Sunday, May 23, 2010



I Never Knew Rosella Ruth 1902


I have two likenesses of her, and a letter

written to her parents, just after she

was married in 1902. Nearly every

other paragraph mentioned “Charlie.”


In the first photograph, her hair was pulled

severely back from her symmetrical face,

her round heavy-lidded blue–gray eyes

stared out under carefully shaped brows,

and a strong chin held her blended round

cheeks in place. Her plainly pinked lips

seemed motionless over a black

bodice lined with a white parson’s collar.

She had retouched the photo herself.

Was it the retouched woman who

willingly surrendered to death, and left

an infant and a devastated Charles behind?


Aunt Lillian’s photo of her was less formal,

less perfect than the family recollections.

A vital, direct, and hopeful gaze looked

at me openly as if curious about what kind of

granddaughter I had become. I noticed

her face was not symmetrical at all,

left ear and eye slightly lower than the right,

with a hint of blood, dark in sensuous lips.

Her mouth and chin were still determined,

but did I imagine a hint of mischief ?

And wisps of hair, escaped in wayward

streaks from that disciplined cap of hair.


She looked so familiar. That face could

have been mine, once, was the face

I saw in the mirror when I was young;

The face in the photograph shared

my features; the same round heavy eyes,

except brown, like Charlie’s, a drooping

left eye and ear like hers, nose straight

but tilting up. In the mirror

I saw that at my age now, I was like her

grandmother, instead of she being mine.


I was often told I was her namesake and

had inherited her “gift,” a rare artistic talent.

In this influence, I have lived my life

with determination to redeem the gift

we each were given at birth. I view her now,

as a mere girl of only twenty- three, scry

her face for inner strengths, and wonder at

her weaknesses, by which to measure

the lessons I have learned, that might

have fulfilled the life she didn’t get to live.


Writing and Vintage Montage are the sole Copyright © of Ruth Zachary.

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