Day 3. Biting. Chewing.

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“Love Tomatoes” 6×6, oil on canvas, $75 [button link=”http://www.dailypaintworks.com/fineart/denise-hopkins/love-tomatoes/254604″ type=”big”] Buy Now[/button] SOLD

What does it mean if at the end of day two I felt completely spent, ready to quit, decidedly convinced that I have in fact bitten off more than I can chew?

One bite at a time. I suppose. Paint today and don’t worry about tomorrow.  Donna, whom I wrote about on day one, pinned something on pinterest today that said “worrying is literally betting against yourself.” 

By the way, I still need your stories 😉

My dear friend Robyn doesn’t have facebook, and despite my years of gentle prompting, she still refuses. Since facebook is my primary mode of getting people to this blog, I know she misses things. I sent her a link to my September challenge and she immediately responded. She sent me a story through my contact form on the website, but for whatever reason it didn’t come through. I’ve received many e-mails through it before and I quickly sent myself one to check. Everything seemed to be working okay, but I bring it up because if you happened to send me something and didn’t get a response from me, it’s because I didn’t get it.  I ALWAYS respond. If you’re thinking of sharing a story with me, please send it to [email protected].

Robyn ended up sending me her story via text message. Yep. She re-wrote it after the original got lost somewhere in cyberspace. Which is kind of the person she is. She doesn’t give up particularly if you’re in need.

She said the original story was better, but I’m not convinced.

Robyn and I met in elementary school and in junior high sealed our life-long friendship by taking turns sleeping over at one another’s houses, making scrapbooks (yes, scrapbooks) of our crushes (both real and celebrity) and spending hours planning phone calls to boys that would end the second said boy answered. We also wrote poems and then let each other read them, slid the notebook of our very rhymey poems self-consciously to one another and then waited for a “wow, that’s really good.” Robyn’s immensely supportive.

She’d moved to Louisiana from Texas as a small child. She has three older siblings and her mom was so kind, loving, and generous that I don’t think I ever much noticed that she was a single mom or that Robyn’s father was missing from their home. To me her home felt complete, safe, lovely. Of all my childhood friends homes, hers was the one I most liked visiting.

Now that we are adults with families of our own, we understand our childhood homes with something at least akin to perspective. I appreciate both Robyn’s mother and Robyn’s groundedness and good nature more now.

Robyn’s long text started with an explanation of her mom’s financial constraints when Robyn was very young. After all, she had four children and one income. Robyn explained, “She did everything in her power to provide for us” and yet, somehow it was still a struggle. In that struggle, Robyn’s grandparents often brought over groceries.

Robyn wrote, “Over time, these drop off turned into just that– drop offs. No chatting. No affection. Just an exchange of goods.”

Robyn explains it wasn’t a lack of love on either side but a lack of verbalization of that love. She remembers one particular “drop off” vividly.  Her grandparents brought fresh tomatoes and milk:

“I had a sudden, unignorable feeling to hug my grandma and tell her I love her. I remember during the quick “exchange” telling myself– that’s silly– she will think I am silly. I remember rushing the words out of my mouth, “Thank you, Grandma. I love you,” and wrapping my arms around her neck. I can still hear her somewhat shocked but touched voice reply, “I love you too, baby”. That was the last time I saw her. I thank God every day that I listened to myself and spoke my heart.”

I’ve never met either of Robyn’s grandparents, and we’ve never much spoken of them in the countless hours we’ve spoken– as children in our rooms pouring over magazines and yearbooks and later in her backyard over beer for her, wine for me.

Robyn’s text ends with this:

“My point to this story is little routine things in life– such as drop offs of milk and tomatoes are much more valuable than they appear on the surface. It was an expression of love. It was my grandma’s way of showing her love. I make it a point to always listen to the voice within my heart– and I try not to miss opportunities to tell the people that I love how much I love them.”

I can attest that the last part is true. If you ever find yourself lucky enough to end up in Robyn’s backyard on a Friday night, and particularly if she’s already one beer in, she’ll probably tell you she loves you. And the crazy part is, she’ll mean it.

I’ve not attempted a still life in quite some time, but I bought the freshest looking tomatoes I could find yesterday at Fresh market.  I’m not sure how I feel about still life in general, but I love that objects take on the meanings with which we invest them. These are love tomatoes.

 

Painting a still life wore me out so if I paint a bird tomorrow don’t be surprised. Here’s to biting off more than you can chew.  And to being kind.  And to love.

 

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Denise Hopkins

September 3, 2014

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