This photo is of my father’s mother—my Isän Äiti, in Finnish. Grandma Olga is the second woman from the left, standing with her cast mates in some sort of play. The others, I don’t know. An older cousin sent the photo to me, without details. I don’t know when it was taken, but from the style of the clothing, it could have been in Finland before she emigrated. I was only twelve when Grandma passed, and it’s bothered me that there wasn’t time for me to know her. As I write this, it’s Thanksgiving week, and that has me thinking about family. It’s important to me to know who my people are. For many days now, I’ve been searching my memory for Grandma Olga. What I’ve found is that I know her more than I knew. I’ve also found that, in looking for her, I found myself.
I sometimes wonder. Whatever possessed me to want to write? From where I am now in life, the answer is apparent—when I started, it was with a blend of aptitude and naiveté. Writing is work, hard work, mentally and physically, and if you look to publish, it can take years to make little progress. I’ve thought, at times, I’ll just stop—just stop writing. I never have, though, because what I feel at my desk—that high of creative flow—outweighs the rest. But writing comes with other costs, too. It’s dangerous. You find yourself writing what scares you.