Happy 86th Birthday, Dad

My Dad, who turns 86 in a few days, published a book in January. My last blog post was celebrating still being creative, and creating, at age 85. But the beauty of creating at this late stage is that all the years’ of joy and sadness of life are also layered into the art. This is also true of my Dad’s book.

My parents were married for 58 years. And all the events described in Dads book were also a tribute to and love song for my Mom, who passed in 2013. She helped him start the book, but she didn’t see Dad finish it and get it published. Most times that I talk with Dad about his book, he comments that he wished Mom could have seen it published.

So I decided to create an art piece that visually demonstrates The physicality of Moms presence in Dads story. I took my favorite photo of them and created a piece of strip book art on the pages of Dads book. The picture is literally cut into strips and glued to the edge of the pages.

Mom and Dad circa 2005 (?)

I had to use two copies of the book in order to have enough pages to fully incorporate the image and to have enough strength and stability to hold the piece together. But I like to think I needed two books just like they needed each other to have the strength and wisdom to make it through their life together.

The gold button on the ribbon is a reference to old family stories. Though Mom and Dad grew up in the same town, they didn’t start dating until Dad was at West Point. Mom always claimed he was too much of a cut up in high school for her. Dad always said she was attracted to the gold buttons on his cadet uniform.

This is a deeply personal piece. On the surface, it’s a lovely, but perhaps more crafted than artistic, representation of an old photo. It’s when I explain the interconnected meanings of the parts that the depth of the whole comes into perspective. Happy Birthday, Dad. I hope you like it.

Mom’s Day on Father’s Day

For an inexplicable reason, this year, my Mom was with me for Father’s Day. Maybe it was because it would have been my parents’ 61st wedding anniversary that day as well. I felt her presence all day. First, I decided that I wanted to make her German Potato salad. I found the recipe tucked in my old recipe file box — the one with the lid coming off that survived Hurricane Harvey. I’d hand-written the recipe down on a scrap piece of paper while I talked to her on the phone, and it is complete with illegible shorthand like ‘pot’ for potatoes. The potato salad was great though, just like I remembered it!

Then my youngest daughter decided that, along with the flourless chocolate cake she was making, she would also make whip cream from scratch to top the cake. My Mom always made her own whip cream. It was a tradition at Thanksgiving — after the main meal, we made the whip cream for the pie while the table was cleared. Always using a hand beater. I explained to Devon that, at some point in the really distant past, my Mom had made the whip cream with an electric beater and she’d beat it too long and the whip cream turned to butter. So forever after that, when we made whip cream, it had to be with an old-fashioned hand beater.

But I don’t have a hand beater any more. So we had to use the stand mixer. And I’d made Devon nervous about turning her first attempt to make whip cream, into butter. So as the whip cream got stiffer and stiffer, Devon would call me over, open up the stand mixer and say, “is it ready?” And every time I peered into that bowl to check the whip cream, I felt my Mom’s hand on my shoulder, leaning in to look too. Then, with a gentle shake, we’d both step back and say, “not yet . . . keep going.” I think Mom and I checked the whip cream 4 times before we both nodded our heads, satisfied that what was in the bowl was stiff enough, but not too stiff.

Needless to say, the whip cream was delicious too, the perfect topping for the cakes. I’m not sure how Mom knew that I needed her that Father’s Day more than Dad did. But Mom’s know these things, don’t they?