Memory postcard 3, Me the astronaut

This is what happens when I remember a picture but I can’t find it. I put things together in a way that remind me of it.

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One of my favorite pictures of me as a child was me standing on my grandparent’s porch wearing a plastic astronaut helmet. I’m not sure why that was part of the toy collection. It was larger than my head by far, and had a green visor that could open up. So I could see the world with a green tint, or not.

I can’t find that picture, but I can find this one. It was from around the same time.

I considered making an astronaut helmet for me in this picture – watercolor paper and pencils, green acetate – but then I realized if I did that, my face would be obscured. There is enough of that in the other two memory postcards.

Here is a closer picture of me.

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Then I added the “Women in space” stamp. I’ve used a photocopy of it for another project, but here I’m using the real thing. I love her smile.

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Here are the fortunes.

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I included things to remind me of my childhood and also point towards the future. What instructions would I like to give my former self and my future self?

…message…
My aunt mockingly calls hearing from God – at least when my Dad (her brother) did it – getting “Messages”. I think that she mocks it because she has never heard from God.

…lost penny…
My Mom was big on shiny pennies. She’d give me them for good luck. I’d almost forgotten that. It also reminds me of the parable of the lost coin – how God will go out of the way to find it. We are the lost coins, and we are precious to God.

…Never be less than your dreams…

Seems like a good message for then, now, and future me. My dreams are something to aspire to. And, they are like the mustard seed – from small things can grow big things. I just have to remember that Jesus tells us we have that energy inside us. If God gives us the desire to do something, we can do it. It isn’t just a fantasy – it is the seed of a reality. We have to give it energy to make it grow, and trust the process.

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Memory Postcard 2 – My Mom and me.

Mom and me

I decided to make another memory postcard, but this time with a picture of my Mom and me. I find it interesting that in both of these memory postcards my face is hidden, and water is involved. In the one with my grandmother, my hair is wet because I’ve been swimming in the pool at the Holiday Inn. In this one, I’m totally wet because I’d been swimming in the ocean.

More like near-drowning instead of swimming. I wasn’t a very good swimmer. I’m not a great one now, but I know enough to swim only in pools with lifeguards nearby.

This picture really tugs at my heart. It is really hard for me to look at, because of the look of love in my Mom’s face. I can tell that all of her being is locked right into me in this moment. It has been twenty years and I still miss her.

I felt like I had a great childhood. Some anomalies are rising up, though, that let me know it wasn’t that wonderful. I obscured a lot. I forgot a lot. I also didn’t know what I was missing.

What I was missing was some education. My Mom didn’t teach me how to take care of myself. Gardening, cooking, keeping house, sewing, – she did it all and kept it to herself. I don’t know why. Some of it might have been her attitude of “It is easier to do it myself”. I have some of that attitude. I need to work on it.

I’ve started to talk with my Mom and make peace with her while I bake. I bake banana bread every week as part of our breakfast. We connect this way. It is our time together. In a way, I’m teaching her what I needed to know. I’m becoming the Mom to my Mom, while re-parenting myself.

I mounted it on art paper that was made using dried flowers. I’ve had this paper for at least ten years. This is the first time I’ve used it.

Here’s a shot of the stamps.
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I used a lot of stamps because I feel like it is a long way between her and me, and it needs a lot of postage. I put the one with the Queen first, because Mom was English. I like this one especially, because the building looks like it is Mont-St.-Michel, which is the original of St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall. I visited there when I took Mom’s ashes to scatter. She couldn’t decide if she wanted her ashes in the backyard in her garden or in England. Cremation is easy. You can do both.

I’ve since moved, so I can’t visit or tend her garden. I have only visited England that one time.

I put a rose stamp because her ashes are mixed with the ashes of her parents and grandparents in a rose garden in Manchester. I put a morning glory stamp because it is beautiful and temporary, and they grow wild in my yard. This links there and here, where I am. This also reminds me to appreciate beauty wherever I may find it, and right then, because it won’t last long.

