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Monthly Archives: June 2007

Yee-haw. I’m done.

Yesterday, Cory got the financing approved to buy our Sarasota Building. All systems are “go”. There will be another fine dance institution to take over where we left off in Sarasota this fall. We look forward to helping him in any way we can, and the plans we are cooking up together to set his dreams on course are very exciting. It gives closure to dance for Mark and I in the best of ways. We are delighted. But I have no time to talk about it now.  I am leaving this morning to go to Boston to finish my MFA requirements and then to graduate. Yippee for me!

As a person who often assesses meaning and purpose in the coincidences fate tosses out, the timing of my educational experience has been remarkably interesting. Low residency MFA’s are very competitive and difficult to get into. I applied to many schools, but was declined. I was even declined to Lesley. Then, on the very day the soon-to-be new owners of FLEX made an offer to buy our business, I came home to an unexpected acceptance call (I was on a wait list for Lesley and someone had decided not to attend). It was a last minute invitation which meant the commencement of my writing journey would begin the very same week we turned over the keys to FLEX. I believed this was a sign. It provided new opportunity to be excited about, which made it far easier to say “Yes” to the FLEX offer.

Two months later, I attended my first residency, and the very day I began writing classes happened to be the day we closed on the dance school sale. I had to leave a seminar to fax my signature to the closing. Again, I felt that this was a “sign” that I was meant to do something different now. FLEX was no longer ours, and here I was in a writing program I wanted desperately to attend, learning what I needed to know to forage a new career.

For the entire two years I have been in this MFA, trying to focus on writing, I have been pulled back into the turmoil and frustration of FLEX as things went sour. I thought getting my MFA would be a celebration of my freedom to pursue new dreams. But instead, it was an endless time of heartbreak, frustration and financial stress which made concentration on writing difficult. But I kept at it (even though I thought seriously of quitting more often than I like to admit.) And don’t ya know, of all things, I wrote a thesis novel about dance. What was I thinking? (More salt on the wound than even I was ready for.)

The FLEX eviction happened the very week my thesis was due. Talk about two poignant endings to wrestle with at once. Now, this week, I am finally closing the book on our former school. I am closing the book on my book about dance at the same time. It is as all things are pointing to dance being really over in my life. And I find it amazing that the day before I leave to get my diploma, we seal the deal to sell our building to an old student, which finally closes the door to our involvement with our former school forever. We will visit to teach, give Cory our guidance and consultation, but our future is no longer dependant upon the dance decisions someone else is making. Our financial stability and the ability to invest in a new business is no longer limited because everything we have is still wrapped up in that building.  FLEX had a slow and painful death. My entry into the writing world had a slow and painful entry. I can’t help but think the timing of these two significant elements of my life are strongly intertwined. The timing is too coincidental.

Today, as I prepare to go to the airport, I feel as if a huge gust of fresh air has finally swooped up, allowing me to breathe at long last. After this week, I’ll be able to return to writing what I feel inspired to write, with new confidence in my developed skill and understanding of writing as an art form.  I am so ready to “retire” my dance book, or at least set it aside for awhile, to concentrate on something less painfully personal. I am grateful that I don’t have to actively mourn our former school anymore – I will always miss it and feel sad about its end, but the FLEX years can take their place in the vault of important memories and life altering experiences in my mind. And I have every confidence that the new school taking its place will be an evolution of our past that will bring a smile to our face and help heal our feelings of loss.

It seems this is the end of our transition period. No one will even know how difficult it has been for us, or how we welcome a fresh start at long last.

I am going to graduate now. I’ll be back in a week (with pictures.)
Gee, I hope I don’t trip as I walk up to the podium or get tongue tied as I do my first public reading. But if I do, I will keep going and act as if nothing happened. That is something I learned from dance.
We are all the sum of our life experiences. So, for the good and the bad, today, I am grateful.


