Thursday, September 17, 2009

Love letter

A few years ago I wrote this letter to my husband.
At that time he had a vague idea of what I wrote, today he would not be able to understand any of it.
It is important during this journey to tell them what you feel and what their lives did for you.
It is important, believe me.

Here is my letter and I have to say that I found it in a very "safe" place of his.

If I count every stage in our life by quarters then we are in our winter.
I’d prefer to say that we are in our autumn but what the heck,
I just stepped into winter. You, my dear, are a little bit ahead of me.
You wanted to be a Gemini and wanted to be born the same year as the
Queen of England. How grand was that!

You entered in our summer and indeed what a summer it turned out
to be!!!The long hot summer with all the riches of a blooming love affair,
a few thunderstorms, and most of all travel.

My spring is rather a season I like to forget. The ideal childhood , it was not to be.
The ideal first marriage way before I stepped into summer and that too
was rather a time to forget.

You, my best friend, came into my life in a California “antique mall” , probably the first in California. I use the word “antique” loosely as it was more a mall
with mini shops full of “what have you’s”.

You had the best, the creme de la creme. You had REAL antiques. In those
California days everything had to be 100 years old before we called it an antique.
You also had some of the finest art on your walls which I thought were
printed reproductions. You were offended, it was your original work.
I said : what the heck are you doing in this place with such art?
With all my suggestions you curled up your nose. No, you did not want to
show at the bank. No, you did not want to show in small town Santa Cruz.
You had just come from San Francisco, thank you very much. You had
shows in the best galleries.

You had fled from the hippies as you lived, heavens no!!On the corner
of Haight and Hasbury . In a large Victorian flat you had freedom, the
city ,a job here and there and lots of ice cream which became meals.
But when this long haired crowd slept in your doorway and their dogs
decorated all of Haight street , it was a bit much for this “square” to take in.

Bohemian you had not turned into. Even so you were a frequent visitor to
the Purple Onion, (Yes , Streisand was there when no one knew her)
and you were invited to all the wild ballet and artists parties.
You rubbed elbows with Gregory Peck and only knew it when you saw
your picture next to him at a later date. Of course the wine did help
with memory losses.

You had a girlfriend for awhile but she was twice your age and had a son
your age who was a cop. It was a short lived fling with too much wine,
or so you told me much later.
So you had moved back to your home town, Santa Cruz.
That old town had a gorgeous boardwalk decorated by a nice Pier, lovely white sand and a great tourist attraction.

Your youth had been there with 7 siblings and a great laid back mother.
Your father had been a house painter with a great reputation but he had
asthma and his work would bring on attack after attack.
Riches you guys never had but there was camaraderie with the kids.
By WW2 Florence had 4 stars in her window indicating that she had
4 sons in the war. They all came back but brother Earl was badly damaged
in his mental state. He had lived and fought in the worst battles of the Pacific
including the Marauders. He took to drinking to forget. He was a lost soul after
that war.

You, being the youngest of the boys went in on your 18th birthday.
You were a few weeks short of graduating in High School.
You had dreams of becoming an artist but you did not know how
you would accomplish that.

The war helped because there was a GI Bill and with that you could go
on to college in Salinas and to the Chouinard Art Institute.

During your art school years you learned about architecture, costumes (Edith Head was one of your teachers) , animation, life drawing and commercial.
You wanted to be come an animation artist for Disney. You were totally charmed
with Snow White and Fantasia. You also learned about Opera and became a
fan.

So after you finished in Chouinard you went to the city by the Golden Gate and
hoped to make it with your paintings. Disney was not paying enough to your liking.
You made friends very quickly in the art circles and in the ballet circles and
worked intermittently in a mattress factory and in the shipping department at
Macy’s.

You acquired a new taste, you knew what a Louis XV table should look like
and you acquired one, you bought old paintings and traded yours for them
or other chores. Once you babysat two dogs for an old painting.
In the mid 1950’s you scrimped and saved to go to Europe. You went with
a friend to London, Amsterdam and Madrid. You visited all the opera houses
in each city and even sat in a command performance in Amsterdam when
the Queen came with King Salassi . Queen Wilhemina looked like a diamond mine she had her tiara on plus pins and necklaces etc....you and Russell sat
in jeans as your luggage had not yet arrived from the boat. It is a wonder that
they did not throw you out.

You saw the diva Maria Callas in Medea in Rome and you were enchanted.
I do not know how many times I had to hear about La Callas.
She received one of your paintings as a gift from a well known tenor
and his name escapes me now. He bought it in Marbella , Spain.

So by the time I got to know you, you were a bit of snob.
I did not even like you at first.
You were not tall and dark haired. You were not a big flirt.
You did not dance. You did not like the Beatles nor Elvis and
could not stand Liberace. I heard about all these opera singers and
I thought that this man was just a bit off my scale.
I liked the tall dark and handsome , rogues.
I would fall for the worst of the worst. I had poor taste in
what would be a steady guy.

We were friends for months as I was going through my divorce.
Neither of us had a hint of what was happening.
We had our shop next to each other in the mall and business was not exactly thriving. We had plenty of time to talk about our past lives.
Neither one of us knew what a future life would be like.

