My First Best Friend

There are a million reasons why I haven’t been around much lately, including losing the charger for my camera’s battery.  Yes, I know I could buy a new one, but I’m sure I’ll find it soon!

And now here I am, and I am not giving you a bunch of my photos to look at, but I do have some exciting news.  My submission was accepted to a show at The Florida Museum for Women Artists here in DeLand!  It’s not a photo, and it’s not even my own art piece, but an essay that I wrote about my neighbor across the street when I was growing up, accompanied by a reproduction of one of her watercolors of my own house on a snowy day.  If you’ve read my About Me section, you know that I didn’t grow up in Florida, so I guess this really isn’t much of a Florida post.  Except that the museum is in Florida.

house in snow

The show is called Applaud that Woman! and runs from this Saturday through March 30.  It’s part of a bigger exhibition called Connect 3.  Here’s a link:

For those of you who are too far away to come see it in person, here’s my essay.

To my first best friend, Mrs. Keith

 Every year at Christmas time, I look at teacups, choosing the perfect one for you.  I may not be able to give it to you anymore, but I always choose the one you would have loved.

 In my garden this year, I planted impatiens, red and white, just like you always had.  I didn’t have any azaleas to plant them under, and the sun in my yard is strong, but I found the shadiest spot, hoping I could coax them to survive and come back again.  They are still there, even though it is January now, so maybe I did it right.

Others may go on trips out to the country to pick apples, but the ones I want to pick are the sour apples from your back yard, being careful to find the good ones, without the lumpy worm tracks.

I loved leaving you May baskets, ringing your bell and running away to hide, even though you knew who left it.  I couldn’t imagine making a loaf of bread without taking one to you.

Then there were the treasure hunts in your basement, with peanuts and pennies and dimes, when I had to share you with the neighbor kids, but I didn’t even mind.

You would have me do chores for you, weeding, picking apples, and carrying things down from your attic.  You always paid me, but I would have done it all for free.  The money got spent on candy, but the time was spent with you.

My favorite times were teatimes, sometimes alone with you, sometimes with Pete, or Cathy.  We drank tea from beautiful cups, and always with a cookie, or cake.  You served an apple brown betty one day, warm from the oven, the first one I’d ever had.  Before that, I always thought that apples were for pies or eating out of hand.  One time, when you were out of cookies and had baked nothing, you served ice cream slices.  Even though I never cared much for Neapolitan ice cream, I loved those slices.

They don’t make those ice cream slices anymore, but I still love to drink tea.

Everywhere else I went, I was a wild tomboy, but you always treated me as if I were a lady.  And when I was with you, I was a lady.  We would talk about baking, about history, and about painting.  Your memories of Arlington, and of our neighborhood being built inspired my imagination, making me think of what had been and what could be.

No matter how many times I came over to see you, I don’t remember ever seeing you when you were not smiling, or when you were not happy to see me.

In every aspect of my life, there are traces of your influence, so entrained in me that I have to think hard to realize where they came from.

I hope I let you know how much you will always mean to me.

Clara Keith, nee Stewart, was my neighbor across the street when I was a child.  She was an accomplished artist, and a friend to the neighborhood children, especially me.  Although I never knew her age when she was alive, I recently found out that she was born April 3, 1904 and died in 2004 at the age of 100.  The accompanying watercolor was done sometime around 1980, and depicts my own house in a snowstorm.

I promise I’ll get my camera back out soon.



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