Water wit

When you make homemade wine, you must use bottled water to assure there is no bacteria or chemical in the base fluid, or it might ruin the batch as it ferments.
So, the other day while we were at Walmart, I decided to pick up a bunch of water for my winemaking escapades. They sell water in big 5 gallon  or 2 1/2 jugs.

I filled my cart with as much water as it could hold, about 8 of the huge jugs and pushed it to the checkout. Mark and Kent were there waiting for me with the things they had picked up in the store.

Kent looked at my cart and said, “Heck Mom, what do you need all that water for? Are you going to start giving bottled water to your chickens or something?”

“Of course. And I’ve decided only to give perrier to my peacock,” I said with a lifted eyebrow.

“Well, it’s a lot of water,” Kent said.

I patted the plastic jugs. “You see, son. I am going to turn this water into wine.”

Mark grinned. “I happen to know someone who got really famous doing just that.” he said.
And he and Kent laughed, and slapped eachother five. “Good one, dad.”

I’m so glad my interests are such a source of such amusement for this family.

Duck, duck, goose?

The ducks I hatched from eggs are proof that life throws you little delightful surprises along the way.

They are going through puberty now. I know this, partially because they are feathering out and changing from tan downy balls of fluff, to rich, earth toned adults. Mostly, it is because their voice is changing. I hear peep, peep, peep, QUACK.  It is sort of like listening to Kent talk. His boyish voice prevails, but every once in a while you catch the hint of a man’s deep vibrato slipping through.

I had six eggs in the incubator when they started hatching. Five hatched within a 24 hour period. Very exciting. But the last egg took it’s time. I could hear peeping from inside, so I knew it was only a matter of time, but we didn’t see the shell crack for another day. Then it took a full day for this duckling to break free. It was all I could do not to peal him out of that egg myself, because he seemed so exhausted from the immense effort.

He was different. His beak and feet were not gray like the others, they were pink. His down was lighter too. It was almost as if he had been in the incubator too long – like when you stay in a bathtub for hours, so you come out with bleached light skin and wrinkles. Neva and I were rather delighted because this one stood out as an individual. We could name it and actually keep track of which one he was. We called him “Johnny Come Lately” for a day or two. Then Neva wanted to name him (her) Rose because of the pink beak. Then, when it was obvious he was going to stay a lighter color than the others, he was named Cheese. The other five were named Quackers.  Now, we had Cheese and Quackers, more specifically: Ritz, Nabisco, Melba, Graham, and Trisket.

As their soft down turned slowly to feathers, we moved them from the little incubator cage inside, to the grand freedom of the creek and woods beside our house. Each night, we lock them in a huge dog crate, to protect them from poultry eating creatures.  It was simple training them – the first night, the entire Hendry family chased them squawking and flapping, shouting as we darted in and out of the woods to head them off, until we caught them and shoved them into the crate. Big ordeal. The second night we repeated that craziness. The third night, I went out there, but I couldn’t find them.  I bent down to discover they were are all tucked in, nestled together in the crate as if they knew it was bedtime. They do this every night now, and all I must do is walk down, whisper goodnight, and shut the door. Mark finds this interesting. He said, “Hey, we could turn our house into a bed and breakfast lodge and train the ducks to walk through the living room every night on their way to the crate. We’ll call it the Peabody Cabin.”
Might be fun.

As the ducks grew, the difference between them became ever more evident. The family would stand there, watching them swim in the creek, speculating on why one was so much lighter than the others.

I said, “Maybe that one is the boy and the others are girls. Nature often makes the boys more colorful or pretty, so perhaps it is a sex thing.”
Denver said, “I think it’s a swan. You have the real life version of the ugly duckling story happening here – that duck is not like the others. I think it’s cool.”
Kent said, “Mom probably just overcooked that one.”
Neva said, “Some creatures are just born special.”
Mark said, “I think the person who sold you those eggs pulled a fast one, and threw in a wild card just to meet the dozen egg quota.”

