Mary, the romantic…

Dear Rosa,

There are few things you wouldn’t have known about your daughter, Mary. So little that would’ve surprised you. For me, though, she was a complete mystery.

How do you combine such disparate traits in one human being? Mary was fiercely loyal to her children and ambivalent to her grandkids. She was a practical woman with a house full of nick knacks, bric-a-brac and clutter. She loved having her “babies” visit and would silently sit on her stool and observe their conversations.

I was young, perhaps 10 or so, when I discovered that Mary was a romantic.

The gold-framed picture was placed on top of a tall hutch and buried behind mounds of photos and figurines. I caught a hint of red and moved closer to better see. Only a scarf and a bit of a profile peeked out from the clutter, but it was enough to spur my curiosity.

Gram, Gram, I said and pulled her from the dishes. Who is she?

Gram strained her neck to see. Who?

There, I pointed to the painting and asked again. Who is she?

Her response took my breath away.

Without words, she dragged a chair over and began moving her beloved chotchkies away. To the side went the Hummels and small silver framed photos. I let her work in silence, not daring to interrupt. Imagine my surprise when she lifted the picture and handed it down to me.

Up close, the woman was so haunting and surreal. To a ten-year old girl, she was the most wonderful thing you could imagine.

She wiped a bit of dust from the glass as I held her treasure.

She was a looker, Gram whispered. Said to be the most beautiful woman of her time…

I could see she loved this picture.

What happened to her?

A shrug and she continued. Was said the painter asked her to sit for him, begged until she finally did. She died shortly after.

Stunned now, I couldn’t look away. Yes, I could see that – I could see the melancholy, the drama, the mystery surrounding this woman draped in red.

Gram took the painting from me then and carefully put it back in its place. Many, many days, I’d spend in one of her rockers just staring and imagining, creating stories about this magical woman. Stories with villans and warriors and she, saved by a man with long black hair…

When my gram died over 30 years ago, when Mary took her enigmatic charm away, she left me with this one gift.

She gave me her picture.

Many years ago I had the glass replaced and searched the image for the artist’s name. It seemed to be a print, although very old, with no signature. If anyone recognizes this image or knows the artist that created, please, please let me know.


23 thoughts on “Mary, the romantic…

  1. Never did learn who the woman was or what happened to her. My gram had a clipping from some newspaper that went with the picture – really wished she’d taped it to the back of the frame. Thanks for swinging by, Liz. Hope you’re well!

  2. How nice that you have such a meaningful keepsake from your gram.
    Do you know what good writing does, Susan?
    It makes me remember things in my own life that are related to what you wrote about. You related just enough in this essay to get my own camera rolling……
    As a child, I admired a picture in my gram’s house too. My mom knew how dear it was to me, yet when Gram died, none of us received any keepsakes. Years later, I found that same print in an antiques store and bought it. My daughter, likewise, has always loved it, so I gave it to her a few years ago.

    1. Isn’t it amazing that you found a picture just like your grams! Wow – what treasure. I’m so greatful for your thoughtful comments, T’resa – they mean so much, especially at the end of a long day. Hope you share more of your stories – and I’d love to see your picture!

  3. This is wonderful.. Through exploration of our memories we uncover so much we thought was long lost. This picture is beautiful and obviously your Grams thought so as well. I wonder if there is a way to scan this picture and so a search in some art databases? I’m not to computer savvy so not sure if we are that advanced yet..
    Loved this story 🙂

    1. When I began digging into my family’s past this summer, I never realized how much I carried forward. How much these people helped shaped my views and how much I missed some of them. Thanks for the idea on finding the origin of this image – I would love to know who painted it and who the girl was. Thanks for visiting, Lynne!

  4. What a great story, and what a great picture. You can see the sadness in her eyes. Your Gram bonded with you over your interest in it and her treasuring it, giving you the picture is proof of it. What a sweet gift, what a sweet memory.

    1. It was a special moment with my tough old Gram – I was so astonished that she loved that painting – that she even thought of such things. I’ve taken that picture with me to every apartment, every house I’ve lived in as an adult. She’s become my muse – the launching point for my main character in the novel I’ve been writing.
      Thanks so much for visiting, Denise – I love reading your comments!

    1. Nice to see you, Pauline and thanks for the comment!
      My gram was an integral part of my childhood – she lived three houses down. In some ways, I knew her better than my own mother.

      1. No kidding! There’s irony for you… sorry ’bout the rough week part – hope things continue to improve and if it helps, and seein as misery loves company – I’m right there with you.

      2. Oh no! Time for an instant pick-me-up, look what I just found on The Secret life of Yarn.wordpress (still haven’t figured out links, sorry): on the Nov.14th post, scroll down to the video of the Sock Summit- hilarious!

      3. Way too easy – most have a reblog button on top of their toolbar – I sent word to that site, telling them I’m reblogging her post. It puts it on your blog and you can add your own message. Really fun, actually. Can’t get enough of my kids groaning when I put that video on and laugh…

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