Tuesday, May 03, 2005

My Mommy is a Picture

The first art contest I ever won was sponsored by the Gateway Bank at Lincoln's first shopping mall. Gateway Mall was built at 61st and O Streets in 1959-60. "My Mommy is a Picture" was the name of the contest, which doesn't always translate to meaning one's mom is pretty as a picture. The neighbor kids told me that my painting of my mom was really ugly, but I won. My mom did not have a flip hairdo, or magenta lips in the picture. I hadn't handled the paints very skillfully, and I had a lot of trouble mixing the apricot/peach color of Fritzi's dress. This was the early Sixties, and I was eight years old or younger. The painting was probably done on a piece of shirt cardboard or scrap paper from Dad's office. I know it was covered in Saran Wrap to look more "professional". Presentation is so important in competitions! The big prize was either one dollar or three. Gateway Bank might have hoped I would open an account with my winnings.

My sister and I found the costume jewelry that went with Fritzi's apricot/peach dress in January. The short minutes we spent looking through Mom's jewelry box were a very powerful reconnection for us. We both felt like we were little girls waiting for the bridge club ladies to arrive and eat dessert.

It was so exciting for us to greet those ladies, to stay up past eight although already in our PJs, and to help carry the plates of ice cream pie or blueberry dessert out to the living room. Once we were tucked into bed, the sounds of the ladies visiting and the cards on the folding tables lulled us to sleep against our will.

My elementary art students are making "My Mommy is a Picture" portraits to give their moms next Sunday. The cut and torn construction paper efforts often bear a surprising resemblance to the students' mothers. The portraits don't have magenta princess lips or flip hairdos. They look like moms who drive carpools, get sunburned at t-ball games, deal with the kitty litter, and somehow forget to carry in the last grocery bag from the car trunk, the bag with the pound of ground chuck.

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