Juneteenth and Father’s Day

Juneteenth and Father’s Day, I am celebrating and thinking of both, and missing my father and my grandfathers. Yesterday was a delayed memorial for my ex mother-in-law. I loved her and we stayed in touch and I continued to visit her and also loved her second husband. He was another grandfather to my children. We had six grandparents, with my ex’s parents divorcing a year after he and I married. Now we have one living. My paternal aunts and uncle have stepped in as the parents and grandparents that are missing for me and my children.

The pressman is my paternal grandfather Kenyon Charles Ottaway. Or Charles Kenyon? Now I need to ask my Aunts. I do not know what year that was taken. He was head pressman in Knoxville Tennessee in the early 1960s. He went by Ken. My Aunt Pat adds that he was nicknamed “Inky” and that the above photograph was taken in Bridgeport, CT. On the back it says ’45, so our guess is 1945.

My father, me, and my sister Chris.

The second photograph is my father, Malcolm Kenyon Ottaway, and me and my sister. My father went by Mac.

Jubilee for freedom and for both father’s day and Juneteenth. I miss my parents and my grandparents, love to all of them. Hooray for Sweet Honey in the Rock, too.

Sending love and peace.

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: jubilee.

P is for Paper over

I am blogging A to Z about artists, particularly women artists and mostly about my mother, Helen Burling Ottaway. Today’s post is about my mother and my sister: another woman artist. Christine Robbins Ottaway.

I do not have much of her fine art. She was a landscape architect and historic preservation expert and worked for Caltrans. She also wrote, on her blog Butterfly Soup, and in other places.

The painting is an oil, by my mother Helen Ottaway, done when my sister was 14. This painting seems especially creepy to me, the oranges and blues. I love the painting but it is frightening as well. My sister could write terrifying stories. Here is my poem about one of her stories. The title of her story is “We don’t make good wives”.

Paper over

They are papering over your memory
They want the clean version
The inhuman perfect version
I remember the violent sea serpent
Related to Aunt Nessie: me, I think

He stole your skin, you say
But you lure him to, posing
On the shore naked
And let him take you home
And impregnate you

And then you have six daughters
What did he expect? you say
Cold blooded and beautiful
White skin and greenish hair
Who all can swim like fish
and all seven search
Until you find the skin
and then away

You say, he took my skin
Now I have taken his

Let them paper over your memory
Let them pretend you were sweet
I hold your words in my mind
And I love you wholly

__________________________________

ATOZBLOGGINGCHALLENGE2022 #art #Women artists #Helen Burling Ottaway #ATOZCHALLENGE #Christine Robbins Ottaway #APRILATOZ

For more information about the #AtoZChallenge, check out this link.

E is for etching

I am blogging A to Z about artists, particularly women artists and mostly about my mother, Helen Burling Ottaway.

My mother loved water colors, but she also did etchings, for as long as I can remember. We had the largest etching press that she could get back in the 1960s. When I was 14, we moved from Johnson City, New York, to Alexandria Virginia for my father’s job. The press went into the basement, along with numerous boxes of books. Soon after we moved, there was torrential rainfall and the sewers in the Del Ray neighborhood backed up. The water stopped draining and just piled up! There was a crack in the foundation of our basement with a waterfall pouring down. My mother wanted the engine of the press saved first! She and my father and I could barely carry it up the stairs, but managed to. Next came boxes of books, some of which were so waterlogged that they were floating. The water was cold, dirty and up to my upper thighs. We unloaded box after box of wet books and spread them out to dry.

I think that my mother’s art was not in the basement, so we did not lose much of that! We installed an automatic sump pump eventually, because that was not the last flood. That was the most spectaular, though. The water was 8-12 inches deep in the front yard. Buses would still drive through the water, sending a wave to hit our front steps.

Afterwards we wished we had taken a photograph in the canoe in the front yard, to use for Christmas. Our Christmas ornaments were flooded too. All the color peels off the balls, so our tree was silver and glass that Christmas. My mother claimed she liked that better and kept it that way from then on!

Etchings are diddly, as my mother would say. A zinc plate, coated with a tar mixture. Then a drawing in the tar, set the plate in acid, and wait for the drawing to etch into the plate. At a certain point, my mother would take the tar off and run some proofs. These were experimental, trying different colors. She would put the tar back on and continue with the drawing. When she was satisfied with the proof, she would start running the edition. The tar is removed, and for each etching the plate is inked with a roller. The ink is gently wiped off, until it is light on the remaining flat parts of the plate and heavier in the lines. The plate is placed on the press, a piece of paper that is soaked is placed on the plate, heavy felt cloth is lowered over it and the plate and paper are run through the press. We had a guard, but keep your fingers away! The felt is lifted, the paper is lifted and the paper is set to dry. The plate is wiped and inked again. The edition is numbered: 1/20 or 1/50. My mother ran some plates many many times. A tiny one named Tag, of a unicorn playing tag with butterflies, is done in multiple colors. Others were a much smaller edition, of 20 or 30. The very large plates are a challenge to ink and wipe. It takes practice to wipe the ink but not wipe it out of the lines.

I have three photographs of H. Ottaway’s Iris and Poppies etching. The featured image is 17/30, colored edition, 1976. The one below is a proof for the color edition. The last one is a proof for her black and white edition.

Iris and Poppies Etching, by Helen Burling Ottaway, proof for color edition.
Iris and Poppies Etching, black and white proof, Helen Burling Ottaway, 1976.

#ATOZBLOGGINGCHALLENGE2022 # art # Women artists # Helen Burling Ottaway #ATOZCHALLENGE

D is for drawing

I am blogging A to Z about artists, particularly women artists and mostly about my mother, Helen Burling Ottaway.

