Earlier this year I was going through some family photos and found a wonderful shot of my grandmother and her three sisters. When I scanned it in and added it to my iphoto library the face recognition function identified each of these ladies as "unamed". And the software was right. They were unknown quantities in my family history. My grandmother, Babi, shown here at the far left, emigrated to the US from the Czech Republic in the 20s. Her three sisters stayed in their home country.
So I never knew them. Or named them. In fact, I didn't really know much about my grandmother. She spoke English with difficulty, made the best dumplings and apple strudel this side of Mars and lived in Cicero, a couple blocks from Al Capone's headquarters. I remember walking up to the second floor of her brownstone building with the smell of pork, dumplings and sauerkraut wafting toward us. She had a walk-in closet that smelled of varnished wood and bath powder. And an attic that hosted many a broom-sword fight with my brothers.
She didn't talk about her sisters or her life before America. In fact she didn't talk much at all.
But she did go back occasionally and the family photos show these four women hand in hand through 50 years. They shared stories, played cards and worked on their gardens together. I have one photo where a couple of them are relaxing in a haystack. I wonder about those stories and gardens now. Now that it is too late to get the juicy details. It's clear that they loved each other and the bonds were strong.
I've been working on a piece featuring this image since then as a way to explore embroidery stitches. I'm calling it The Grass was Greener. Spending a little more time than usual with four strong Czech women seems worth it.