My Grandmother’s Eyes

Ilana Quinn
5 min readJun 6, 2021

Remembering my grandma three years after her death

Photo of the author and her grandmother

People say I have my grandmother’s eyes.

Hers were hazel, with a ring of gold circling her pupils. Mine are much the same. When they catch enough light, they appear moss-green — like the forest surrounding the place I grew up in. Other times, they look almost blue, like my mom’s, or cedar-brown, like my dad’s.

Separated by seventy-something years and a decades-long smoking habit, the skin around Grandma’s eyes was like fragile, translucent tissue paper, whereas mine is still mostly unweathered, except for the dark circles that come from studying for final exams and reading late into the wee hours of the morning. Grandma always said if I read too much my eyes would go bad, like hers.

When I remember Grandma, I think of the hot summer afternoons we spent crouched around her coffee table, savoring popsicles and examining her collection of angel and cherub figurines as she did her crosswords. Her apartment didn’t have air conditioning, so she always kept the windows open to let in a cool breeze from outside.

Whenever she was tired, she would let me watch her copy of The Wizard of Oz, even when I wasn’t supposed to have anymore “screen-time” for the day. It was either The Wizard of Oz or one of the Barbie movies she got on sale at Walmart. Back then, I didn’t contemplate the fact she resonated with Judy Garland’s character because they were about the same age and shared the same name. Like Dorothy, Grandma also lived with extended family members instead of her parents.

Effervescent and charming, with perfect curls, she could have been Judy Garland or Shirley Temple’s döppelganger. She fondly recalled the Great Depression days when she would play baseball in the park with the other neighbourhood kids and compete in children’s singing pageants. One time, she won against a young and relatively unknown Sammy Davis Jr. She told this story often, what could have been glistening in her hazel-green eyes — pale cataracts adding to the mystery of the past.

The only difference between Grandma and Dorothy was she wasn’t an orphan. Nor did she know a real place she could go home to. She was the child of an unmarried couple, deemed illegitimate from birth through no fault of her own. She was excluded…

Ilana Quinn

I am a university student who writes under a pseudonym about history, life and faith.