I wondered about that. I bought a dozen eggs (some exploded, you may recall) but they were all supposed to be of a certain wild breed. I wanted ducks that blended in with the environment, for their safety. But one of my ducks turned out snow white. Perhaps the seller gathering the eggs had no clue that she was including one different breed. Or perhaps the mother duck had an affair with a handsome, white, fast quacking male duck just passing through. Maybe this duck was a family member that drew from some distant gene pool, like me being a redhead when everyone else in my family has dark hair.  Or maybe this one is just an albino, a case of God forgetting to throw in a dose of color when he created this particular creature.

Anyway, I have five beautiful ducks with white and grey feathers, brown breasts, tan heads, and white rings like a necklace about their graceful necks. I have one cloud white duck that looks like a negative of Daffy. I adore them all.

Each morning, at around 6:30, I walk down the driveway in my robe and rubber boots (it’s a sexier look than it sounds) to open the door to the crate. The ducks greet me and waddle out to where I feed them. They move as a flock at all times, never venturing anywhere independently. They are people-shy and nervous, and yet at the same time, friendly. I guess this because they are still so young. They spend the day swimming in the creek, nestling together for naps in the woods when the sun is hot, and staying near the crate and running inside whenever they ever feel in danger. We watch them from the porch of the house, or walk down with a cup of coffee to enjoy their antics. It is amazing how much pleasure can be had from watching a few ducks go about the business of living. 

I have a special affinity for these feathered pets, partially because I hatched them myself, and partially because they are nature’s representatives of peace and freedom – the very elements of life I was chasing when I chose to move to the quiet woods of Georgia. 

Sometimes, it only takes a little thing to turn your world upside down.



This passion picked me

“Hurt me once, shame on you. Hurt me twice. Shame on me.”
That is all I have to say to the blackberry bush!

It’s that time of year. The blackberries are starting to turn. Time to plan some serious picking. 

I went out this morning on the four wheeler with Neva on a pre-picking excursion. I had this brilliant idea to bring my loppers to cut down some of the awful pricker plants that are growing with the blackberries. These killer weeds make harvesting a painful experience, so I was determined to remove those stalks now, early in the season, so we could approach the wild bushes with less danger the rest of the season.  I was convinced the thorny stalks were unnecessary, some kind of blackberry sidekick, probably opposite sexed bushes, the kind of plant that exists for cross pollination purposes but doesn’t bear fruit. In other words, I imagined they were lowly boy blackberry bushes, while the girls were out there producing the baby berries we all cherish.

I must have cut down a hundred big stalks in one of our prime blackberry spots. Then, my neighbor informed me that I was cutting down all of next year’s crop, because the year before they bear fruit, the wild blackberry bush begins as one of those deadly blank stalks. Blackberry bushes have no sexual orientation, you see. Duh.

 NOW you tell me? Dammit.

Well, I’ve only done damage to one small blackberry picking area. I have the other hundred bushes still intact and thorny as all get-out. Another learning curve highlight in the ongoing reality series, Hendry’s on the Farm.

Neva and I sampled a few berries, then picked a bowl full of random dark, sweet fruits. Unfortunately, most of the fruits on the vine are still red – a week or two away from peaking and turning  plump and purple . Nevertheless, I will begin my daily foraging now, because I can’t bear to miss a single free, wild berry even if they are currently spaced randomly on the vine.

While picking, you always encounter bees. Last year, I swatted them away with a curse, thinking the last thing I needed on top of scratches was bee stings.
This year I paused to say, “Oh, hello there, buddy.” (After all, my beehive is not far away, so it is a pretty good guess that these are my bees. “Take what you need and leave the rest,” I said, thinking that while I am very greedy regarding blackberries, I covet honey as well. A mutually beneficial aspect like that makes sharing easy, and everyone knows the surest way to overcome prejudice is to really get to know the one you fear. I understand and respect the bees now.  We’re buds.