I was scared not to make it with my 2 girls, my mother wanted me back
in Belgium and dangled a home for all 3 of us in front of my nose.
I did not bite!

A recession was starting and the Viet Nam war started to make the pot
broil in America. I just did not have time to worry about that, I had
2 girls and drugs started to come into the San Lorenzo Valley where I lived.

One week end you went to the big city to see “Louise”. I figured that
you had a girlfriend there which you did not mention before and suddenly
I decided that I did not like that. I was a bit jealous.
Upon your return I asked about Louise and you said that the opera
was just fabulous! An Opera named “Louise” I asked?
Yup that is what he went to see.
The knees can stop shaking now!!!!!

When I came back from the court house after filing for my divorce on the
final note you took me behind the clothes rack and kissed me.
Wow! You told me then that you did not want to upset anything and be in
a three some situation. You wanted to be sure I was finished with
my marriage.

I had suffered for 7 years now with arthritis, my feet often were so swollen that all I could wear were flip flops. My hands did not have bones anymore, all you saw was swelling. There came a time in our courtship that I also could not move my
arms in an upward motion. You decided you would move in with the girls and
I and take care of me.

You probably had more to do than you bargained for.
It was not a sexual relationship by any stretch as I was in so much pain.
All sorts of remedies were given to me.
One in particular was to take a very hot bath, drain it and then a very very cold bath and back again to hot. By the time we did all this I was like a limp rag doll
and you had to carry me to bed.

I could no longer brush the girls long hair, I could not lift the coffee pot,
and the steps to the house were pure torture.
Ironing was out of the question so you did it all.
You put the braids in the girls hair and ironed their dresses before school.
You did not drive so you walked to the grocery store and did our meals.
Not the best meals but I was helped to the max.
Your best dish was soup, unfortunately we had to eat it with a fork and knife.

You moved in and changed my life.
People say that we can’t change but I sure did.
Afraid of my own shadow, believing I was not worth to be anything in this world.
I had tried suicide and only got very sick.
Now I had this man watching over me like a hawk and giving me all
the love a person needs to come out of this self fabricated shell.

That was not all that changed, in that former life I had been very happy
with my Goodwill furniture. Couches with wagon wheels for armrests
and Sears braided rugs. Lamps made from old cacti and crochet doilies.
Enter Bob Kensinger with his 19th Century paintings plus his own.
Oriental rugs filled the 20 foot living room , the Louis XV table and
a collection of mint in box 50 or more complete operas.
All soon to meet with 2 anxious girls and scratchy needles on the RCA
console.
Ivory statues lined my shelves , Sanwhich glass , satin glass , and
candle holders of all types came into view and were put on display.
I had little to say about it all. Kensinger was decorating.
My friend April kept asking me if he was gay.

The teaching of Jeannot had begun.
This is an etching, this is a monochromatic, this is a wood cut, this is
a reproduction (curl up your nose or throw up!) this is a watercolor, this is a tempera, this is out of drawing, this is a hack this is a genius.
This glass was made in the 18th century, this glass has lead in it
this glass from England has gold in it. This pattern is the horn of plenty do not confuse it with the peacock pattern.
This is Vienese not to be confused with Venetian.
My head was spinning.

However by 1968 a very young man with dreams of making it big (he did)
bought an old building in Boulder Creek and opened a REAL ANTIQUE
Mall. We opened up our first shop together. You had several shops in San Francisco
but this was my first antique adventure.

It was a real challenge to learn all the art glass and patterned glass so
collectable in those days. Ruth Webb Lee’s book was my bible.
I learned the patterns, I studied the patterns in sterling and
coin silver. The girls learned about sterling and would pick out all
the pieces at flea market sales.

The woman with Sears rugs had blossomed into a snob just like Bob.
Ouch!!!Oriental rugs are still my favorites. In the winter of my years
I do have pains when I sell a piece of art glass.
I can’t believe that I have purchased repros at Steinmart.
But then I also can’t believe that I have done all this learning from
just one person.

You , my life partner, made me see The Last Super by Dali in
Washington, observe the fabulous windows at the Cathedral in Rhemes.
Walk around Rubens house in Antwerp and feel the spirit of this great Flemish painter. You made me SEE the Adoration of the Lamb God in my
home town after I had seen it so many times before.
You made it so that I knew a Cannoletti as we walked to our room
in Venice and saw them lined up on the wall.
You thaught me that to you a wrinkled beggar woman in Rome was more beautiful
than all the Gina’s walking around us.
We were laying down in the Sistine Chapel looking at the wonders
of Michaelangelo. Can’t do that anymore, now you need tickets and a time
given for your visit.

In our last years together and with your memory fading you are still
teaching me every day.
You sit by the window and call me to show me a pattern in the clouds.
We walk the dog and you stop to show me a tree and its formation.
You show me a flower I had missed.
You show me every day that you love me and this life has been
the best summer and winter.
I love you for all that and regret that we did not meet in the
spring of our years.
All my love

2 comments:

Unknown said...

Wow! I feel it a privelege to get to read that!

Jeannot said...

Joy, did you get my message about the book?
Call me, I am home Mon-Wednesday-Thur. next week. Book waiting. I lost your number