The picture was of a young woman – a “flower child” I’d learned the was term, hitchhiking; holding a sign that said “NYC”, and a rucksack on her shoulder, wearing sunglasses – and absolutely nothing else. And I recognized her.
“Holy shit, that’s you Ununna?!”
“Yes.” On the way home from Woodstock.”
“Oh my god, it is you, isn’t it. You look just like Mom when-”
“When she was your age? Yes. Your Nonna looked much the same as well at that age, when she went to Woodstock ‘89. I don’t think she has a picture like mine, though!”
“’Nunna! You’re terrible.”
“Heehee! And I have a secret. There are two people in that picture.”
“Yes, two people. Your Nonna is in it too. Too small to see of course, in my tummy.”
“Oh my god. You mean- ”
“Yes. Ponmo was not your Nonna’s father.”
I’d never met my great grandfather, but was scandalized nonetheless, and overflowing with questions.
“W-Well who was? Did – does Nonna know? Why-”
“I have no idea who, really. I fucked so many different boys there in the rain and the mud, and I was so high most of the time, it was all one big blur of music and sex.”
She smiled as she talked, my 79 year old great grandmother, a far away look in her eyes, and I couldn’t believe my ears.
“That was a time, it was. Of course, your Nonna couldn’t wait to go herself. She came back from Woodstock ‘89 with your mother just the same way.”
Now I was utterly speechless.
“She told me that she had to do it different than me. She didn’t get nearly as high as me (she said), and did keep track of how many boys she had over the concert. Twenty-two! Can you believe that?”
I couldn’t. My ‘Nunna was going insane. Senile.
“You can ask her. She’ll tell you. She met your grandfather just after – he picked her up hitch-hiking the last 200 miles to Alexandria.”
Oh, I was going to ask all right, and then some.
“Now your mother…”
“Well, she’s been more tight-lipped about it.”
“But she never went to any Woodstock revival!”
“No, of course not, sweetheart. She was at Burning Man. Eighteen years ago.”
I was dreading to ask the question, but I had to.
“With… with Daddy?”
“No. She went by herself. She and your father were having, as she called it, “a tough time of it” then. But when you showed up it all changed to become the lovely, loving family I’m so proud of today.”
It was like my whole world had just been uprooted by a tornado and sent to Oz.
“Why are you telling me all this, Ununna?”
She smiled, kindly, a sparkle in her eye.
“Well, my Mimma. Your 18th birthday was this June. Burning Man is in a little more than two weeks. I was wondering if you were thinking…”
She rummaged in her giant handbag and pulled out a small envelope. It held a a flight itinerary to Nevada, cash, and pictures of my mother and grandmother – not naked, but clearly the same age. She asked for the envelope back for a moment as I leafed, dumbfounded, through the contents, and tucked her picture in as well before handing it back to me.
“You decide what to do, my beautiful Mimma. In our family we always decide for ourselves.”
But she was smiling that smile, as if she knew what I was going to do already. And maybe she did.