My great-grandmother was born in 1905. She was a redhead though I never saw it. Her full head of thick, wiry white hair made its appearance long before I was born in 1981. Her name was Pansy, and to this day I can’t look at those delicate little flowers without thinking about her. Over the years, I’ve come to adore all flower names for people. If my son Ezra had been a girl, Rose, Camille, and Violet would have been strong contenders.
Pansy, or as we called her, “Granny”, had a drawer full of previously used and cleaned saran wrap and tin foil, folded up and ready to use again. She saved coffee cans and ziplock bags. There was nothing that could not be repurposed. She paired the nicer Mardi Gras beads with her favorite outfits.
I watched her make a carrot cake once. I was ready to throw the bowl in the sink after pouring the batter into the pan to be baked. She told me no. I still have never seen someone scrape the batter so cleanly and thoroughly into the baking pan such that not a speck of it could be seen left clinging to the mixing bowl. Spotless. None of our efforts wasted.
I suppose a great depression can do that to a person and then reach through generations. I think about my great grandmother when I discover forgotten leftovers in the back corner of the fridge and have to throw them away. I may as well be some kind of celebrity on my way to a Gatsby party with that kind of aloof, flashy wealth.
These days, I find myself eating the heel of the bread, rationing the toilet paper I never once thought about before, choosing foods that come in cans and have long shelf lives. I am using what I have, rather than running to the store at my slightest whim or fancy. Thank you, Granny, for modeling for me the preciousness of every resource.
I can see today’s flowers (especially the vase, which I’ve made up entirely) on a table at my great grandmother’s condo next to a carrot cake freshly made. She delighted in simple, pretty things, held onto them for years and could tell you long and winding origin stories about them. In fact, now that I think about it, she had a clock on the wall with a different bird on each hour. To her delight, the clock would chirp. Could that memory be the gentle force that stirs in my heart every time I see or paint a bird?
I hope you enjoy today’s painting. I’m also including Granny’s famous carrot cake recipe (in her own handwriting). If you decide to give it a go, please let me know. And please, try to get every speck of batter into the pan. Granny would hate to see anything she’s inspired go to waste.