Honey aside, I have big berry plans this year. Just this week we finished all of the jam I made last summer. Granted, I gave jars and jars of the stuff away, so we certainly didn’t run short,  but this season Georgia had an unexpected late frost that killed all the state’s blueberry and peach crops. As much as I was in denial all of April, the fact is, I am not going to get a single blueberry off of my huge, beloved bush this year. (Been in mourning over that since early march, but I’ve avoided writing about it – to protect my friend Chuck from the painful truth that he ain’t getting any blueberry jam this year.) The great blueberry loss causes my blackberries to take on mythic importance this season, because they will be my only homegrown staple with which to create specialty desserts and such. They will be the prime source for my jam. And don’t forget, I am now also on a quest to make the perfect wild blackberry wine. In fact, I have more than one recipe of blackberry wine awaiting experimentation, and each recipe requires pounds and pounds of fruit.

Not that I have to worry about locating the glut of berries I need. I only have to fret about harvesting the lot.  I discovered a huge thicket of wild blackberries in an abandoned lot at the entrance to our land. Somehow, I missed that windfall last year, but of course, we didn’t live here then, and only visited to feed the horses. I guess I drove by it everyday, totally unaware of the bounty nestled in a ditch a stones throw away. And I kept plenty busy picking on our roads and around our cabin on the mountain as it was. This particular wild berry discovery is located in a thorny maze of overgrown weeds in a marshy dip of land. There is at least an acre of overgrown, fruited wild blackberry bushes taunting me. It is like blackberry heaven – only with hellish thorns.

One day, while passing this area on a walk with Denver and Mark, I stood admiring the white blossoms that are the forerunner to the fruit to come. I paused and said, “It will soon be time. When these bushes bloom, I’m going in.”

Denver said, “Forget it, Mom. You will be torn to shreds. You can’t get in there.”

“I have been formulating a plan,” I explained, as if I was sharing a great conspiracy just between family members. “I think I can suit up to withstand the thorns. I was thinking I could wear my bee suit and cowboy boots. That will protect me.”

“Well, don’t forget to wear your four wheeler helmet to round off the outfit, as long as you are planning to make a fashion statement . . .” She rolled her eyes. “People will see you in that getup and finally know you are nuts. The family secret will be out.”

“Remind me not to share any of my blackberry wine with you, even if you are of age,” I said with a sniff.

Of course, Denver doesn’t understand the limits some people will go to attain a bucket of wild blackberries. She thinks blackberry picking is something you do for an hour as a lazy pastime, the prime purpose being to have a nice conversation with your mom, while dining on the berry bucket. She doesn’t understand the obsessive need to plow through thorns to get to the very back to get those plump juicy perfect specimens hiding in the rear. She can’t comprehend anything eatable worth getting scratched and having pricks burrowed into your skin for the rest of the evening. The cobbler made the next day is nice and all, but hey, you can buy frozen blackberries in the grocery store for a few bucks. Why knock yourself out?

And that, my friends, is proof that the world today has disconnected with the glory of nature and an intimate relationship with our food sources. Don’t believe me? Read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. She will convince you.

 I’m getting sidetracked. Where was I? Oh yeah.

 Mark stared at the blackberry thicket. “You might be able to drive in on the four wheeler. You’d plow down some of the bushes, but there are so many it wouldn’t hurt and at least that would allow you to get close. You could even pick without getting off the ATV.” (Men are always so practical and methodical about conquering nature.)

 I happen to be a real sissy on a four wheeler. I ride it all over the land on the roads, but I don’t like going off-road where ditches and holes and bumps create an obstacle course that can upturn even a cautious gal like me. Ride it blindly through the murky ditch into a forest of thorns? “I’ll just dress for the challenge and make it work,” I said.

When I get back from Boston, I have every intention of doing just that. But first, I will concentrate on those berries on our own land. I will settle for a scant bowl each day until the season gets up and running. Then, I will suck it up and go to war with the thorns for the big kill.

 I plan to freeze my early pickings, because I will use these early berries for wine. When you melt sugar and hot water it is smart to add frozen (though fresh) fruit to the mix to help bring the temperature down to activate the yeast. (I am ever so scientific when cooking now.) Just a helpful tip from a winemaker teacher I know.

