A few week ago, I was sorting through an old box of memorabilia looking for photos that I had tossed into the box with the future goal of putting them into albums. I did get the new albums and began the long process of sorting and organizing.
As I was sorting I came upon a canvas folded in fourths;a hell of a thing to do to a painted canvas I thought. I began to unfold it carefully, and discovered it was a paint-by-number. I looked at the signatures and date listed at the right bottom side of the canvas.There was my name, my brother's, and last my Mother's with the date of 7/19/1953.
1953: Fifty- nine years old ! The painting was a street scene in Paris. From the style of clothing , I am guessing maybe from the early 1940's.
I sat holding that painted canvas, and the years melted away back to that hot summer of 1953.
I think my brother and I had been bored with staying inside due to the extreme heat of that summer. We had a nice finished basement, that was at least ten to fifteen degrees cooler than the upper part of the house: In those days, the early 50's, air-conditioned houses were only a dream of the future.
Mom went out shopping one day, and as always I was helping to put away the groceries that she purchased. I noticed a long package wrapped in brown paper at the end of the table.
" What's that , Mom,?" I asked. " Never mind. You just finish with your chores then I'll show you." I could feel the excitement growing inside me. The country was still rebounding from the depression, and people held that poorness inside them, so that seldom were the times during those days, that nice surprises occurred.
I completed my chores, then Mom grabbed the package and headed for the downstairs, she said,
" Follow me." I ran after her following her down the stairs careful not to run her over in my enthusiasm to see what that package held.
She placed the package on the table and removed the box from inside. I saw the title " Paris in the Summer" written on the box, and under it, paint-by-number.
Mom opened the box removed the canvas and on it were what seemed liked thousand of little numbers inside blank images. Sometimes certain numbers repeated themselves , and there were some that had maybe a few numbers that were duplicated. I was confused and backed away from the table.
" Where are you going ?" Mom asked. " You know numbers and me don't' get along well, Mom."
" Oh, get back here you goofus ." She scolded with a hint of laughter in her voice. " You do not have to add them or subtract them. See these small cups with paint inside? See the number marked above them? You simply use the numbered paint in the same number marked on the canvas."
I heaved a huge sigh of relief and moved close to the table again.
" Sit down here beside me. And I'll start you off and show you how to do this." I moved in closer than a hug, but not so close as to bump her arm: This was serious work, I thought.
The kit came with oil paints, a small bottle of turpentine, two paint brushes with very fine bristles, and about a dozen toothpicks.
" What are the toothpicks for?"
"Watch, I'll show you. When you open the oil paints, see the oil floating on top of the paint. You use the toothpick to gently stir and blend the oil into the paint."
I watched as she stirred the small blue cup of paint.
Then she said, " You must do this every time you begin to paint. And you must remember to use the same toothpick in the same color that you first use it in."
Then she picked up the brush, looked for the number that matched on the canvas and began to paint it in with the corn-flower blue. I was mesmerized!
" Now, after you finish using that color. See this bottle, she picked up the bottle of turpentine. You dip the brush in and clean the color off. Here's a rag to use to make sure the brush comes clean.
You do this each time you start a new color.Understand? " I nodded.
Mom, got up from the chair and motioned for me to sit in her place. I sat down shaking with excitement. I gazed at the canvas, then back at the oil colors. " I like the red." I turned to look for her approval. " Then use it," she replied. I opened the lid on the small cup, and carefully stirred the oil into the red paint. I picked up the brush, ever so gently dipping just the tip into the paint, then began to apply the paint to the corresponding number on the canvas.
Some where in my cloud of joy, I heard Mom climbing back up the stairs. How long I worked on the painting that day, I don't remember. Maybe, till I heard Mom call me to help set the dinner table.
My brother Jim's name is on that painting. I think he wondered what was keeping me so occupied downstairs and wonder down to ease his curiosity. He might have asked me, if he could try to paint some. I, feeling quite possessive, must have given him the very strictest of instructions, and hovered close by to make sure he followed them. I'm not sure he felt the same excitement that I had, because he soon left the table, and I can't recall him coming back to paint again.
Also, because so many years have passed, I can't remember how long it took to finish the painting. I know I relished each new painted image as it appeared. And when the scene was completed maybe a month or so later, I remember Mom saying that I had done a fine job. " And when it dries, Sis, it will be yours."
Some how through all these years it sat there in that box. I asked my son, what he thought I should do with it? " Well, for sure , don't leave it folded up in a box. get it mounted."
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