While sorting through books recently, in my continuing effort to pare down, I came upon one with an inscription that said, “Christmas 1994, to Cindy with Love, Mom.” I sat down, then, and paged through the book: flower descriptions and photographs. It may have been the first time I looked at it since 1994. Then I returned it to the shelf.
Some things keep a place in my home because they contribute to my idea of this person I am. Books, baskets, beach stones, candles and houseplants fit this category. Other things justify their continued occupation in my small home because they keep a place in my heart. Not because of what they mean to me, exactly, but because of the stories, and the memories they seem to hold.
When my sister, Sheila, died, I took her partially-used jar of anti-age cream. “Since she won’t ever need it, ” I quipped, while grieving her premature death. Every time I picked up the jar, I thought of her. When I finally emptied it, I cried as if the loss were fresh. I could hardly bring myself to throw the empty jar away!
In my studio, where the walls reflect whatever I’m working on and the scene changes frequently, two things are steadfast. The first is a picture of Elvis painted in day-glow colors on black velvet, mounted in a cheap and gaudy drop-in frame. The second is a low-relief still-life of apples in soft copper.
Elvis was a tongue-in-cheek gift from my friend, Linda. Many times, as we struggled our way through art school, we kidded each other, “At least we’re not forced to be painting Elvis on black velvet!” It was our shorthand reference to selling out: giving up our artistic visions and ideals just to make a quick profit. In my small campus apartment, Elvis was displayed right in the living space. As guests, by turns, registered awe or disgust at the painting, my daughters would clarify, often in unison, “It’s ironic!” For all of those memories, I hold on to Elvis.
I made the copper apples in ninth grade art class. I can’t remember the teacher’s name, but I remember generally using that classroom to make trouble. I rarely took an assignment seriously. I liked working with the soft copper, though, and was happy with the finished project. So was my mother, when I presented it to her. She hung it in the hallway just outside the kitchen and near the stairs. It held that position for the next forty-five years! After my mother died, the piece was discreetly moved to the garage, where it stayed until my sister, Brenda, suggested I might like to take it home. She was right!
For the memory of my fourteen-year-old self, crude though it is, I like it. For my mother’s encouragement and loyalty in hanging it prominently and leaving it on display for all those years, I love it.