Anyway, my blackberry picking frenzy is beginning. I can feel the obsessive need to go outside and forage stirring in my gut. For all of June and half of July, it is like I am enchanted by the fruit – under some spell that keeps me at it day and night. I can’t stop.  I want my freezer bursting at the seams with blackberries, carefully proportioned out for future cobblers. I want jars and jars of homemade jam cluttering the shelves. I expect at least two 6 gallon jugs of wine to be fermenting in my mud room for the next few months. (60 bottles.) I will rack them by Christmas, ready as gifts for my brave friends with strong stomachs.

I am already bemoaning the fact that I must go to Boston for eight days next Wednesday. Do you know how many berries I will miss? The birds will fly off with them, or they will shrivel like ugly raisins on the vine because I’m not here to snatch them up at that prime moment when they are ready. Kills me. But I will make up for it by putting in double picking time when I get back. I’ll be a graduate then, so I will come home smarter, right? I’ll probably lift one finger and come up with some brilliant plan to harvest all those berries with nary a scratch, just like the scarecrow started reciting brilliant formulas in the Wizard of Oz moments after the wizard presented him with a diploma.  Yeah, it could happen.

Anyway, today we began blackberry picking. I am in the throws of finishing preparations for my senior seminar next week, working on a full scale business plan and doing reading and research for our future enterprise, writing as always, and concentrating on other grown-up responsibilities. But dang, if I don’t have to put it all aside each day to adhere to the sirens call of the wild blackberry. Guess we all have our weaknesses.  Mine is a tart, morsel that shouts, “I dare you to come in here to get me!”
I never could resist a dare.

Nothing is as Easy as it looks

I know you are waiting for the other shoe to drop, (poultry-wise) so here’s the end of the peacock adventure.

The day we went to Florida happened also to be the official hatching due date for my peacock egg’s. My one white Peacock, Early, (who was originally carried around in my dogs mouth the day it arrived) was now alive and well and two weeks old. Nothing happened with the other eggs since then, so I had some strong doubt about their potential. Still, it was not as if I wasn’t going to give those eggs a chance. Therefore, on top of feeding all the animals, Denver was left with the task of checking my incubator everyday in my absence. I also set up a cozy little cage with food, shavings and a heat lamp “just in case”. 
Everyday I’d call home and ask how our animals were doing.

The forth day, Denver said, “Bad news.”
I imagined peacocks exploding.
“Something ate your seven baby chicks and killed the mother. Why does this always happen on my watch? You are going to think I am irresponsible. Please, don’t be mad.”

I explained it wasn’t her fault. Something always seems to die when we leave, and it has nothing to do with our being gone or her being in charge. It’s because our DOGS are gone. (We put them in a kennel). When we are home, they scout the land all day and often in the night and chase away all those pesky creatures that dine on chickens and ducks etc… When the dogs are gone, it’s a wilderness free for all.

“Did you check the peacock eggs?”   I asked everyday.
“They are not going to hatch Mom. Accept it.”
“Maybe tomorrow.”
“It stinks in there, Mom.”
“It’s your imagination.”

When we got home eight days later, and the eggs were still lying in the incubator, I admitted defeat. I started wondering what happened and began cataloguing all the things I might have done wrong to kill those potential peacocks. Suddenly, Early took on epic precious standing. He is not just my only pretty peacock, but tangible proof that I am not a complete idiot in the incubation arena.

Neva was devastated by the death of her little, homegrown chicks and cried bitterly at the news. She had named them all, and the mom was her favorite chicken. Now, I had to tell her I was going to throw away the peacock eggs too.

