Short Story: Nana’s Secret


Woman talking with happy elderly mother while sitting on sofa at home during meeting
Woman talking with happy elderly mother while sitting on sofa at home during meeting

She breathed in deeply. There was still a part of her that thought she could back out, even now. Stuck in traffic she knew she was going to end up being late. She thought about turning the car around. No, she was doing it. What was the big deal? She knew she was terrified but her resolve kicked in. “It’s going to be okay,” she told herself. Deborah was on her way to a nude photography shoot.

She had set it up herself as she felt like she had been at war with her body for many years. Deborah had done a lot of work on herself. Healing most of the abuse from the past and still she felt like there was something she needed to do to set herself free. She had felt terrified when emailing Gi, the photographer, but there was something about her website that was refined, respectful, and when she had spoken with her on the phone Deborah had relaxed. It would be tasteful, maybe even fun.

The shoot had been set for Valentine’s Day, a coincidence that wasn’t lost on Deborah. A date with herself, she had thought. Getting out the of car and knocking at the door, she felt herself fidgeting. She was 55 years old, probably the heaviest she had ever been in her life, and she had lines, grey hairs and wobbly bits. As a young women she had been slender and lovely. She had not known it though. She believed herself to be awkward and ugly. If only she had realised or known what she knew now.

Now she did love herself. She accepted herself, and she had wanted to gift herself this experience. Somehow it felt like it was the missing piece to a puzzle.

Gi welcomed her inside and made her tea. Together they discussed the shoot and Gi showed her pictures of positions, then asked about the props Deborah had bought. And before Deborah knew it, she was changing into her dressing gown with not a stitch on beneath.

She had never been totally nude like this in front of anyone before. With lovers in the past she had sheets to play with and hide behind, and lights to put out. She had grown up in a household where you never talked about your body or sex. It was never mentioned. You never walked around naked ever. She never saw her parents naked. It just wasn’t done. She never felt comfortable in school dressing sheds, or the gym changing rooms, or any places like that. She had hid behind towels trying to dry off without showing anything. She had always felt ashamed of her body, like it was something to hide.

Once, on a trip to India, she had shared a room in the ashram with two girls from Holland. They had walked around the room with not a care, never once seeming uncomfortable in their bodies. She had begun to realise at that time how really uncomfortable she was with her body.

In her marriage, Deborah had been abused in every sense of the word, so she had disconnected from her body. She had not wanted to be in it. It had felt like her enemy. It was only the healing that she had done that had helped her to befriend it again. She now felt connected to her body in a very real and physical way. She was able to feel her feelings like never before. She didn’t hate it, or herself, and she had forgiven herself, as well as her ex-husband.

Standing in the middle of the room as Gi fiddled with light shades and camera, Deborah began to feel a sense of excitement. She was really doing this. Inside she was still quivering with fear, but Gi was so matter-of-fact and at the same time respectful that it made her feel comfortable.

Eventually, she was shedding her dressing gown and being told to move this leg and that hand. Look up here, sit this way. She began to relax and enjoy herself. Gi had asked her if she wanted to retain some clothes, as it didn’t have to be completely nude. But Deborah knew though for herself that it did. She didn’t want to hide anymore. Every roll, and bump, and blip, was visible. It was freeing. She knew she had stretch marks, and cellulite and wrinkles and floppy boobs and a wobbly tummy and she didn’t care. It was who she was. She had nowhere to hide anything; it was all “out there”. She was completely nude.

She had been twisted and turned and stretched and there had been much laughter and fun with some of the moves feeling like an impossibility, but breathing and beginner’s yoga came in handy. Deborah had brought along a gorgeous pendant she owned that had a large faux diamond in it. Gi hung it down her back and took pictures, and then at the front between her breasts. She took close-ups and shots from far away, and it seemed to Deborah, from every angle.

Last of all, she was standing in the bedroom behind sheer curtains. Gi had a big wall around her house so no one could see in, but still it made Deborah feel vulnerable. She thought to herself if anyone came through the gate they would get the shock of their life with her white bottom staring them in the face. She laughed at the imaginary picture of fright on the person’s face. Gi was bouncing around, jumping on the bed, up and down ladders taking picture after picture.

Finally Gi seemed satisfied and Deborah got dressed. Over more tea they discussed the finishes available. Deborah had asked for some shots to just be of her body, so you couldn’t see her face. She wasn’t sure why she had asked for this, but Gi had obliged. Gi told her the pictures would be ready for viewing in about two weeks.

As she left the house, she thought about what the results would be. She had had such a good time she didn’t even care what they turned out like. The experience itself had felt freeing and now she was smiling to herself. She hadn’t told anyone except her friend Jill about what she was going to do, and now she felt like she had a delicious secret.

