Monday, November 2, 2009

The Passing of One of My Favorite Artists

The Homemaker
18x18 oil on canvas

A remarkable thing happened Tuesday – we lost two beloved family members. Mr. Right’s treasured great-uncle passed away about lunchtime and, by the following morning, we lost Mr. Right’s mother. These two were always very close. She was the daughter her uncle never had. When talking to other people, they referred to each other as Jean and John but when they were together it was Unk and Little Girl. She was only 67. He was 103.

From the time she and I met twentysomething years ago, we clicked. We had a lot in common, over and above loving her son. She was an exceptional combination of mother and friend – a twisted sister of the highest sort. There was never more than a pinch of the stereotypical mother-in-law-ness. She and I always had a pile of something – books, magazine articles, projects – we were saving for the other one. I loved it when she visited for a weekend – even better when she stayed a week.

She was an artist with a rare, natural sense of color and design that cannot be taught or learned. She sewed – everything from quilts to Christmas dresses to diaper bags to altar cloths. She could make lace. She was a talented mosaic artist and she painted anything and everything that didn’t paint her first.

What fun she and I had painting a set of bar stools together – they’re good-looking: Oriental rug colors with leopard skin seats and corded tassels draped on the backs. And the week we decoupaged the bookcases onto the door of Mr. Right’s “secret room.” And the days we spent setting up nurseries.

She was an artist in her home as well. A 1964 home economics graduate, she was the definitive resource on recipes, holiday décor, laundry, etiquette, the proper pairing of shoes and bags, and what one should and should not wear before Labor Day. She advised countless nervous brides for her church. She made Unk a batch of his favorite ginger Christmas cookies and packaged them in the same treasured box every year since…well… forever. I can’t dream how many of our phone calls began with me saying, “Now, how do I make….?” A visit to her home was always warm, comforting, and inspirational.

She was the family historian. She tracked the genealogy of every piece of furniture, war relic, cup and saucer. She was the type who could put her hands on the fabric scraps left over from Mr. Right’s 3-year-old Tigger costume. Give her 24 hours and she’d have them sewn into a quilt. She framed family photos and wrote the names and dates on the back. And so, it was no challenge this week to find the photo of her with baby Mr. Right shown in the painting. Nor the photo (left) of her, at 1 year old, with her beloved uncle – circa 1943. Via con Dios, sweet friends.


Laureline said...

Mitzi, what a loving and eloquent tribute to your loved ones. I'm so sorry for your losses, but I am glad to hear how much love and magic you and your mother-in-law shared for so long. Take good care.

Stephen Parker said...


What a beautiful reflection on your loved ones. I'm sorry to hear of their passing. The world could use many more like them.

On a lighter note, your painting is terrific. Beautiful values and color. I love the thickness of the paint, too. Great job. Hope to see you soon.

Dragana said...

What a beautiful tribute to your in-laws, and how amazing your relationship with your mother-in-law was. I know she will be dearly missed. Cherish the memories!

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

eloquent. How lucky you were to have them and they, you.

Stu said...

Well said. They were part of our family here in Houston.
They will be missed.