She sighed and agreed it was time.
“We have to open them first,” she said matter-of-factly.
“Oh Honey, I can’t. I don’t want to see half-formed peacocks. What if there are birds inside that were almost ready to hatch? It will be too sad.”
“We HAVE to open them,” she insisted. “That’s what the book said. It’s the only way to determine where a mistake was made so you learn from it. Without knowing, we might do the same wrong thing and we won’t be successful next time either.”
Next time?
I argued that it would be too gross.
Mark pointed out that dead, rotten eggs would stink to high heaven and whatever we did, we better do it far away from the house. (Always a sensitive man regarding the issue of poultry life and death.)
In the end, Neva was so insistent that I caved. We would open the eggs. . . far away from the house. However, I wouldn’t promise to open my eyes.

I can’t tell you how much I was dreading this. Neva was skipping along beside me as if this was a grand adventure. She was totally excited to see what was inside. I was sick at the thought.

We brought a small garden shovel and first dug a grave for a communal bird burial. I thought this would be appropriate in case we found dead baby peacocks, but also, it would cover up the smell.
We crouched beside the hole and I picked up an egg (one of the blue peacocks), still warm from the incubator.
“Are you sure? We could just burry the eggs whole.”
“No way, Mom. Crack it open.”

Therefore, I did. Kind of like when you are cooking, only the egg was firmer.
Out slipped a gooey yoke that looked like any egg you might open from the supermarket.
Neva frowned. “It must not have been fertilized.” She bent for a closer look and dug into the goo with a stick. There isn’t even a vein of blood. This egg never had a chance. Try another one.”
Swallowing, I picked up a black shoulder peacock egg and cracked it open. Again, we found nothing but goo.
“Bummer.” Neva said.
I thought so too, but not because we were cheated out of discovering interesting bird embryos inside. I was thinking someone sold me the Brooklyn Bird Bridge, cause these eggs never even started forming. EBay. What do you expect.
We opened the last three eggs. In two of them, the insides were thicker, like a dab of pudding was plopped in the middle, but that might have been just because the yoke was getting so old. There were no signs of those eggs ever beginning to form beyond a day or two. Moreover, no blood, which is your proof of fertilization.

Apparently, I spent 39 days turning those puppies four times a day for nothing. Well, it was for Early, I guess, but still, it was a disappointment to think they never really had a chance.
I was pleased to discover that their failing was not due to my inadequacy. I thanked Neva for making me open the eggs. Knowing is better than not knowing and/or feeling guilty or losing confidence – things which might deter me from trying again.  She gave me a “told ya so” grin.
Anyway, we are now a one-peacock family.
You may ask what a person does with a lone peacock.
Well, you buy them a chicken, of course.
Early was so lonely (they are flock creatures, you know) that I asked the feed storeowner  what to do. She suggested I buy a chicken the same age and size so they could grow up together.
“What will happen when the peacock gets big and magnificent and the chicken is just a little chicken?”
“Wherever the peacock goes, the chicken is sure to follow,” she said. “They will be best friends.”

I kinda liked the idea of a peacock hanging around with a lowly chicken. It would be like the big star, Batman, and lowly Robin, the comic sidekick. Amusing.
So, I bought Early a pal.
But when I put the baby chicken in the cage, it attacked him – kept pecking him and being aggressive. Early clearly has been robbed of a chance to develop relationship skills, I admit, so it may be partly his fault. He cowered in the corner. I felt like a bad peacock parent for sure.
Our housekeeper was there that day and she pointed out how cute the chick was. I said, “Glad you think so,” and made it a part of her tip.
I went back to the feed store and explained what happened. “Don’t you have a nicer chick?” I asked.
Linda suggested another breed, so I brought home another chick pal. This one was a fancy chick with a strange puff on his head. Maybe because he was slightly exotic, they were better matched. This time, the two birds just stared at each other. Bingo. A day later, they were best friends.

So, now I have this graceful young bird, already feathering out with elongated, crystal white feathers and a puffy, scruffy chicken with strange hair. They are inseparable.
Even though they are happy, I still will want a second peacock so I can raise eggs of my own. I’ve already made arrangements with our fence man to come build me a large peacock aerial pen for safety. I will allow the birds roam the land in the day, just as our chickens do, but at night or when we are gone, I want them all tucked in a safe fortress. I must confess, I adore Early. He is delicate and personal and very, very special. His protection is a high priority.

