I stumbled across this (which I wrote in 2005) and just felt like re-posting it! Maybe because I was looking at the picture this morning and it brought this tale to mind.
The Flower Picture
The Flower Picture is now hanging on the wall in our bedroom; I think it compliments the lavender paint.
When she gave it to me, Mom said it was an antique. Not surprising considering how many items in their grand house in Ft. Wayne were antiques (so many that when they moved, they held an estate sale; my dad chortled that they had sold a thousand pieces and made a bundle of cash).
Dad was obviously of the mind that there was no sense in hauling all of that stuff to North Carolina; Mom reluctantly agreed but I am sure she felt a pang as each item was carted off by its new owner. Not that it all went, of course. The Flower Picture came along for the ride from Indiana to North Carolina, having been claimed by me the previous Christmas.
We’d just barely arrived at Mom and Dad’s for the holidays when Mom presented me and my younger brother each with a small wire bound notebook. “Time to go shopping!” she exclaimed; while Doc and I gave each other puzzled looks. “We can’t take all of this with us to North Carolina so we want you to tell us what you’d like.” “That doesn’t mean you’ll get it!” piped in Dad as he popped a peanut in his mouth. “But, we’ll take it under consideration”. “Well”, said Mom. “What Dad means is that some of this we will want to hold onto and you’ll get it later, but a lot of it we don’t think we’ll need once we move into a smaller house.” “So,” continued Dad, “Spend the next few days walking around and looking at everything, write down what you want and then we’ll let you know if you can have it." "But", he said wagging a finger at us, “when we are ready to off load it, you’ll have to be prepared to come get it or else we’ll sell it!” “Well!” said Mom. “Who wants a snack? Mark, do you want a beer?” “Oh boy!” said Doc “Time for food pusher Mom to make one of her several hundred appearances this week!” But, we all grinned despite ourselves and eagerly succumbed to the pleasures of food and drink; made all the more enjoyable because everyone knows calories don’t count when you go home for the holidays.
Later, Mark and I spent some quiet time unpacking in the room we’d been allotted for the visit known as “The Pink Room”; so named because my mother had basically decorated the room with girly-girl accents; not everything being pink, but, a good number of the objects and furnishings were. Still, to me, it was warmly familiar as the majority of my girlhood rooms growing up had been premonitions of what this room eventually turned out to be. Being a bit tired after driving in the snow from North Carolina to Indiana, with two aged male cats in the backseat strongly expressing their displeasure at being confined in crates and hauled through windy West Virginia mountain terrains, Mark elected to take a short nap. Leaving him to his sweet dreams, I decided this would be an opportune time for me to wander around the house, small notebook in hand, jotting down what items in the house would be of interest to us.
Right off the bat I knew of several pieces that I’d like to have; mostly more out of sentimental value than anything else. First off, I wanted the large framed piece of stained glass that mom and dad used to keep outside in their backyard in Palos Verdes, CA. I had a particular fondness for the glass as it had hung over my head as I cut my wedding cake with my first husband. Not that I had a latent fondness for the first husband; just the glass. They now had it hanging in their sun porch; a wonderful spot for it as it caught the essence of the morning light. I went down to the sun porch to eye ball the glass; yes, I definitely still wanted it. I left the sun porch and went into the huge family room, admiring the 12’ Christmas tree and the amazing job at decorating it that my mother did all on her own (dad’s job being “limited” to dragging the thing in, setting it up, and stringing the lights). I wondered vaguely where she’d hidden the pickle ornament and half-heartedly searched the fragrant boughs of the noble fir for the gleaming green glass. I couldn’t find it, I never could. Not that it mattered as this honor would be left to one of my sister’s three children; whoever found the pickle ornament received a special present. It dawned on me that this pickle ornament procedure was not something we’d ever done as children; my mother must have read about it somewhere later and decided it was a nice added touch to the festivities.
