It all started…

It all started…

The most frequently asked question I hear as an artist is, “have you always painted?” or “when did you start painting?” I’ve an answer for both.

I was an active child, the third of six children. My mother never knew what to do with me. Just about every afternoon she’d send me on my sister’s bike to our local grocery store Foodlane, for some mystery dinner ingredient. She’d drop a nickel in a pocket for my on the-way-home stop, Winkies Dime Store. Winkies was the start and finish for me. It had every possible gumball imaginable. My favorite was the bright blue “sputnik”. Packed in each glowing ball was enough sugar to guarantee a massive toothache and enough energy to ride home no matter how over-sized my bike or the quantity of groceries.

One day in the summer of 1958 I took my time getting home. I imagined the only thing waiting for me at home was an older brother who’d torment me with another game of Monopoly or some menial task like setting the table. I walked the isles of Winkies. How could I have missed the treasure that lay at the back of the store next to the little turtles in the plastic bowl with their backs painted in floral patterns no turtle would have approved? A paint by number set! The subject matter, I can’t recall. My fate however, was sealed. From that day forward my Mother coaxed my talent with pads of paper, pencils of the rainbow and endless tins of watercolors.

The breath of fall stood still in 1999. I sat my parents down in front of their fireplace. Center stage was every box from their attic and crawlspace achieves. A lifetime of boxes sat between two lovers with gnarled knees and aching joints. With warm hearts beneath wool wraps they gathered to remember a family raised. From early morning to late afternoon each card, note, telegram or school project was drawn from the boxes. They read every line welcoming the words, hearing the wishes of warm declarations and awaking youth promises. Peach pumps and beige crepe crept from an old photo. Shiny shoes and orchids rose from another. Treasures were revealed and I felt that once they, too, brimmed with possibilities.

And then, there it was. Under a wax paper wrap the paint by number kit from Winkies appeared. An old black cat sitting next to a barn and flowers of unknown origin sat before my brimming eyes. It had been a Christmas gift to my parents so many years ago. They kept it! What joy!

One Response "It all started…" to

  • Your storytelling is as expressive as your art. The Winkies memory is precious. Children of the 50s know the magic of the local 5 and dime. Your story made me smile!

    1 Wendy Wolfe said this (September 7, 2011 at 8:01 am) Reply

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