Monday, March 29, 2010

what I learned from my grandma

I am really lucky because I had the two most amazing grandmothers who had long, interesting lives and left a legacy of creativity. On my mother's side, my grandmother was a quilter, a master of crochet, a story teller, maker of the culinary delight called chocolate fried pie, and keeper of the best button box in the world. The quilts that my granny made for me are some of my most prized possessions. They are warm and comforting and make me feel better than any pain medication or antibiotic ever can.

On my dad's side, my grandmother was an artist. Not only did she paint beautiful oils, and acrylics and watercolors, but she lived her art. Going to her house was always like opening a treasure box. A table with some sea glass and driftwood she found on the shore of Lake Michigan. A flower arrangement gathered from her amazing garden with some wild additions she picked up along the roadside. Little brain teaser games on the coffee table. My brother and I had free rein to pull out kitchen drawers and whip up imaginary delights. I was allowed to go in the closet and take down the box of Christmas ornaments to sort and play with even if it was the middle of August. Our friends were invited over to help us make a house out of sugar cubes glued together with confectioner's sugar and food color. We could climb under the tablecloth and put on a puppet show. We were given some wood and nails and encouraged to go into the woods to build a fort.

My grandmother was always seeing the "art" in everyday things. She'd pick up a rock and realize it looked exactly like an owl. Instead of throwing it on the ground, she'd bring it in and make a little stand for it and name it "Owl Friend". I can remember being so proud when my grandmother framed a painting that I did in kindergarten - in a real frame. I know that a lot of people do that now but in the 60's I didn't know any other kid with their own "real art work" framed and hanging!

Because my grandmother started showing signs of dementia when my daughter was about 7, Leslie didn't really get to know her as she was for most of her life. Somehow, though, through stories or genetics or my parenting (!) or a combination of all of these, Leslie seems to have a connection to her great grandma. She isn't just an artist because she draws and paints and writes. She is an artist because she really "sees". Just like my grandmother, Leslie sees the art that is laying next to the road (a discarded piece of plexiglass becomes something that she turns into a canvas), the art that is on the beach waiting to be turned into a necklace, the art that is in my closet or the thrift store that is waiting to be turned into a one of a kind outfit that I swear no other 15 year old would be brave enough to wear! A few weeks ago, I found this poem that Leslie wrote about my grandma. With her permission, I am reprinting it here:


Marge fades, she
Fades like a Polaroid in the sun

She has eternal life, living
In artwork

She is Mona Lisa, mysterious
Smile. Exploited?

We all know her
Million husbands

We have wandered
In her garden

She was not DaVinci
Was she better?

Left behind in sketchbooks
Captured moments

She is an all-seeing owl
She is a savior

Marge fades, she
Fades like the end of a symphony

Or does she simply
Live in paintings?

Today, Leslie paints at Grandma's old easel, using her brushes and perusing her old sketchbooks for inspiration. And I hope that Grandma is looking down and is happy for all that her life was and for all the good things she put in me that I have, in turn, put into Leslie. Thank you, Grandma. I miss you everyday.

1 comment:

Ms. Jessi said...

Aww, Kat, you brought tears to my eyes. I, too love my grandmas. One is gone, one is still with us. I cherish each visit with her.