I don’t know if I will try the peacock-hatching thing again. I have to wait until I return from Boston to consider anything that demands ongoing attention. Perhaps I will just buy a baby peacock for 50 bucks when the opportunity presents itself. That would guarantee success and in the end, it would be cheaper than buying five bargain eggs if they turn out to be duds.  But then again, I did hatch one out of six and my self-hatched bird is so special, maybe I should try my luck again.

I can also just buy adult peacocks for a bit more and then know if I’m getting a boy or girl. Whatever Early is, I can buy the other for a matched set. And do I want another white peacock so the offspring are pure, or should I go with a blue peafowl, and see what interesting babies come from a bi-bird-racial union?

E-gad. So much to think about.

But today, all I can think about is my MFA seminar. I am putting it all together and preparing notes for the class. Can’t wait to get this off my plate.
By the way, my master’s cap and gown came. I can’t figure out how that weird cloak thing goes on, because it has this strange square piece sticking to the side, like it is designed for a cone-head to wear or something. This is nothing like my last graduation outfit. So much for feeling smart as I don my higher-learning dress.
Just goes to show, nothing is as easy as you think it should be.


In my Mother’s Eyes

My mother painted a picture of me and presented it to me when we were in Florida last week.
As is her way, she prefaced the gift with, “It’s not very good, but it leaves you something to remember me by.”
Like I’ll ever need a picture to remember my mother.
It is hard to receive a picture of yourself, because no matter how much it looks like you, you stare at it thinking it could be better. My first reaction was, “Gee, couldn’t you have made me look a bit more like Michelle Phieffer? I mean, did you have to make my nose so big and my chin so prominent?”
“It looks exactly like you,” Mark said.
“Well, that’s the point. Does it have to look so like . . . .me?”
“You don’t like it,” my mother said.
“I LOVE IT.” I quickly corrected, and I meant it.
I love it because she painted it herself. And honestly, I think she did a great job. It is hanging in my office now, and I keep staring at it, thinking it is an amazing likeness – remarkable considering she’s primarily a hobbyists painter- she never really studied art seriously.  
When I look at this picture, I imagine my mother spending hours dabbling over that canvas, remembering my face, trying to capture the quality in my smile that she remembers from when I was small. Something humbling in that.
I do look young on the canvas. I guess in my mother’s eyes I will always be her little girl. 
I said, “Thank you for leaving out the wrinkles, and playing down the freckles.”
“I guess I don’t notice your wrinkles,” she said, then added, “Maybe you can’t tell, but I put you in a leotard too, because that is how I will always think of you. I thought it fit best.”
Sure enough, she did. That makes this picture even more endearing to me. Not that I care what I have on, but I’m pleased that my mother chose to represent me in the way she felt was most authentic. I guess, deep down, we all want our parents to accept us for who we are. In my case, I feel my mother is honoring my identity in this small act. 

My mother wanted to leave behind something to remember her by. I can’t imagine a better gift. Not only does this picture prove she knows and loves me- heck, even when I am 500 miles away, she can see my face and every detail in her minds eye to capture just who her daughter is –  but it also captures who she is: a woman who is talented and caring, who loves her children and wants to leave something behind for them. Perhaps this is symbolic, because what she is leaving behind in truth are children raised with enduring love – children she armed with confidence and an artistic eye all their own . That is a great accomplishment for any woman, I think.

I have other pictures my mother painted hanging in our house- mostly landscapes. I have also made a request for a picture of our horses, but she is waiting for me to send a photo, so I’ll probably add those to our personal art gallery someday too. But my Mother will never paint anything that, to me, is as touching as this special canvas.

When I look at it, I don’t just see myself. I swear, I also see my mother looking back at me.


Good quote

It’s like, at the end, there’s this surprise quiz: Am I proud of me? I gave
my life to become the person I am right now. Was it worth what I paid?
-Richard Bach, writer (1936- )