Gifts From The Past

6:30 AM

A painting of my grandmother and me from Easter along with a few of our creations
I wrote this article back in 2014 and submitted it to a few magazines, but it never found a home.  When I was recently looking through some old files for some family photos, I happen to run across it and thought I'd share it here on the blog. The actual events happen back in the early 2000's.

Recognizing The Artist Within
By Laure Ferlita

When my grandmother fell and mangled her hip and shoulder, she was sent to a rehabilitation facility with every expectation of coming home after a few weeks, maybe a month, after making a full recovery. Staying healthy, especially for a woman on the cusp of her nineties, is a dicey thing at best and coming home was not to be. After spending several months in the center, we faced the hard reality she would never be able to live by herself again.

Cleaning out her home was both heartrending and enlightening. Feeling as though we were plundering through her things and about to get scolded was a constant companion. The very last place I expected to start a journey of artistic self-discovery was among her photos, handkerchiefs and china. As it turned out, I ran smack-dab into my own artistic past.

As per the grandmothers' life guide, this woman had kept nearly everything gifted to her from her grandchildren over the long years or so it seemed. I don't know if she packed away everything we'd ever given her, but judging by all the bits and bobs we found, she'd made a herculean effort to do so.

While my brothers and cousins had given her cards, jewelry and perfume, I'd given her mostly art. Lots of art. We found drawings, painted rocks, ornaments, small watercolors, wreathes and, a simple pencil sketch of my grandfather I created in the summer between my seventh and eighth grades of school.

At the time of this antiquated walk through history, I was suffering a serious case of self-doubt over my chosen path and felt plagued with questions of worth—was I really an artist or was I destined to forever be a wannabe? I had yet to find my voice or a way forward. 

As we opened box after box of kitsch, I continued to discover various pieces of my artistic beginnings. The realization finally hit me—these uncomplicated pieces of artwork were my true roots. My choices were not based on income potential but in the joy of doing, of creating. I had no critics. I wasn't riddled with fear and the need for perfection. In fact, my grandmother was one of my biggest advocates and fans. There was no struggle with whether is was commercially viable.

While I was not a child prodigy, I could see potential in some of the pieces my grandmother kept. It was humbling as well as encouraging to see the freedom with which I created back then. When I finished (or abandoned) a project, I would flit to the next thing to catch my fancy. At that time in my life, the act of creating that was far more important than the end result and this was a gift my grandmother gave me. I didn't recognize until much, much later. 
One of the many tiny ornaments my grandmother made

She created miles of afghans and bedspreads in her day. She was forever dabbling in one craft or another. She sewed and crafted all the time, or so it seemed to an impressionable young girl. She was a role model for creating for the sake of creating and I doubt she even knew it. 

I have no memories of criticism or questions of "why would you want to make that" or "why do you want to do that?" I was given an outlet of expression without censure. Yet another gift.

Looking back, I can now recognize the profound effect seeing those old pieces of art had on my direction, and more importantly, my feelings of self-worth. The doubts of being not "good enough" faded—just enough—to allow me to get out of my own way so I could rediscover the joy of creating rather than the "chore" of producing. 

In all those boxes of kitschy knickknacks and faded cards, I found my way forward. And if I could, to my grandmother I would say, thank you for these last, unexpected and priceless gifts. 

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9 Creative Thought(s)

  1. There seems to be a problem with commenting on the blog. If this is happening to you, please let me know either via email (see contact link above) or on Facebook. Thank you!!

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  2. Oh! I LOVE this story!!! It reminds me of my grandmother. What a blessing to have a creative and beautiful grandmother!!! Thank you for sharing. :)

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    1. It seems that most our grandmothers received the same guidebook on inspiring their grandchildren! So glad to bring back happy memories.

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  3. So happy you at last found an audience for this. Antecedents on my father's side, his mother (crochet, knitting, embroidery, rug making), sister (embroidery, sewing, gardening, laying paving and erecting creative small walls) and, indeed himself (woodwork, oil painting, raconteur), we were all extremely gifted in their passing on their skills to junior members of the family. Thank you for bringing these memories alive to me too. xx

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    1. What rich blessings you've had in your developmental years! Glad this brought back such happy memories!

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  4. What a gift to have found these things that sparked your passion for art and wonderful memories.

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  5. What a special grandmother you had. Thanks for sharing.

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  6. I love this story--both for your realizations, and for the reminder of how special grandmothers are to their grandchildren.

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  7. This is really a special piece of art work you created, along with such a wonderful story! It makes me think of my own aunts. They've inspired me - but my work is so uncreative. I can't wait to have more time in retirement - but I chip at some projects now. Really inspiring to hear this story.

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