Dear Ms. Walks in Beauty

The last time I wrote letters seriously is when I was pen pals with my hippie grandmother. It was great for a few years; I wrote about my childhood garden and how many teeth I had lost. We rambled about my “obnoxious” sister, climbing trees, and bird calls. She was always attentive and encouraging, as any grandmother should be. We never wrote about anything serious. This wasn’t surprising considering I was seven, highly impressionable and almost incapable of focusing for more than a minute at a time. Maybe that was why I didn’t see the transition in my grandmother, or perhaps, the maturation of myself. She had always played a pretty constant role in my life. She’d tell me stories of her travels to China and Russia, her favorite being when she accidentally ate octopus, which was sure to make me squirm. With child-like excitement we would explore forests with my dog, Kyle, and she would point attention to all the tiny forces of nature I never seemed to notice. I studied the veins in maple leaves, applied jewel’s weed to my poison ivy, and explored in tiny caves. There was too much delight, too much to experience for me to study her. There were deer prints to follow and daydreams to chase in the leafy shade. In that life of wonder, there was no pause for anything but wherever the moment would take us.

A few years later, my letters to her stopped. My family was preparing for the great move from Ohio to North Carolina, which was thousands of miles for all I knew. I was abandoning some part of myself, that spunky tomboy, and leaving her imprisoned in the branches of the old apple trees. I cried, because deep down I knew I was also reaching the end of this carefree period of my life, where my troubles were scraped knees and rainy days. I was leaving all my hordes of aunts, uncles and cousins, as well as my grandmother. We had been growing apart as slowly and casually as a yawn. She was distant, caught up in some fantasy of some new heritage. I was starting to see that she wasn’t porcelain; that she had cracks that ran deep below the surface. But I didn’t understand it.

With the awkward teen years upon me now, my grandmother and I could hardly communicate. I was stuck on boys and make-up and she still wanted to spend hours interpreting her nonsensical dreams. When she finally did visit, she spent the trips explaining how she has found her new and ultimate destiny. My sister and I lay opposite her on the backyard trampoline, avoiding eye contact, as she ranted on the mystical powers of the universe. She would insist, repeatedly, that we “must understand.” Suddenly, her eyes had lost that magical sparkling that always held me when she described the little natural wonders she rediscovered. Now they seemed distant to me, like two full moons that looked down upon a different earth. She gripped her sides and stared into a milky way of stars that I could not observe. Reading stories to me in the afternoon sun, I shivered with the thought we might hear different words. She held my hands so tightly my finger bones ground together and stared fervidly in the direction where she thought my soul might be, trying to reach it. Baffled, I tried to hold her, and hoped so desperately the touch she felt was mine.

I can’t say I ever really knew who was, or who she is. She is a bizarre mixture of truths and outrageous thought patterns I could never really follow. Some days I like to imagine her as the woman who sang old songs to me as we traipsed about the woods like children, eyes burning and imaginations reeling.  Other days I see the warped conviction in her face, wrinkles that begin a thousand mysteries I can’t read. She whispers that she wishes I could see her, with empty tears and eyes renewed with suffering. If she only knew how I wish someone could. Maybe then she wouldn’t be so crushed in her isolation, blaming the world because she doesn’t recognize herself. Some days I want to write to her again of all the simpler joys, but I’m afraid I no longer know how to reach her.

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About the Author

Sarah Eberly is both an English and Geography major at UNC Charlotte. One day she aspires to be an urban planner and to inspire people to reconnect and interact with their communities. She was most accurately described by one of her friends as a person with "long legs and places to be." She is thankful for the experience Sanskrit has given her, and cannot wait to see where her journey will take her next year.