My great-grandmother Florence Venetia Eileen Phillips was born in Somerset on August 16th, 1924. Despite my great-grandmother being what I consider the beginning of my family, and I know so much about her character and how my character is like hers, I don’t know her. Not in the ways I wish I did or how I know my mother and my grandfather, her son. There’s only so much I can know about her because there is only so much my grandfather knows. I don’t know what her childhood was like, and what it was like living in a very segregated Bermuda. I don’t know how she met my great-grandfather, or what their relationship was like.

As I approach 30 I think back about my ‘girlhood’. Navigating the world with my friends, attending university. How would she feel about all of this? Did she experience this, would she have wanted to experience this? I wonder if her girlhood and mine overlap. If the level of freedom I experienced has similarities to hers. She was 17 when my grandfather was born in 1941 and would’ve had three little boys all under the age of 5 by the end of the Second World War. She would have 10 kids before her 40th birthday. Kids who she raised mostly on her own and then raised a brood grandkids after them. I often wonder how she fed them all on her own. My grandfather and my mother remember dinner as a time when you guarded the food on your plate at all costs.

Even though she is often described as being as a strong and unmovable force, I can’t help but think about the girl that she was before all of that. The girl in this picture. She died a year before I was born, and I hope a piece of her lives on in me. And I hope she experienced my ‘girlhood’ along with me. After the life she lived, she was more than deserving of the freedoms I’ve been afforded.