April 22, 2009
She was standing in the aisle by the bathrooms, stretching her legs out.
Head to toe leopard print.
Black cowboy boots.
A gigantic purse with silver buckles all over it.
Flaming red hair.
A radiant smile.
This was not your ordinary granny. From the looks of her, she was around 60, 70, 80 -- hard to tell. But she carried herself like a 22 year old.
And so, I photographed her. We were flying west, and the sunlight fell on that amazing smile.
I don't think she noticed, but a few minutes later she saw me looking at her and came over, still smiling.
"Espanola?" she asked.
"No... Americana. Usted?"
"I am Swiss," she answered. "But I speak six languages. I'm a gypsy -- travel the world. It's the only thing I can do in my old age. Can't sit still anymore. Do you know how old I am?" She leaned in before I could offer a wager. "81. Can you believe it?"
She told me about her son, who lives in Hawaii, and that she bought her leopard get up in Italy. She told me about her leg, which hurts because she slipped on a ramp.
The whole time, her clear blue eyes were looking at me, into me, knowing more about me than I could have guessed.
"I have lived, I have traveled, I have seen more than you can imagine," she said. She was a prophetess, an arrangement in neon and shadow.
Before she returned to her seat, I asked if I could take her photo and she eagerly nodded.
Later in the flight, she came back to my seat and offered me an apple. No words, just that smile and an extended hand, dripping of gold rings and enthusiasm.
Gained: Two interesting pictures of an interesting lady. Here, for comparison, are the snapshots -- the jubilant expression caught unawares, and the pose.
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