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April 2018, vol 14 no 1

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Teri White Carns

Grandmothers' Eyes

When I was eight, I wanted to be Grandma Moses painting worlds for people to live in. I wanted to be painting pictures that when you looked at them you would climb in to march alongside the bands at the fair, or you would see all of Brookfield Zoo laid out with the hippo yawning in this corner, and the flamingos strutting through their ponds by the gate.

When I was twenty, my Grandma Nelle was in her mid-eighties. After several strokes changed her view of the world, she would stop in the middle of a conversation and tell us about the angels she was seeing. My mother wanted her to come back to us and listen to talk about the grandsons’ ball games. I didn’t much care about the boys’ ball games either. Grandma Nelle’s angels lived in a world much more worth climbing into.

When I was 50 I discovered a folk art museum: rooms full of plaster and wooden people playing music in the town squares and visiting around dinner tables. In one porcelain scene, a bakery maiden had stopped what she was doing, her hand on a loaf of bread, and her eyes looking up just like Grandma Nelle’s. Her customer stood nearby looking at pastries in the glass case and gossiping, maybe about some handsome boy at the ball game in the next scene over.

When I am eighty and painting worlds like Grandma Moses, there will always be someone in my pictures looking up. It might be cheating to see angels through the eyes of failing elders and porcelain statues. I’ll take it.

grasshopper singing
remembered at winter hearth
the ants forgotten