She wore her hair short - short like mine, and like most of the women close to me in my family. My Mom, Mor Mor, and Nana all wear this style, too. We like to think of ourselves as trendsetters. When I cut my hair, I could see the pride glistening in Nana’s eyes. The non-traditional tradition carries on. Her hair is a mix of gray and black, “salt and pepper,” as she calls it. I can see why. Unlike hers, mine shines yellow like the rays on a summer day.
Wrinkles line the creases where she smiles, a sign of a life full of laughter. She thinks old age has clouded her features, but I disagree. Age has only changed them. Once deep chocolate-brown eyes now glint a blue-gray in the light, reflecting days of chemotherapy. Those days are over now. Her skin is tan and damaged from too many days in the sun. She always needs to get little spots patched up at the doctors. Advice is given to her to spend less time out on the burning beach; she doesn’t listen. The sunshine is what she loves, and if she can’t enjoy it while it lasts, what’s the point of growing old? Still, she warns me of ending up with skin like hers by always ensuring I’ve got sunscreen rubbed tightly into my young skin.
When having conversations with her, I notice her ear leaning towards my mouth, straining to hear my words. She always makes sure she can keep up with my busy life. She tries so hard to remember all my classmates’ names. “There’s too many to keep track of,” she complains.
We may have so many differences, but we are also the same. While she almost yells when she talks, she tells me to speak up. While she tans just like that, it takes me a while. I usually get burned before I get a tan. Her body is worn out from many years as a mother, but her determination still shows. She’s constantly talking and never wants to miss out on a thing, just like me. When I visit her in Florida, we always take long walks on the beach to collect unique shells and beans. She becomes jealous of how quickly I can spot the unique treasures. As her eyesight fades, mine becomes sharper. “You’re a gem-finding master!” she exclaims to me. “Nana, you’ll always be the master of the beach in my mind.”