Sunday, June 14, 2020

For The Love of Paint-By-Number Kits

I always felt like a famous artist when working on a Paint-By-Number Painting. I loved them. They came in a kit inside a decorated cardboard box. The kit contained everything one would need to complete the painting. Some kits included one large paint-by-number painting. Others included three paint-by-number paintings, smaller in size than the kit with the single painting. I can still remember my most favorite of all the ones I painted. It was a horse standing in front of a barn-a rather big horse. I spent hours on that painting, sitting at my desk in a bedroom I shared with my younger sister with a huge assortment of brushes, a glass of water and lots of tissues sitting next to me. I always made a mess when creating. That's just what artists do.

Going shopping for new paint-by-number kits was great fun. Woolworths and Newberry's always had great selections. Sometimes my cousin and I would go downtown shopping and sometimes I'd come back home with gift ideas to tell my mother if my birthday was coming or Christmas was near. Those gift ideas always included some paint-by-number kits. When the Sears Wish Book arrived in the mail, paint-by-number kits were sought after items.

But of all those kits I received, the one I remember the most came from my father. I don't remember the actual painting itself but I do remember the anticipation it created. It was a Christmas Eve. My father was a funeral director and that meant he even had to work on Christmas Eve if there'd been a death. This particular Christmas Eve he had to work. On top of that it was raining. Relatives had come for dinner and were gone when he came walking inside the house soaking wet. My older brother and I were dressed for bed. Milk and cookies were all set up. We waited for our father to get his coat off before we hugged him and said goodnight. When he took his coat off I noticed him grabbing hold of something hidden by his coat and putting it on a chair in the dining room. It was a package! It was Christmas Eve! I just knew it was for me.

While I thought I'd never get to sleep it was soon morning and I was rushing down the front stairs and into the living room with my brother. The stockings were bulging. But it was a package wrapped in white tissue paper kept together by Christmas stickers that caught my eye. It was sitting under the tree on top of some bigger presents. It was tradition for us to open one gift after our stocking gifts. Then we'd have breakfast and open the rest. I knew which gift I was going to open. I knew the present wrapped in white tissue paper was for me. I felt it. When it was time, I took hold of that gift with my name written in cursive on a tag. It was beautiful penmanship. I loved how the letters swirled as if caught in a breeze. I looked at my father. He was smiling. It was his penmanship.

Seconds later the tissue paper was off and I was holding on to a box I'd held in a small corner store just up the street. A few days earlier, my mother and I had stopped there for a few things and while she paid for them, I found what I was now holding. I'd told my mother how much I hoped Santa would bring me the paint-by-number kit with primary colored felt tip markers included. Sitting there in my nightgown I looked back at my father. He was still smiling. Then he pointed to the window. It was snowing.

The paint-by-number kit with primary colored  felt-tip markers ended up my favorite Christmas gift that year. I don't know how my father ever knew I wanted it as much as I did. I convinced myself he was Santa Claus.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Lilacs In The Blue Vase

The lilacs are blooming, their sweet scent drifting about the back yard, over the fields, even coming inside through the screens on the back porch. It amazes me that such a sweet scent can come from such little flowers. But then, there are so many little flowers in a cluster. I couldn't resist cutting a few and bringing them inside, arranging them in the blue vase.
It was my father's vase, handed down to him from his mother. I don't remember how I ended up with it but I am thankful I did. It makes me feel like I have something tangible from a grandmother I hardly knew. She passed away when I was quite young. I only have one vivid memory of her and in that memory, I can see the blue vase sitting on her dining room table.
My older brother and I had gone with our father to visit his parents. I'm certain it was a Sunday morning. I remember wearing a pale yellow sundress with bunnies embroidered around the neckline. It must have been in the summertime because a window was wide open and the curtains were moving a bit. I could smell flowers as we walked up the front steps and through the front door. My father and brother were ahead of me.
When I was walking through the dining room, I was swallowed up in a warm embrace. It was my grandmother, smelling like a grandmother, all warm and safe and loving with fresh baked cookies on the kitchen counter. She was wearing black shoes. They tied up the front. An apron that went over her head and tied in the back covered up what I think was a dress.
I remember hair combs and wrinkled hands and little pearl earrings and thinking I'd like a cup of tea from the beautiful teapot sitting on the dining room table covered by a beautiful lace tablecloth with that blue vase full of flowers sitting in the middle.
Sadly, I can't remember her face. I can't remember if I ever did have a cup of tea from that teapot which now sits in my home along with the blue vase.
I wish I'd gotten to know my Grandmother Louise. I bet we would have had tea parties while sitting at that dining room table covered by that beautiful lace tablecloth with that blue vase full of fresh, blooming flowers sitting in the middle and a breeze coming through the windows.