I look very like my my mother, and have done since I was a girl. Whenever people who knew me met my mother for the first time, or met me having only known my mother, they would invariably exclaim (to me), “Don’t you look like your mother! You’re the spitting image of her.” I would then traditionally roll my eyes in exasperation and disbelief. I couldn’t see it at all. I thought people who said we looked alike were loopy. I suppose that I knew both our faces so well that I couldn’t see the resemblance among the small details I knew to be different. Since then, I’ve seen a few photos of Mum in her teens and early twenties, and I have to admit that I can see the likeness, but it didn’t seem that extraordinary.
A few weeks ago, Mum mentioned that Dad had come across an old photo of my Granny (my Mum’s mother) when she was a girl, looking uncannily like me, and she said that Dad would email me a copy. I thought it would be like looking at photos of Mum: somewhat like me, but nothing to write home about. I was wrong. When Mum said it was uncanny, she wasn’t kidding.
I should tell you a bit about Granny. All my other grandparents died before I was born or when I was very young, so she is the only grandparent I actually remember. She also died when I was in my teens, but I really loved her, and have very fond memories of staying at her house overnight on occasion. By today’s standards, she wasn’t that old when she died, but from my perspective as a kid, she was an old lady, and that’s how I remember her.
Opening the photo was a genuine shock. It was as if someone had wrestled me out of my jeans and into a period dress, put a pair of round, wire-framed glasses on me and then taken a photo which they had processed to look like a scratchy black and white period print, all without me having any memory of it happening. Or as if I’m some kind of inadvertent time traveller, and have visited other time periods without knowing about it.
The photo shows a girl (perhaps in her early teens, but it’s hard to tell) sitting in a leather armchair with her legs tucked underneath her. She has a hardback book open in her hands (I wish I could see the title on the spine), and is reading with some concentration. Mum and Dad have a photo of me as a girl in a similar pose (not difficult, since I had my nose in a book most of the time). If you ignore the style of the glasses, her face is my face. The eyes, eyebrows, nose, mouth and even the damned chubby cheeks are mine. I’ve even taken to wearing my hair longer in a bob in the past few years, a style very like hers in the photo. I also note that her hair has the same ungovernable waves as mine (thanks for that, genetics!). It’s a perfectly normal photo, but the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen.
I think that I’m going to frame a print of my ‘time travel photo’ (as I’m now thinking of it) and hang it somewhere in the house to discombobulate visitors, though I’ll have to stop it freaking me out first.