece of advice I’ve ever received: in the midst of moving between eight different states, she advised my sisters and I to “put down roots everywhere.” Blowing it off at the time, I only recently realized its poignancy and begun to take it to heart. Because her memory loss was so complete last July, she probably would not have remembered that I moved to Vietnam and I doubt she would approve, mostly because of her generation. But she would, I think, approve of the fact that I no longer feel rootless in Hanoi.
My sisters and I on the beach in Hilton Head, SC, probably around 1998.
Updated 23 April 2012