A Painting From Memory

“Connie’s Memories,” 2009, Marian Stamos, artist. Item in collection of Michael John Neill. Image used with permission of the artist

The red rocker in the picture is nearly eighty years of age and is in amazingly good shape. I have it. It’s color is still vibrant given how much time has passed. The table and chairs have had the light blue paint stripped and have been refinished in a natural color, but are still functional. The stuffed bears have long since gone to that land where stuffed bears go when one last “surgery” is not very practical. The baby shoes strewn on the floor (with an apparent pair of socks) I think I actually have in storage box. The cat is likely one who never would have been allowed to set foot in the house the little girl lived in as a child. But it does resemble one that would sit on that little girl’s lap over six decades later long her granddaughters were significantly older than she is in this picture.

The two small bracelets on the table are from the birth of that little girl who weighed slightly less than five pounds when she was born in 1942. I have them and have held them in my hand. They are small. I realized that the little girl was smaller than my slightly over five pound grandson born just a month ago. A little boy who, while he flourished, was small. And then I remember that my mother, the little girl in the picture, was even smaller and the little blue bracelet with her name on it is a physical reminder of just how small she was and how lucky she was to survive.

The painting is one that my mother asked a friend to paint in 2009 to include Mom as a child along with things she remembered from her childhood. The picture was not intended to capture a specific moment but rather was to serve as a reminder of a larger time in Mom’s life. There’s been a little bit of artistic license with the time frame.

I reached out to the artist to get her permission to use an image of her painting in this blog post and to see what she could tell me about the creation of the picture. I knew the artist’s name without even looking to see what it was. She was in my parents’ wedding. She went to school with my Mom. Her annual Christmas card arrived from somewhere seemingly exotic and sophisticated (at least to me) and Mom would always be excited to receive it. The long-term friend of my Mom’s-turned-artist was, as we like to say back home, “a little bit of relation.”

Permission was graciously granted for me to use an image of the painting. We discussed several things in an email conversation, and it seemed that “Connie’s Memories” the painting had transitioned into “memories of Connie.” The one thing that I will share is that, unbeknownst to me, the artist met me when I was still a newborn.

My own memories do not extend that far.

I’m not certain if the book on the table is a special book or not. But I do know that a photograph of my mother was used as inspiration for the girl shown in the picture. Mom had that color hair as a child although the black and white pictures I have do not show that. The artist would know.

It’s a nice painting and it reminds me of Mom and the things that some of us have from our childhood–either physically or only existing in our minds–that serve to remind us of that childhood. I think those things and those memories were a comfort to Mom. And maybe that little girl is looking out the window and wondering what life will hold for her in the future.

Ironically it makes me think about the past.

Don’t forget before you use any images created by other individuals–paintings, photographs, digital imagery, sketches, etc.–get permission to use those images or images of those items online. Possession of the original is not sufficient to allow you to plaster images of something all over the internet.


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