Here’s a close-up of the two of us together.

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Such a shining smile she was giving me. I probably didn’t see it at the time. I was probably freaked out by the ocean. There are way too many experiences with me, my Mom, and uncontrolled water in my life.

Top left corner –
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“A fond memory will soon lead to a renewed old friendship.” – I’m learning how to see my Mom as a friend and a guide. I’m learning, slowly, how to forgive her.

Lower left corner.
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“Rely on long time friends to give you advice this coming week.” She advises me, now.

Lower right corner.
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“Now is a good time to call a loved one at a distance from you.” You can’t get any further away than where she is, yet she is as close as my thoughts. I have to remind myself to keep the connection open.

“A friend will soon reveal an exciting secret to you!” – I felt like this was relevant. Perhaps prophetic?

Memory postcard – me and my grandmother

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This is a “postcard” of me and my grandmother. She is the only grandmother that I knew. She was my father’s mother, and her name was Mary Frances. I called her Mama. My mother’s mother died before I was born.

My aunt sent me this picture recently. I’d never seen it, but I knew when it was taken. There is another picture of me from that same day, wearing those same clothes. It, however, has all of me and not just half. I’m not sure where that picture is anymore. Probably in a box in a closet. I’d had this picture sitting out for a while. It needed to be put in a frame of some sort. It needed something.

Here’s a closer picture of the photo that started it all.

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The back of the picture says “Betsy and me at the Holiday Inn, Chattanooga”. It is written in blue ballpoint pen in my grandmother’s handwriting. The printing on the side of the picture says “Jun 71”, so I was two years old. I’d been swimming – my hair is wet. I was cold, and my grandmother has put her ever-present white sweater on me to keep me warm. Yes, my hair is wet, and I’m not wearing a swimsuit. So that means I was changed into normal clothes and nobody dried my hair. My grandmother has her handbag nearby. This is big and stiff and white, like all of her purses. The one I remember the most was a white wicker contraption. It was fascinating.

I spent most of yesterday sorting my stamp collection and my collection of fortunes from fortune cookies. I have a slightly disturbing amount of both. Fortunately they are tiny paper things, so having a lot of them doesn’t take up a lot of space. I pulled out ones I liked as I was sorting, with no particular idea what I was going to do with them. At night I knew – put some of them together with this picture. It is like a postcard of memories.

The fortunes all have meanings for me. They are like pithy snapshots all to themselves.

Here’s a closer picture of the first three.

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“Travelling to the south will bring you unexpected happiness.”
There were two of these fortunes in the collection, and I’m amused by how specific they are. The south – not the north, not just traveling, but the south. I found it interesting, so I pulled them aside. Now I know why. I went south to visit my grandparents every summer for two weeks while I was growing up. We’d drive down as a family to meet up with my grandparents in Gadsden, Alabama and go to Noccalula Falls. It was halfway. Then my parents would drive back home, and my grandparents would drive the rest of the way to Birmingham with me in the car. Two weeks later they would reverse the procedure to return me.

Was it unexpected happiness? It was certainly different from the norm. My grandparents slept in separate rooms. My grandmother had two single beds in her room. I’d sleep in the one closest to the wall. The blankets were white with pom poms on them. The “Birmingham fairy” would visit and there would be a present under my pillow. Was it every night? Or just the first night? I don’t remember. No teeth had to fall out to get a present. It was just for being there. I remember being stunned how it happened. I’d see something I liked at a store we would visit and it would show up under my pillow the next morning. It was magic. I never saw my grandmother buy anything that I later got under my pillow. She was part elf, I think. She taught me how to palm money, but that is another story.

At night she would give me chocolate milk to drink, and in the morning she would put sugar in my orange juice. She’d also put a packet of sugar in my applesauce when we went out to eat. We went out to eat every meal. Really. Every meal. “Grandmother’s cooking” means nothing to me. When I think of food associated with my grandmother, I think of the Piccadilly café. Buffet lines were the norm. She didn’t cook. The only time I saw her use the stove was to dry of my shoes if I’d played outside in the rain, or to heat up mud pies that I made in little cast iron skillets.

