Beginnings


I remember being led by my mother through the house of one of her friends, walls blank and boring under the twiggy wreaths and framed mirrors.  I tugged at my mother's long skirt.  "Where are their paintings?" I wanted to know.  My mother is an artist; so is my grandmother.  I began to realize that our walls were covered with oil paintings and ink drawings where other people hung Olan Mills portraits and fake magnolias.  Did I understand then that my mother made good paintings?  Probably not.  But I was very much aware at that moment that art is not made in all houses.
      I also remember sitting on my mother's lap in my grandmother's porch, near an iced watermelon in an aluminum tub, the three of us separated from dusk and the hum of cicadas by the screen and frame of a wooden porch.  The furniture was yellow iron and fern-pattered fabric, faded by sunlight and mildewed by rain.  I pretended to be asleep, my ear to my mother's heart and she rocked and gossiped, her voice reduced from words to sound in the lazy back-and-forth of talk.  I remember still feeling that adults talked about boring things, static things, but with her voice in one ear and my grandmother's, from a distance, in the other, I couldn't stop listening.  
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