This story by Sarah M. really touched me and I’m so happy to be able to share it with you. I love the storied life that “Gretchen” the painting has had and the way Sarah tells her tale. If you’re interested in participating in this project, read this post and send an email to megan AT urbancasita.com. Read past Memento Monday features here.
My Grandma died in ’04 and my Grandpa in ’97. Grandma was the most lovely lady on the planet (don’t we all say that about our grandmas, they couldn’t be more perfect), she had the personality I aspire to have when I grow up! This picture was hanging in their living room above the TV for my whole life, maybe since the insouciant ’60s until Grandpa died in ’97, and it moved to the new house, which eventually lead to the nursing home that she lived in until her untimely death in ’04.
Back in the 60s my grandparents went to Loblaws (which apparently only exists in Canada now). My grandparents had collected enough S&H stamps throughout their shopping years that they turned in their stamps for Gretchen, this little girl eating cookies in a chair. I am not sure if Gretchen is the name that she came with, or if someone in my family named her. I can only assume it’s the latter, because we are Italian and Gretchen is Dutch or Norwegian… or just not Italian!
I remember being in my Grandparents house every Sunday for family dinner and was also there often in the summers, by myself while my parents worked and they “babysat” me. Grandpa was ALWAYS on the couch dozing off to the Mets, and I would try to sneak and change the channel. It never worked so I often found myself staring at Gretchen out of boredom. And I never realized how beautiful she is, with her blonde hair, and little blue dress and red sneakers her chocolatey hands from her cookies.
I forgot about Gretchen as life went on. I forgot she was a staple in the house, and after Grandpa died, Grandma moved in with my Uncle and his new wife. This new woman didn’t want any of Grandma’s stuff in “her house”, or showing at least, so Gretchen was tucked away, probably on Grandma’s wall in her room, because she loved her so much. But I never saw Grandma’s room, because when we did see Grandma, she was at the kitchen table, and since we had moved to Michigan by then (this all was in Rochester, NY) we weren’t around like we used to be.
When the decision came to move into the nursing home, Gretchen was right along with the move. I remember her hanging on the wall directly across from Grandma’s bed. So she can see her at all times. This is another case of us not seeing her often due to the Michigan move. But I remember vividly the day she died. As I held her hand and watched her cry one last tear, I thought about all the things I would miss about her. She was a woman of very few words. But I would miss her smile most. As the week preceding her death went on, I looked up with tears in my eyes, just trying to find some peace within, and I saw Gretchen. Everyone else was concerned with who was going to get different knickknacks. I claimed this little girl that had been in my life for years. A symbol of my own childhood, a symbol of a warm loving family. Nobody objected. In fact, I believe that she would have ended up in a pile of other pictures with other people’s memories attached to them, at a Salvation Army in Upstate New York. And when no one bought her, she would just begin to break down.
Ever since I have had her, she has been in a hallway of mine. When I lived in Detroit, we had a LONG hallway connecting the kitchen with the rest of the house, and this was the first picture visible when you left the bathroom in Detroit, as well as in Ferndale. And I am thankful that none of my roommates ever objected to her being hung so obviously. She hasn’t been placed above the TV yet, but she still has time in her life!
Now she sits in my room as I make a transition, living back with my parents. Waiting for the day when I move ANYPLACE and put her on the wall. She is my connection (besides my memories) to my Grandma (more than my Grandpa at this point) but also my connection to what was, as a child and as a little girl, and as a New Yorker.
That’s my story about my favorite picture ever!
Thanks for listening.
Thank you, Sarah!