Real mud. In the stove. Why she didn’t insist that I put them outside in the sun to dry is beyond me. That was my grandmother.

We slept with the windows open. There was no central air in that house. That wasn’t a problem for me because I grew up that way. I’d go to sleep listening to the sound of the train whistles nearby. It is part of why I got a house close to trains. I love that sound. It reminds me of those summers, sleeping in her room, getting presents under my pillow.

“You have at your command the wisdom of the ages”
I bought my first real computer, a Gateway, with the money from my grandparent’s estate. I’d gotten this Chinese fortune around the same time. It seemed an appropriate thing to tape to the monitor. I also taped my grandmother’s name to it, as a reminder of who to be thankful to. I wrote it out in a fancy old script.

“You will discover the truth in time.”
I feel there are a lot of things I don’t know about my family. Something about this speaks to me. I’m uncovering and recovering a lot about my history through writing, art, and prayer. Things are coming back to me, things I never knew were lost. It is beautiful and difficult at the same time. There is a lot that is hidden, that I intentionally forgot. I ask Jesus into it, and it helps.

Here’s a closer picture of the last ones.

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“You find beauty in ordinary things. Do not lose this ability.”
My grandmother was very child-like. Not childish. She knew how to play. She was clever and creative and fun and whimsical. She wasn’t an adult, really, but I don’t know whether that was intentional or was the result of my grandfather’s overbearing nature. Or, was that simply the side of her that I saw?

I like this fortune because it speaks to how I make jewelry, seeing beauty in the everyday. I make treasures out of things that other people see as trash or overlook. Alchemy is part of it – turning lead into gold.

“Choosing what you want to do, and when to do it, is an act of creation.”
I feel this is a message to me from my grandmother. It and the stamp speak to me about the same thing.

Here’s a closer picture of the stamp.

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The stamp is a French stamp, and it reminds me that my grandmother was fluent in French and German, and taught both of them before she got married. When she got married, her husband insisted that she not work. He felt it was shameful to him for his wife to have to work- that it said that he was not a good provider.

Problem is, she liked teaching. She liked translating. She wanted to. But he didn’t want her to, and he won.

This reminds me of the fact that her mother wasn’t allowed to be who she wanted to be either. She wasn’t allowed to work or even to cook. It too was seen as shameful for the woman of the house to work, outside or inside the house. Her husband owned several pipe foundries and made lots of money. He hired cooks and maids. She was allowed to do needlepoint. It wasn’t pretty. It was brittle, and stiff. I feel like she was that way too. A person’s art tells you a lot about the person.

They both were stunted. It was a bonsai kind of a life. But not beautiful, like a bonsai.

This is interesting to me to realize. Both women were “free” of the traditional roles of women, and they suffered because of it. One wanted to work outside of the home. One wanted to cook and take care of the house. Neither woman was allowed to, because it would hurt the pride of their husbands.

This is what I mean about how I’m uncovering the truth through my artwork. I’ve learned quite a bit and put together quite a number of pieces this way. Things make more sense.

So then I look up how to spell Noccalula, and I find out more about the story. This is from Wikipedia. She was a “Cherokee maiden who, according to local legends, plunged to her death after being ordered by her father to marry a man she didn’t love.” Fascinating. It ties into these other women -my grandmother, and her mother. They didn’t kill themselves, but they let a part of themselves die when they got married.

I’m not anti-marriage at all. And I’m not saying that women need to work or cook to feel fulfilled. But what I am saying is that people should feel free to be who they are, and do what they want. Other people should not make decisions for them as to what they think is best for them. This applies to parents and spouses, regardless of gender. To suppress yourself in order to appease a family member is the most damaging thing you can do. It is the heart of codependency.

(I have this collage framed in a simple pop-together frame. I’ve taken it out of the frame for the pictures.)