It was maybe 1997 or so. BAH, then BAB (Bad Assed Boyfriend) and I went to visit my grandparents, out in the desert of Southern California. Their house always had a strange quiet about it. They didn't play much music and only had the television on for the news and the occasional repeat viewing of King Cong. (Grandpa pounded his chest and roared when he watched that one.)
One afternoon, we were sitting with Grandma in the Spartan dining room over the indoor/ outdoor green carpeting. I was on one side of her, BAB on the other, looking over a box of old photographs. She was staring at each picture closely, with and without the aide of bifocals, and trying to remember the place and the people in the photographs. She was looking at a picture of a serious woman in a Salvation Army uniform,
"That was Aunt Fannie there, in her Salvation Army uniform." She set the picture of Aunt Fannie face down, on the table, and picked up another photograph, a group photograph, from the box.
As soon as she picked up the group photograph, BAB and I both simultaneously saw what she didn't, which was that the next photograph, the one underneath that group photo, was of Grandma topless. Grandma at twenty-two or so was there, petite tatas exposed in all their glory.
Grandma was squinting at the group photo up close,
"That must be blah blah blah..."
Who knows what she was saying? BAB were looking at each other, like, OH MY GOD SHE'S NAKED IN THE NEXT PICTURE SHE'S NAKED IN THE NEXT PICTURE SHE'S NAKED IN THE NEXT PICTURE SHE'S NAKED IN THE NEXT PICTURE!
After about forty years of pondering the people in the group photo, Grandma finally placed the group photo face down on the table. She picked up the photo of herself topless. She looked at it closely.
BAB and I looked at each other, both thinking (we later talked about it and agreed we were both thinking), What's she going to say when she sees the next picture?!
But she didn't say anything. She just let out a little grunt. A hmf. A slight breath. That was it. Then, she placed the photo of herself topless face down on the table. She picked up the next photograph.
Not embarrassed. Just, you know, whatever. Next picture.
Very anti-climactic. But that movie about Francesca Woodman made me think of it the other day.
When Grandma died, the old photo of her topless was missing from the box. Not that I would have posted it here, anyway.