30in30 : The Ballerina Who Walked Across the Country


The first home whose story I captured on my camera on this journey was that of Frankie Price Presslaff in Indiana. They knew this woman called Granny Mary in Portland. Back then I was in Bloomington and Portland was so far on my road to west that I could not imagine who is Granny Mary or what she did or what she looked like or what she was all about. Frankie and Granny had never met. They had hardly even spoken on phone. Yet they have known each other for twenty years through internet. I am, thus, fascinated by the power of human faith – Granny opened her doors yesterday for me on one request of Frankie.

Granny Mary is the woman who WALKED across the country – from San Francisco to Boston in late 1988 to raise awareness about HIV and create support for women and babies fighting with the disease. Granny Mary is also a retired Ballerina – she waltzed since she was 9. She is also an admirer of cuisines from all over the world – no wonder she made Indian dinner for me. Oh god, she is so many things. One day is just not enough to know her life. I can spend weeks and months in this dusty old town of Sheridan in Oregon to know about her. Moreover, her partner Ralph and his fascination for Hexagons are so mesmerizing that one can keep digging this couple layer by  layer to uncover the mysteries. He has hexagons everywhere – on walls, on car, on the tiles in Kitchen, on the covers of cushion, their living room is hexagonal – like everything!

Their home and they themselves offer a vibe of  utter familiarity. When I first saw Granny as she got off that black jeep in the ‘downtown’ Sheridan, her eyes immediately gave energy of kindness – the one you imagine in the grannies you read about in fables and bed time stories in your childhood. My maternal grandmother is not around any more, I loved her a lot. My paternal grandmother is far. After meeting Granny, I felt profound familiarity. I was cutting my nails in their home without even asking. It felt like my nanny’s place in Haryana – it was just home.

When I asked her how she walked so much at that age, “Oh I am strong as a horse. A ballerina has got to have strong muscles.”

photo 3 (2) photo 2 (2) photo 1 (2)

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