What makes me smile

June 9, 2020

In this day of the virus, when I don’t go out, I’m compromised by my age, and also I’m going through treatment, and I can’t be exposed to anybody. The only time that I’ve been out in the last two months is to go to the doctor. So I am really isolated. I live alone. I’m the worst person….and I want to dwell on the positives of this experience, which for the most part is generated by the fact that I have five granddaughters, two of whom live in my building, three live in Seattle. But these girls, the two girls that I’m closest with, obviously the ones who live near me, they have given me a tremendous amount of joy in my life. As I hope I have given some to them. But I can’t think about them without smiling, even though I don’t see them! I do see them on FaceTime, and it’s almost as if, given the circumstance, almost as good if they were living here, and here is four floors below me. So they live in the same building, not the same complex, whereas the other three live 3000 miles away. These two are the youngest, they are now 13 and 16. She will be 16 in July. So I am extremely fortunate that I’m very vested in their well being in their learning and their enthusiasm for life and their joy of everything they do. And I feel quite privileged that I have this connection with these girls. For me, it’s more, how should I put this, obviously their blood relations, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to have a close connection.

For me, I think my own enthusiasm, I’ve developed this because I am very excited to have these girls in my life. So starting when they were quite young, I took them to MoMA. We’d go on a weekly basis to have art experiences because I’m a painter by vocation, a landscape painter, and I did train to be an art teacher, but I never did do that. Anyway, I have tried to give these girls, a lot of exposure to experiential learning. But it’s always been fun! It’s not something that I’m educating them, I don’t feel that. I feel like we go through it together and I just get a lot of pleasure in seeing them scatter paint like Jackson Pollock or painting flowers outside like Georgia O’Keeffe. And it’s great because they seem to have captured some of that essence. Even though they were quite young when they were doing this, like starting when they were four or five, they have retained an interest in these activities.

Everyone’s a painter until they’re talked out of it. They’re not painters, they’re children who paint. I consider myself a painter when I choose to paint, I do, when I’ve had a couple of shows, but that’s not the point. I’ve always encouraged them, you know, keep interested in the arts, keep active in the arts. One girl, by her own volition, is actually a dancer. The older one is a dancer. She dances with the School of American Ballet. And she’s continuing dance, she’s now a sophomore in high school and that’s Eliza. And Anya, the younger one, is more of a writer, I would say, but she does a lot of artwork. Actually, all five girls still do artwork. So I am very pleased about that. They both do a lot of artwork.

And I also do a lot of cooking with them. So I suggested that they keep recipes that they’ve made with me by writing them down in their own way. I don’t interfere with it. I didn’t correct spelling or anything. So they had to do a draft and then they did the final product with a drawing. And so over the years, we’ve got a big loose-leaf of their artwork, which now they look back on with all their spelling errors and cute drawings, and it’s kind of wonderful keepsake, you know, I hope they got some of the ingredients correct!

I come from an art background, my grandfather was a lithographer and my uncle was a sculptor. They were in business together in lithography. My father was a doctor, but he also painted, and my father got me interested in painting, by painting side by side with him. It’s a very clear memory that I have my dad. So I was a privileged kid, obviously. I’ve had a lot of exposure to some wonderful things and traveled a lot, but the grandchildren are reliving of myself and my own enthusiasm and sharing it in a way that you can only share with children, who are fresh and new and open to all kinds of activities! And I would say I capitalized on that both for my joy and theirs. And I just get such pleasure out of hearing them talk about their lives, their school, their teachers their friends, everything! So I’m an active participant in their lives I would say.