September 13, 2015

My grandmother was an old woman the day I met her. Her name was Bessie. Not short for anything, just Bessie. I lived in Colorado. She lived in Falls Creek, Pennsylvania. We only visited there a few times. Her room smelled of age, the floors echoed time, and creaked a history we grandchildren would learn little about.

She was an artist. She drew and she painted with all kinds of materials including the most detailed brown ink on paper imaginable.

                                ink church

The sound of her voice has no place in my memory. I keep her drawings and paintings on the walls of my home. I think of her every day.

If only I could spend an afternoon with Grandma Thompson. Imagine the two of us together in her art studio. A small cluttered room lined with windows overlooking a backyard pond edged in stones she carried and arranged with her own hands.

On that one day we would create. We could use pencils, charcoals, soft pastels, water colors, acrylics, or oils. We could choose any one of the brushes stuffed into mason jars along both edges of a deep stained sink. Stiff, soft, angled, it didn’t matter. We could dab, mix, and stroke colors on parchment, wood, slate, canvas, or cloth.

Grandma oil painting

I imagine on that day she would speak to me quietly, share tips about scale and facts about the chemistry of ink on paper. She would reveal secrets of shadowing and detailing pictures with delicate dabs on wildflowers, or the lines on the stones of an aging church.

Time would be boundless, still for hours. We would pass it together unrushed, purposive, worthwhile. Peaceful.

She would place her thin wrinkled hand on mine while the brush I held revealed the magic of an artist.

I would hear her voice, “I see you may have a gift.”