I looked around the room to see if there was anything in particular that I’d like to have in my house. My eyes landed on one corner of the room where my mother had arranged a cozy nook where one might sit in the over sized stuffed green chair, place their feet on the matching ottoman, turn on the old-fashion Tiffany-ish floor lamp, and escape the bedlam of the holidays by delving into a book or magazine. Or a snooze. Thinking the lamp might fit in with our bedroom décor, I stepped a bit closer to admire it. I glanced up at the picture hanging behind the chair. As I looked at it, my mom came into the room. She stood behind me, a silent presence, but I knew she was there. “That was one of grandma’s favorite pictures” she said softly. I wondered why I’d never noticed it before. Certainly, I would have remembered it from the house I grew up in? “She gave it to me when we moved her into the nursing home” she continued, solving that mystery for me. “It used to hang behind grandpa’s chair, do you remember?” Try as I might, I couldn’t bring it to mind, although I do have one very strong memory of sitting in my grandpa’s lap, in his chair, and cuddling up to his smell of starched work shirts and freshly lit cigarettes. “Grandpa won that picture as a door prize at Voncastle Theater in 1939” mom said. “He gave it to grandma as a gift, before they were married”. “Oh, no wonder it was one of her favorites!” I replied. I peered at it a bit closer. Frankly, it wasn’t anything to write home about per se, but, it certainly wasn’t abhorrent, either. And, being over 50 years old, it was technically an antique. Maybe I should put it on my wish list. As if she could read my mind (and likely she can at times) my mom suggested that I put it on my list. “I think it’s time for it to move on to the next generation of Wooden women” she said as she smiled at me. “Grandma would like that”.
Mom walked away but I continued to regard the picture. As I stood there, I had what I like to refer as “A Helen Keller at the Water Pump Moment”; when all of a sudden, something that has been eluding your comprehension clicks into place, just like when Helen Keller, standing at the water pump with her teacher, Annie Sullivan, finally realized that the unfamiliar gestures that Teacher had been pressing into one of her hands was the name for what she was feeling with her other hand. It struck me. This wasn’t just a picture that had belonged to my grandparents; something to point to and say “Oh yeah, my grandpa won that for my grandma”; rather, it was actually something they’d looked upon. Maybe they’d even stood there together, admiring it after grandpa hung it on the wall. Perhaps my grandmother had slipped her hand into my grandpa’s, put her head on his shoulder, and thanked him for being the 50th person to walk through the door of the charity function that night. Or, could it be my grandma initially loathed the picture but tolerated it because my grandpa had been so sincere when he’d bestowed it upon her? And, as time went on, my grandma came to love the picture because it’d been around for so long; reminding her of happier times? Perhaps my grandmother held my mother up to the picture when she was a small child and introduced the different colors of the rainbow to her by pointing to one flower or the other and whispering “This one is white, that one is yellow, and this one is my very favorite because it is the bluest blue, the color of your daddy’s eyes”.
I decided then that I would very much like to have this picture hanging in my house. I wanted to look at it and be reminded of my grandparents. Grandparents are, at times, too easy to forget. Not for lack of love, but, rather, lack of presence. Of my grandpa, I have that one memory in the chair, strengthened by the involvement of smell. Sometimes, I think I remember more, but, in reality, what I am recalling is seeing pictures of which I was part of the scene but far too young to take anything away from it to bring back to mind later. So, I thought having the picture would bring me closer to him. My grandma, too, of course; but, it is my grandpa that I sometimes yearn for; despite the fact that I am 42 years old. I feel this way because of what I hear in my mom’s voice on the rare occasions when she talks about him. There are other memories, but, they are far too sad to think about overly much. Grandpa died of Alzheimer ’s disease on October 5th, 1975; my mom and dad’s wedding anniversary, and a little over two months before Doc was born. Doc got his nickname from grandpa; according to mom, her father was always known as “Doc”. Funny, but incredibly wonderful, how people can live on through someone they never met.