My Grandmother’s Legacy

I dreamt about my grandmother last night. I dreamt she was coming to visit from far away. It had been years since I’d last seen her. I wanted so badly to show her my paintings. My Nana was an artist and she would be proud that her only granddaughter had followed in her footsteps.

The dream involved me running through winding corridors and down narrow staircases to these windowless rooms where I was living (apparently) to gather as many of my pieces as I could carry to show her. I woke up before getting back.

I lay awake thinking about it in the wee hours of the morning. During that stage of just coming awake, the mind makes connections it wouldn’t in the light of day.

My Nana would be proud that I was painting.

When I first started painting and my work began to improve, I believed that to be true. After some consideration, I realized that I could be wrong. She might not be proud. She could be threatened by it and she could be critical. She might point out all my mistakes, flaws, weak technique. I’m pretty sure wouldn’t like either my subject matter or my style. Never one to hold her tongue to spare another’s feelings, she would probably decide that I hadn’t any talent at all and that I was wasting my time. I’d never improve. I’d never be any good.

Cruel? Yes. But accurate. And the funny thing is, she wouldn’t comprehend that I would be hurt by her words. Certainly I would see that she was right…

Years ago, my Aunt Esther took an art class at the local community center and began painting in acrylics and oil. Largely this was motivated by her admiration of my grandmother, her mother-in-law. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery….

Lo and behold! Aunt Esther had talent, she became a wonderful artist –painting landscapes, pastoral scenes and still lifes. Nana only complained, belittled and behind her back, insinuated that she had no right to paint. Who does she think she is? My aunt eventually gave up painting.

And so it goes with the women in my family. They tend to be judgmental, fault-finding and competitive. There is never any joy for the success of others unless there is some way to take some of the credit for themselves. I’m not bitter, just realistic.

In the dream, my work was hidden away, out of the light of day, out of Nana’s sight, away from her potential criticism. As in the dream, so in reality. I am glad my grandmother will never see my paintings. That way I can pretend she would be proud.

The painting in the header is by Susan Nagle, my maternal grandmother.

Thick As a Brick

I’ve been reading What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, Raymond Carver’s collection of short stories. One of the characteristics of his writing is the lack of action. Many of them are just glimpses into the lives of his characters. Maybe even just one scene. This piece of short fiction is inspired by Carver’s style of writing.

Thick As a Brick

Wesley hoisted his suitcase into the trunk of his old Chevy Malibu. His disapproving parents watched glumly from the sagging front porch of their clapboard house. 

“It’s not too late to change your mind, son,” his father said. “Don’t be fool, will ya?”

“I’m not changing my mind,” Wesley stated, slamming the trunk lid closed. He sighed heavily and walked over to stare up at them on the top step. “I can’t let an opportunity like this one pass me by.”

“Fancy scholarship ain’t gonna pay for everything,” his mother muttered under her breath.

Wesley sighed again and looked at the ground. “Ma, I have a part time job lined up. I’ll be fine.”

“Sure and then ya be workin’ so hard ya won’t get no studyin’ done. Then what?” she snapped. “Ya lose that money and you’ll be back here on the farm anyways.” She spat on the ground. “Waste a time, ya ask me.”

“Ma, my job is at the chem lab. It’ll actually help with my studies. You’re worrying for nothing.”

“Leave him be, Sarah. Ain’t no use talkin’ to a fool,” his father chimed in. “He got some illusions of grander. Think he’s too good for his kin.”

“Delusions of grandeur,” Wesley mumbled.

“Don’t you mock me, boy,” his father said, wagging a finger at him. “I’m gonna remind ya of this very day when it all goes to hell.”

“Pa, it’s not going to hell. I’ve worked hard, I’ve studied harder, I’ve got a right to pursue my dreams. I’m not asking you for a thing, except to give me your blessing,” Wesley pleaded.

“Well, ya ain’t gettin’ my blessing on this nonsense,” his mother said, crossing her arms in front of her chest. “But… I’ll give ya this.” She gestured over her shoulder. “This’ll always be your home. You come on home if you come to your senses.”

This was probably the most he could hope for, Wesley realized. He nodded. “All right. Thanks, Ma.”

He went up the steps and gave each of his parents a hug, then turned back to the car. With a final wave, he drove down the old dirt track that led out to the main road. His parents watched till he was out of sight. Wesley’s father said, “Seems to me for a smart boy, our Wesley is thick as a brick.”

A Return to The Front

I am resuming the work on Here Lies a Soldier that I have set aside to write Breaking Bread. In order to refresh everyone’s memories and to introduce the story to new followers, I am going to start at the beginning and repost the completed chapters. After that, I should have new installments of the novel ready to post. I truly hope you will enjoy Here Lies a Soldier, a story that spans the years from The Great War to modern day. The first chapter will follow.

~Thank you~