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.