When Memory Becomes Art
My aunt was an artist. She painted still life using color, shade, and contrast. Sometimes a rolling landscape, impressionistic portraits of her children in watercolour, acrylic or oil. She attended art classes all her life and was hard on herself, never acknowledging her talent. She kept her collection, not selling paintings or even giving them away.
In her late 80s, she painted a vision from her childhood. It was a glimpse of a moment in time when her older brother played the tuba in the high school marching band. Although the hues were muted browns, grays, and greens, her brother holding his instrument of gold, dressed in a bright white uniform with red stripes, was the central focus.
Painted details revealed the form of a neighbor who lived in an adjoining apartment, inquiring if the family had pet seals. What were those strange sounds she had heard bellowing late at night through the common walls? A recollection, like a dream of so long ago, my aunt had expressed in shapes, words, and coluor on canvas.
She carried the painting to her brother at his assisted living residence. He had recently celebrated his 90th birthday. Brother and sister. A shared history of parents, childhood, and entangled bonds of a lifetime.
Holding her breath, she held up the painting to give him a closer view. She was blinking back tears of love and anticipation, hoping they would exchange knowing looks, smiles, and laughter, recalling a humorous event.
His face was without expression.
After the visit, my aunt tucked her memory back into the large plastic bag. Her footsteps on the linoleum floor echoed in the hallway as she returned from the building to her car and placed the package on the backseat.
My aunt will decide to wrap up the painting of that childhood experience in heavy brown paper and deliver it to the post office where it will be labeled fragile. The night before, she will write an explanation describing everything held in her heart about the incident, inspiring her artwork. I will receive a large package, an unexpected gift. I will be surprised and delighted to read how proud she was of her big brother in her heartwarming missive and discover a painting of my young Dad as a high school tuba player.
Lois Perch Villemaire
Lois Perch Villemaire resides in Annapolis, MD. Her stories, memoir flash, and poetry have been published in such places as Potato Soup Journal, Six Sentences, Trouvaille Review, FewerThan500, The Drabble, Pen In Hand, North of Oxford, Flash Frontier, and Flora Fiction. Her poems have been included in several anthologies published by Truth Serum Press and American Writers Review 2021. She was a finalist in the 2021 Prime Number Magazine Award for Poetry.
12/15/2021 07:38:19 am
Lois, you painted a beautiful picture with your words. I have watercolors from my uncle that hold memories we treasure.
12/15/2021 08:50:19 am
Paula, This connection with art is something we share.
12/15/2021 10:36:04 am
What a simple (clean/disciplined) way of giving us the complex gestalt that hovers around and within this lovely work of art. I confess I was puzzled by the black shapes. Then suddenly I saw: Seals! I'm so glad they made it into the painting. Thank you, Lois (and Lorette) for giving me a special start to my writing day.
12/15/2021 04:46:53 pm
Shirley, Thanks very much for your kind words and for appreciating the seals!
12/16/2021 05:09:25 am
Beautiful. This brought tears to my eyes. Alma (Mimi) was so very talented and I wish/hope she realized.
12/16/2021 05:13:10 pm
Sara, Thanks for leaving this message. It means a lot to me. I have two more of her paintings and cherish them. Alma was a special aunt to me. It’s wonderful that she got so much pleasure from her art and now that art continues to give joy to us. I was so happy to share her painting this way.
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