Ashley: Los Angeles, February 2009

11/22/2013 04:29 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017


I'm exiting the post office toward my car when she walks by me, with her white hair, mocha skin, translucent eyes that stand out from a distance, and a silver bracelet full of hearts dangling from her wrist. I can't help myself: "Do those hearts have names on them?" I ask. (My friend Kenna once told me "You can't have a heart-tag bracelet without names on the hearts!") Since she is already past me, it takes a second for my question to register. But then she responds: "I got all my grandkids' names on them!" I linger by my car as she starts collecting mail from the outdoor mailbox.

Making my way over, I introduce myself and ask if we can make a photo, explaining how I like to make photos and tell stories about everyday moments such as ours. She pauses and lets me photograph her, but I sense that she's either in a hurry or not quite sure about me -- some guy in the parking lot -- so I snap two frames and let her go. A couple of weeks later I'm at the corner gas station and a postal minivan pulls in next to me. It's Ashley, dressed warmer on this cool day. I say hi and remind her of our encounter at the post office. "Can we make another picture? I think we were both a bit rushed the last time." She seems more at ease today, maybe because we now have a little history. "Thanks Ashley!" I say, wishing her and her grandkids well. I can see the silver bracelet hearts, always with her, shining out from the sleeve of Ashley's jacket.