July 11, 2013
A blend of truth and fiction in three parts
Part Two is here.
Part One is here.
I sat on the sofa in the parlour, staring at the picture window. I held a pencil just above my pad of paper. I was not sure if I wanted to draw the window, or write a story about it. Maybe both. Cousin Steve was spending the week; whenever he stayed at Grandma’s house, there was art, so I was leaning toward drawing the big window. (He was an artist who liked painting, drawing, sculpting and photography… mostly painting.). My grandmother was his favorite aunt, and almost always had at least one dinner party in his honor; many of the guests were also artists.
The dinner party was in full swing in the dining room behind me (I was too young to attend; Grandma and I ate hours before any of the guests arrived.). I heard the door open and close, but I didn’t really pay attention; I figured it was probably Grandma (She never sat during a dinner party.).
It was my mother’s Cousin Steve, the party’s guest of honor. We smiled at one another.
“You drawing something there, sweetheart?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know if I want to draw it, or tell a story about it.”
Cousin Steve sat next to me and looked over my shoulder at the blank page.
“Hm. What is ‘it’?”
I pointed with my chin. “The big window.”
“Oh,” he said. “Why do you want to draw the picture window?”
“I don’t know,” I said. It was true. I had no idea why I was fixed on it. I think it was because I thought of it as “fancy” with its nine little panes.
“I think it would be easy to draw,” Steve said, taking my pad and pencil. “Too easy for you, maybe.”
I smiled. Only Cousin Steve would think so. To this day, I can barely draw stick figures. But him? He was a real artist.
In seconds, he drew the picture window, with the little table in front of it (My father had designed and built that table, with the sides that could be pulled up to make it larger. It was where Grandma served dessert.).
“See?” Steve returned the pencil and pad. “Just squares.” He paused. “Now, you draw it.”
“Nah,” I said, still not convinced that I could do it. “Maybe I will write a story, instead.”
“Want to walk with me first?”
I flung the pad aside. “Yeah!”
Cousin Steve liked to take a walk and smoke a cigarette after dinner. I loved walking with him. I could talk all I wanted, and I could ask anything I wanted when we walked.
We had been walking for about ten seconds when I asked him, “How come you can draw so good?”
He smiled. “Draw so well,” he corrected.
“How come you can draw so well?”
“Well, Sweetheart, I am glad you think I do. I like to think I draw well because I work on it. Practice.”
“Practice makes perfect?” I skipped in a circle around him.
Steve nodded. “And I love to draw. It makes me happy. I think that helps.”
I thought about it for a minute. “Making up stories makes me happy… But I want to do art.”
He chuckled. “That is art, sweetheart!”
I stopped. “It is?”
He stopped, too. “Of course it is. Whenever we make something, it is art.”
“But that’s a painting or a statue, or when you draw something,” I said.
“Or make a story,” he added. “You express yourself artistically.”
“Oh,” I said, hooking my arm through one of his. “I never thought of it that way.”
“Well!” He said, doing his Jack Benny impression.
I laughed and hugged his arm a little. “I make art,” I said.
We resumed walking. “I make art,” I repeated. I still wasn’t sure I believed it, but Steve had never lied to me.
“Yes, you do,” Cousin Steve said.
“And if I practice, I could be good at it? Like you?”
“Absolutely!” he said as we turned into the driveway.
We headed toward the utility room door, but Steve stopped. He turned to me. “Let’s look in your window, there, and see what’s cookin’.”
I didn’t really know what he was talking about, but I let Cousin Steve lead me by the hand to the picture window.
“Now what we do is, we step up on these bricks here,” he showed me. “This way we can’t get into trouble for stepping on the flowers!”
I climbed up and let go of his hand. Like Steve, I leaned forward, hands on the bottom of the window, forehead pressed to the glass.
People were coming out of the dining room in back and filling the parlour. Little cakes were arranged on the table before us. I spied a tray of porhanos and nearly fell off of the bricks in my excitement – it was (and still is) my favorite treat!
We went inside. (Okay. Basically, I dragged Cousin Steve in for some dessert.)
“Oh! Who is this?” one of the ladies asked, pointing at me.
After that, I became part of the party, and the story about the picture window was forgotten.