Thursday, June 24, 2010

Helen's neighbor ladies

We always used to say that- "the neighbor lady 'cross the street" to differentiate from the one next door or the one next door on the other side. If you are wondering what these creatures are- no, they are not some mal-formed gingerbread cookies- nibble at your own risk- I'll tell you.

Its not unusual for me to start a new project before the current one is finished. Ms. Secret Gardens is just about done and so these guys are next. I may hit up my friend Cheekygreen designs to be in a booth with her at a Christmas show or perhaps finally start that Etsy store...or neither...I'm over booked, ya know! These ladies are an interpertation of a sketch. I still have a few bugs to work out as they do not quite resemble the drawing.

As they are supposed to be an ornament I felt they should also carry a message (surprise! Doesn't my work always carry a message? Maybe I am a know-it-all?) I imagined sending one to my aunt which led to the thought I should reference my mother, her sister, in hers. Which made me think of that stack of letters I keep in my dresser. My Mom's cousin had given them to me, tied with a ribbon, sometime after her mom (Aunt Hazel)passed. People of my mother's era wrote letters on a regular basis- a lost art as far as I am concerned. I wonder if blogging is similar, in that it is an artistic release of what hovers on the mind.

Because my mother died at a time when I was too young to come to terms with the issues that lay between us I was not able to get past the first letter I opened. They have sat, wrapped in that ribbon, next to other things that are sentimental me in the top drawer of my dresser. Why is it that we keep things that are close to our heart in our dresser?

Tonight I had the inspiration of finding some text in those letters to use on the bodies of these ladies. While I didn't know beforehand, these ladies have always been a reflection of my mother. She was in so many ways trapped in an era where neighbors were like family. Where churches were your community, where recipes were traded like e-mails. I never fit in her era. I never wanted to, but, I also never had the luxury of making those niceties my habits. I was too busy surviving the reality that my mother never shared in her letters to Aunt Hazel.

While I found some good material to celebrate Helen I also came across several passages like the one below. Her fight with cancer is one that that all of can identify with. No family, anymore, is untouched by cancer. We all suffer the pain that comes with the loss, the pain that comes while you suffer along with the person. We all fear, quietly, that we may be next and hope fervently that we are not. We would all take on that burden, though, before having it visited upon our children.
I share this portion of her letter with you not to make you sad but rather to illustrate the journey of someone going down this path.

I found that her description of her day- laughing and crying, working and putting away clothes, creating cards... could be a description of any of our days. Cancer did not change who she was.

My employer of 5 years has a sister who battled cancer. Over the last few years she has apologized numerous times when her discussions of her sister have brought tears to my eyes. "Don't apologize," I tell her "its OK that I cry, really." I know she won't understand for a couple of years yet, but really, its not a bad thing to be empathetic when memories are brought to the surface.

I think that for every tear shed my daughter has given me ten times the experience of true love. I can't trade one part of my life with out losing what I am today. My past experiences help filter what comes to each day. I can gauge, more accurately, what is important (still- I need to work on this) because of my experiences. And I often ask myself- Would you have as deeply appreciated the gift of your child- the joy-if you had not already understood the depth of sorrow? I will never know for sure but am grateful for the lessons I have learned about life from the loss of my mother.

Its a path that we all walk, the loves and losses may be encountered at different intervals for different individuals but for sure- we all do. My art reflects and sometimes deflects my experiences. I suspect I am not so different from all of you.


  1. Christine, thanks for stopping by my blog and all the kind words. Dosent look like you struggle with anything when it comes to your art. It is wonderful. Can't wait to see these ladies finished. You are very clever. I will be watching the progress on the neighbor ladies.

  2. i also know these are GOING to be GREAT! i miss you...

  3. These little ladies are going to be beautiful! I love the idea of having writings across them. They are going to treasures for sure!

  4. Thanks guys!I love feedback and comments of any sort!

  5. I really like the dolls and I love their faces so far. The writing on them is a great idea!
    More than that, I love your honestly and insight on being a daughter and having a daughter. Losing a mother is a catastrophe, but as I walked into the hospital to see my mom the week she died, I passed the pediatric oncology offices, and every day I was reminded that it could always be worse. It's kinda funny how it seems like we almost feel like we have to sacrifice our parents to protect our children in some ways.

  6. Thank you, Mel. I know you have the similar experience. While it can be bitterly sad to lose someone- a mother is such an anchor and I was surprised at how much she validated my right to be here (in my own mind, anyways, I know that I have the same right as everyone else). You just pointed out to me, ever so clearly, that that is where I am right now. Somewhere between being my mother's daughter and my daughter's mother.


Thank you for visiting with me:)