I have two paintings on my bedroom wall. They were done by a student artist at a school near where we lived. The woman was older, my best guess in her 60s. I would have never known she was a student by the quality of the art. I mean, I suppose I’m not much of a connoisseur of art. I just know I like to support independent artists. …and filling my house with pretty things. And these were pretty.
When I spotted this first piece at an art show, I knew I wanted it. I had this flood of memories from my childhood. Most of the trees around where we grew up were pine, but we had one birch tree in our front yard that I loved. Nothing else had leaves that would change with the seasons. The painting brought me back to lazing in the grass, looking up into its canopy. I brought it home.
Soon after, we discussed buying a companion piece for it, if the artist had any. I contacted her and she invited us over to look. There were so many paintings. Lots of lovely scenes. We came across what would be the mate for our current piece. It’s her driveway, after some rain. You can see the reflection of the tree in the wet asphalt. Beautiful. We asked if she minded parting with it.
I remember she made this little noise and looked at the floor before she said it would be alright.
We looked at each other and started to back pedal. An awkward dance.
“Oh no, if you don’t want to-” “Yes, we don’t have to-”
She said it was okay. She needed to sell the painting. Not for us, not for exposure, not for the money. We didn’t know it, but we had become a part of her grieving process. She’d lost her son in Iraq the prior fall. She’d painted them soon after. They were an important part of that time for her. But she knew it was time to let them go.
She took a moment and so did we. It was somber. We hadn’t meant to intrude. But she reaffirmed that she was going to be alright and that this was something she wanted to do. We took it, but made sure she had our contact info if she changed her mind. We never did hear from her.
These paintings greet me everything morning. I often think of the artist and her son and his sacrifice.
I hope for her peace of mind.