I was on my hands and knees pulling out old boxes of greeting cards and tchotchkes from the guest room closet when I stumbled on what would turn out to be The Big Family Secret.
Talk about an OMG moment! I think I lost consciousness there for a second. I mean, how would you feel if you happened upon cheesecake photos of your grandmother!? Was I hallucinating? Had I tapped into the hard apple cider one time too many? This was our seventh Thanksgiving without Grandma El with us. Had she suddenly decided the time was right to play a paranormal prank?
(Trust me, it would have been right up her alley. Think Marie Barone with an English accent and you're getting close.)
When I could breathe again without giggling like a six year old who'd caught her parents doing it, I stole another peek. Yep, that was my Grandma El. Look at her reclining languidly against a rock. And wait a second! There she is--back arched, arms wrapped around her knees--posed seductively at the water’s edge. Oh and how about Grandma rising up from the ocean with her arms outstretched like that old painting called September Morn.
It was more than I could take. I didn't need this peek into Grandma's sex life. I pushed the images of my Halifax-born, Oxford-educated Grandpa Bert kneeling in the sand with a Brownie Box camera, crying "Work it, baby, work it!" to his twenty-five years younger wife. Nope. I didn't need that image at all.
I was about to shove these faded photos back into the box and out of my sight when I saw it and I swear to you the earth shifted beneath my feet. It was a photo of my grandmother, clearly taken the same day as the others, in the arms of a man named Prince Mohindin. No, I take that back. Prince Mohindin was in her arms. Enveloped by her. Practically devoured.
Let me put it bluntly: Grandma was all over the guy like a cheap suit and the look she was giving the camera could burn the lens.
What in the name of family history was going on here? Grandma and an exotic prince? Had I stepped onto the pages of my very own Harlequin Presents? (And who said my grandmother got to be the heroine anyway? I wanted that job!) And the date on the backs of those photos was 1930 which meant she was six years into her marriage at the time.
Now Grandma El was a born storyteller who had kept me breathless all through my childhood with tales of growing up in both England and New Zealand in the early 20th century but she never once mentioned dating royalty. Especially not while she was married!
"I've lived a woman's life," she had told me on more than one occasion. "I've experienced everything a woman can experience." I used to laugh and roll my eyes at the statement but maybe she hadn't been exaggerating after all.
(to be continued)
PS: I'm Barbara Bretton, author of CASTING SPELLS and JUST DESSERTS among others, and you can find me on-line here and here and here.