Creative Challenge: Sarah’s Story

By Posted in - Creative Challenge & Professional Development on June 9th, 2014

Taking a Closer Look

Sarah Hattman

Don’t judge a book by its cover. It’s a phrase we have all heard at one time or another as a way of being told we shouldn’t base our opinions solely on what we see on the surface. Quite often, after we take a closer look, we find the person or object to be very different than we expected.

The above photo is a great example of why you should not “judge a book by its cover.” At first glance you might look at the photograph and assume the ladies are sisters and that it was taken at the turn of the 20th century. None of them look particularly happy, which might lead you to believe it’s because they were growing up and living in a time period much different than today.

Yes, you might draw any number of conclusions based on what you see in the photograph, but none of them are likely close to the truth. The picture was taken just last summer, and the ladies in it had not met until minutes before the image was captured. This picture exists because a mother, named Erin, was looking to pass along a bit of family history.

It all began when Erin’s young daughter, Charlotte, came home one day talking about how much fun she had looking at old family pictures and videos at her friend’s house. It might sound odd, but Erin was heartbroken. From the moment she found out she was pregnant with Charlotte, she knew that one day she would have to tell her child that she did not know anything about her family history. That’s because when Erin was only a couple of days old, she was found on the doorstep of an elderly couple’s home. She arrived with nothing more than a blanket, a bottle and a mystery.

Thirty-two years later, as Erin sat at the foot of Charlotte’s bed and listened to the excitement in her voice about her friend’s family, Erin knew that the time had come to start the conversation about her mysterious past with her four-year-old daughter.

Charlotte asked, “What did my great-grandmother look like?”

Instead of answering, Erin asked Charlotte, “What do you think she looked like?”

Charlotte immediately responded with “‘Grammy’ had brown hair like me. She was smart and funny. Oh, and she was very pretty!” From there, Charlotte’s imagination ran wild. “She had a large family and was the youngest of five girls. They all lived on a farm and Grammy’s best friend was a pig named Huckleberry!”

Charlotte’s story continued on this way for 20 solid minutes. When she finished, Erin told her that was the way she imagined “Grammy” too. She went on to explain that she never had the chance to meet her mother and therefore did not know anything about her great-grandmother.

Charlotte asked, “What about Nana and Papa?”

Erin explained that the Nana and Papa Charlotte had heard stories about was a kind couple who had taken her Erin into their home and loved her like their own. Charlotte listened and seemed to understand what Erin was telling her, but it did not seem to upset her.

Later that day, Erin found herself thinking about Charlotte’s “Grammy” tale and smiling; so she decided to create a photograph to go along with the story. Erin turned to her friends, colleagues and social media, and in a matter of a few hours had found a woman and four girls to play the roles of Grammy and her four sisters. The following weekend Erin met the ladies at Flashback, a store that specializes in creating photographs that look antique. She was thrilled with how it turned out and could not wait to give it to Charlotte.

Charlotte unwrapped the box, and as soon as she saw the photograph, she squealed with delight and pointed to the young girl at the bottom of the picture. She said, “Ah, it’s Grammy.” Charlotte placed the photograph on her bedside table where it remained for many years. It then went to college with Charlotte and on to her first apartment and eventually her first home. Not only does it now hang in her hallway alongside a large collection of family photos, but it also is the photo she most often points out to people saying, “Have I ever told you the story of my Grammy?”

So the next time you look at someone and find yourself making assumptions, remember the photograph of the five ladies. Let it serve as a reminder to you that things are not what they seem at first glance, and you should never judge a book by its cover.

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