Sunday, August 23, 2009


I have original art all over my home, I'm very proud to say. And while I am currently working on expanding my northern art cache, I want to tell you all about my Nanny's paintings.
Nanny was my Dad's mother, not hired help as her name implies. She immigrated to Canada from England under auspicious circumstances she took to the grave. She lived in the Glebe with my Boompa and, until I was nine, hosted a great many visits from us. Every time we went to Third Ave, we pushed open the big heavy door, gave hugs and kisses, kicked off our Velcro shoes and darted for the buffet. We did this because upon every visit, Nanny would leave Mrs. National cookies for us in the side drawer of the buffet. Treats! Mom made sure we ate them over the course of a few days at home. We would drink our tea, sometimes sit in the back garden, venture to the attic to play with the Rosemary doll and my Dad's old G.I. Joes, and laugh at the old pictures of my Dad with big hair. Each visit, my Nanny would take my hand in hers and guide me up to her studio. There she would show me the latest painting she was working on. She did watercolours, mainly flowers but she diverted to extraordinary scenes. Sometimes a crowded underwater or picnic scene, sometimes a simple portrait of mother and baby. All beautiful.
And while my cousins, aunts and uncles are left with more numerous fond memories of her kind and gentle warmth than I, because of my young age when she died, we are all left wit a number of her paintings. In our house, I have my favourite: a scene of angels in pink dresses playing in the clouds wit their balloons. This one Nanny made for my nursery when I was born. It is now in Abby's room over er future big girl bed.
We have a large painting of a branch of lilies where she uses a thick black outlining of key elements, matted in green, framed in brass. On the opposite wall in my dining room is a smaller picture of a plant in a terra cotta pot, matted in green, framed in cherry wood. In my kitchen I have a dark ink painting she called, "Looking out and Lost Herself for Awhile" of a woman shouting, and she signed it Sheila Campbell, her maiden name, My aunt explained to me she took the idea from a book and did it when she was quite young. And still, it is beautiful and age is not indicated.
In my guest room I have not a painting of her but one of my favourite photographs. I must have an auntie tell me more about it, but in it my Nanny, a young girl maybe in her late teens or early twenties, looks adoringly at her black puppy on a windowsill. I think my Nanny and I look a lot alike.
I have many stories, photographs, pieces of costume jewelry and of course paintings, all clues through which I can better identify with my Nanny. I miss her, and I wish I could have had the chance to know more of her.

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