When she got the link to view the photos, she felt her heart hammering in her chest. What if she hated them? What if they were terrible? She made herself a cuppa and sat down at her computer. She got up the courage to click the link and entered the password to her private page. The pictures were beautiful, graceful, Gi had used a soft, bronze colour to enhance them, which gave a warmth and glow to the images. She was astounded, and as she scrolled through picture after picture, she felt an emotion begin to well up inside her. She cried openly, the tears streaming down her face. She was beautiful, really beautiful.

It was such a surprise to find that she liked the photos. They were so much her, so well done. She saw her back, the lines and the curves, and the flowing motion of her body. She saw her breasts and her fingers and the curve of her hips and the wrinkles of her belly. She saw herself like she had never seen herself before.

The picture of her behind the curtain was exceptional. It showed every curve lightly and attractively. Capturing her in the light you could see the curve of her breast, her arms, legs, throat, and hips as they touched the white behind the curtain. And you could not see her face, so no-one would know it was her body.

She choose a few pictures to keep and weeks later she picked up the bigger photo she had enlarged and framed. She had chosen a lovely gold frame to offset the white light.

Hanging it in her lounge room, the portrait looked stunning, like an artistic nude from a fancy art gallery. People who came to visit noticed it and said how lovely the picture was. She never told them it was her. She smiled to herself at her own little secret as she would agree, yes, indeed it was a lovely picture.

Years later when she was packing up the house, her granddaughter Kate was helping her. Deborah had noticed that Kate was a little more sombre than usual and asked her what was wrong. Kate was 17 and she had blossomed into a charming young women. Kate replied, “Oh, it’s nothing Nana, just something one of the boys at school said.” She added, “But for some reason it’s been bothering me.” Kate was in her last year of high school – a tricky time for any girl. Kate was an outdoors type and really hadn’t showed much interest in boys, preferring sports, dance and music. She sang in a band, but took her chosen career very seriously. She would be going to university next year to study medicine and become a doctor.

After some cajoling by Deborah, Kate shared her thoughts. “He called me frigid. He said I was a cold freak who didn’t like my body. I know it was just him being nasty because I turned him down for a date, but I started to think about my body and I realised I don’t really like it that much.

“I mean, it’s good for sports, but I don’t really like it. I do feel tense about it, and find it hard to relax around boys. And I am not like the girls in the magazines. I’m kind of awkward and unsure.”

Deborah turned to Kate and smiled. Gently she placed her hand over hers. She told her, “You remember that picture that I had hanging up here for years?” and she pulled it out of the box it had been packed into. “Yes,” Kate replied, as Deborah placed it in her hands “I always liked that picture, it’s so soft and feminine.” Deborah asked, “Can you keep a secret?”

Deborah then told her granddaughter the whole story. About her fear in doing it, that it was on Valentine’s Day, how liberating it had felt, and her joy in the healing of those wounds. Kate listened with wide eyes. “I never would have known that was you Nana, and yet I’m not surprised at all really.”

“No?” Deborah smiled and said “but it is and that experience taught me a lot about my body. You, my dear, are a beautiful girl, and you are growing into a beautiful woman.

“Don’t ever let anyone else tell you about your body. You have the courage to explore it, warts and all, and you love it and accept all of it. It’s yours, and there is not another one anywhere on this earth like yours.”

Deborah gave her the picture and said, “you can keep this as a reminder until you get your own, because one day when you are ready, I do believe you will.” Kate smiled at her and thanked her.

Kate felt better for having spoken to her Nana. In the car on the way home, she marvelled at her Nana’s secret, kept for all this time. No one in the family knew and she would keep the secret for her. Kate thought about her Nana’s words and knew that she was just beginning on the journey to loving herself and her body.

She didn’t know if she would ever do what her Nana had done, but the thought of it made her smile and she figured that was a good thing. She thought about the words that boy had said to her, and silently thanked him. If he hadn’t said what he did, she would never have known her Nana’s secret. It was funny how things turned out.

About our Short Story author:

Prema Joy

Prema’s journey of self-discovery started 22 years ago and since then she has gained many insights as an intuitive counsellor, meditation facilitator, writer, artist, singer and speaker who helps people through difficulties and inspires them to develop their skills and accept happiness in their lives. A mother of two and a grandmother, she has spent many years in the community sector working with people in not-for-profit organisations.



Let us keep you up to date with our weekly MiNDFOOD e-newsletters which include the weekly menu plan, health and news updates or tempt your taste buds with the MiNDFOOD Daily Recipe.