A Lonely/Lovely Path

Written by: Krista Kurth

When I was a young woman
Just embarking on my own life
My grandmother departed and
Left me a special gift – 

A small, delicately framed
Faded black and white photograph
Of a long foot worn path running
Through a tall field of wildflowers
With a pointed church steeple in the distance
And in the bottom corner - 
In my grandmother’s tiny European scrawl -
A title – as I read it then –
“A Lonely Path.”

I knew she had given it to me
To remind me of her and the time
We had travelled together 
A few years earlier
Back to her childhood homeland
To the small German village where
She had lived with her grandmother
And walked this very path.

In my grief, holding the picture
The title felt fitting - as I knew 
From the stories I learned 
On our journey to the place 
Of her lost and sad youth 
That she walked a lonely path 
For many years of her life. 

Illegitimate, abandoned by her father
Even before her birth
Sent away by her mother who
Couldn’t live with the pain of 
Seeing her child’s face 
So much like her absent father’s
 
Only to be brought back later
Like a real-life Cinderella 
To care for her stepsisters
Until bravely leaving Germany
On her own at seventeen 
To find a new path to walk 
in America and a family of her own. 

And now, half a lifetime later
Recovering from long term illness
I feel pulled to revisit family history 
And realize upon studying 
The photograph on the wall 
In my front hall that I have walked by 
For many years now with a tinge of sadness
That maybe I had read my grandmother’s title
All wrong. 

Rereading the note taped on the back 
That she had written just to me - 
    This is the view from Grandmother’s house
    The meadow full of wildflowers
    We would hear the Angelus ring from
    That church steeple at six in the morning,
    Twelve noon, and six in the evening –
    That meant run home , no matter what play
    And pray the Angelus – 
    I still love to hear church bells!
I see now the title she really gave the photograph -
And maybe her life too - was “A Lovely Path”

And yet, as I continue to regard
My grandmother’s handwriting
I can see both titles reflected there, 
Like one of those images that changes 
Shapes as the light hits it from different angles
And I knew that her real gift to me was knowing 
that we each walk our own lonely and lovely path