As the fourth generation writer in my family, I, of course, wanted to pass this heritage on to my daughter. I was thrilled when she attempted her first alphabet (during a supposed nap, of course) at age two. As my grandmother had nurtured my interest in writing through long productive afternoons in her library, overlooking the Hudson River at Grand View, so I encouraged my daughter by rewarding her efforts in our Riverside Drive apartment in Manhattan, fifteen miles South.
I did not share everything, however.
Not the monk.
She saw it on my shelf, of course, but I did not reveal its significance for many years.
It sat above my grandmother's desk as she worked on her poetry and her essays. It was her Muse, she said. The diminutive, smooth wooden St. Francis with its painted face and simple lines. She said it taught her patience and acceptance both of her successes and failures. When my grandmother reached her mid-eighties, she gave me the statue both as a momento of our work together and as a steady source of inspiration.
Now, I am left with questions which will forever go unanswered:
Did my grandmother ever see her monk from behind?
When she gave him to me, did she expect me to take thirty years to discover what she already knew?
Or was she simply the innocent messenger, passing the woodcarver's joke to the next generations?