Nickole Brown

Karen Salyer McElmurray's Grandmother Fanny

GrandmotherIt is often her I dream about.  Fanny Ellen, my grandmother.  In this photo of her and my granddaddy, Clarence, she is the same age I was then.  Nineteen and more lonely than I can now imagine. I was living on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, where I worked as a short order cook and rose each morning at four thirty.  Still, I dreamed.  I dreamed of an attic back in Kentucky, a place  full of cloth pieces and boxes and 75 rpm record albums and school books from numerous childhoods, one of them mine.  Another time isn’t a dream necessarily, though it might have been.  I was twenty one or twenty two, and the only house I owned was a 1967 Dodge Dart with everything I called mine shoved in the back seat.  I’d headed east from the Grand Canyon with nowhere to go and nowhere I wanted to be and I ended up, one night, camped out beside Cumberland Lake.  Inside my pup tent, I listened to dogs bark in the distance and remembered the two redneck guys I’d seen up at the registration desk.  They’d looked at me with a mixture of desire and perplexity.  It was the perplexity I couldn’t shake as I packed up the tent at midnight and headed to the interstate, a twenty-two year old crazy lady with nowhere to go.  By morning, I was in Hager Hill.  I have a photograph of myself from that time.  I’m sleeping on her orange and brown couch.  I’m sleeping and she’s photographing me and I’m learning to feel safe.  So many photographs of her keep me safe now.