This is my sister Chris again, from a 1978 sketchbook that my mother mailed to me. My mother had a sketchbook with her most of the time. She kept everything. My father did not sort anything and I am just now beginning to catalog the art, the sketchbooks, and my mother’s diaries. My mother died in 2000 and my father in 2013. The silver lining of being off from work post pneumonia is that I am going through the boxes and beginning to organize things. It looks like it is not a small job.

#Blogging from A to Z #letter D #art #women artists #ATOZCHALLENGE

wearing sunglasses in the rain

Trigger warning: this is about dementia. I wrote this over ten years ago.

wearing sunglasses in the rain

I am weeping for you both

you have cared for her
for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health

and she has lost her memory

you told me on the phone
that it’s not that bad

you say it again in the room

I knew before I saw her
that it was bad, very bad, much worse
she is only 60

she becomes agitated when we try to weigh her
old style doctor’s scale
frightens her to try to step up.
gentle caregiver that you have hired
pushes her, until I say stop, stop, stop
her weight does not matter

shuffling gait
she is frightened to be in a new place
I ask her questions gently
she does not want to sit in the chair in the exam room
“No!” she says “No!”
I leave the room until she’s calmer

when I return
I give her choices
“Shall I examine you first with my stethoscope
or shall I talk to your husband?”
I choose for her, the latter
she relaxes, a little
later, I tell her each step before I do it
she is slightly tense when I lay the stethoscope
on her thin shoulders, but she doesn’t fight

she tenses as I ask her husband questions
about the memory loss
ten years now, a steady course
I ask him what he understands about the prognosis
he shifts uncomfortably
and I ask her if she would like to wait in the waiting room
while I talk to him
Firm and clear: “Yes, I would.”

She is not in the room now
he says that she is not too bad
the picture comes slowly in to focus
mild memory loss, is what he thinks

there are three stages of memory loss, I say
mild, the short fibers, where short term memory is affected
we forget what someone just said
moderate, the medium axons
we forget the recipe that we’ve know for 50 years
we forget how to do math
we forget names and how to get to the store
we forget how to operate the car
severe, the long axons
executive function
we do not initiate things
we forget to get dressed
we forget how to speak
we forget our potty training

his eyes grow sadder and sadder

at last, we return to being a baby
we forget everything
at last, we remember the womb
we no longer want to eat

is she forgetting to eat?

he is not ready to answer

as we leave the room
he says that she is not sleeping well
she seems to be awake at night
eyes closed
but her fingers are moving, as in play
he doesn’t speak to her
he needs to sleep and thinks she should too

should he give her a sleeping pill?

maybe she is happy, I say
maybe in bed in the dark
you are there and it is safe
no one is making her get dressed
no one is making her bathe
maybe that is where she wants to be awake
I would not give her a sleeping pill

the dogs are in the room
he says
and the tv is on just a little
maybe she is happy

he is wearing sun glasses
as they cajole and help her in to the van

he is wearing sun glasses
though it is overcast, low clouds and raining

sometimes it is so hard
to say what I see
to try to say the truth

sometimes the truth is not gentle
but sometimes the truth is love

I am weeping for you both

written 2010

Time marching

This is a tintype. “Tintype photography was invented in France in the 1850s by a man named Adolphe-Alexandre Martin. Tintypes saw the rise and fall of the American Civil War, and have persisted through the 20th century and into modern times.” — from here.

I do not know who this young man is, nor the year. I asked my maternal uncle before he died and he denied any knowledge of the person. He was the family historian and archivisit.

However, I have four tintypes in the box of china doll furniture clothes and accessories. My sister and I received a box of jewelry and the tintypes from my Great Aunt Esther Parr. She was my maternal grandmother’s sister and married Russel Parr. Her maiden name was White, a daughter of George White, the Congregationalist Minister who ran Anatolia College in Turkey and then moved to Greece. My sister and I divided the box of jewelry and the tintypes. There were eight so we took turns picking. We used them for dollhouse portraits, not realizing that they were real photographs. I wonder if the tintypes are from the Parr side of the family.

Last month I was missing my father on February 12. I was a month off. His birthday was today, Malcolm Kenyon Ottaway, born in 1938. I miss him now, too.

I will label more photographs, since I appear to have inherited the maternal family paper archive. There are people that I don’t know, though, and my parents are gone. My mother’s siblings have died as well. I am so glad I still have my father’s sisters.

Ask your parents about the pictures and the objects they keep, before they are gone and you lose the story. Time marches on.

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: March.

AtoZ Theme Reveal

My theme for the April AtoZ blog challenge this year is art. I think it will mostly be my mother’s art. She died in 2000 of ovarian cancer. My only sibling died in 2012 of breast cancer and my father in 2013 of emphysema. And I have the art: my parents were both packrats and trying to deal with the house and an out of date will took about three years. Moving stuff around, getting rid of stuff. The art initially went in to a storage unit and then into my house. My mother Helen Burling Ottaway was prolific! And she kept every single piece of art and her diaries back to high school! I found a suitcase with my grandfather’s poetry as well: that will be for another day.

This painting is of my sister. My mother started oils later in her career and Michael Platt, a DC artist, said something like, “Quit doing tiny things. Do something big.” My mother started doing life size and larger than life portraits in chalk pastel and in oils. This painting captures my sister when she was twenty: emotions. I like it but I also think that it is frightening.

Christine Robbins Ottaway age 20, by Helen Burling Ottaway, oil, 1984

http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/

saved

when your parents die
you will find what they saved

you will find things in the house
that you do not know why they saved

you may find linens carefully folded
and papers from the past

the linens embroidered by ancestors
but you cannot ask which ones

photographs of people you don’t know
and which are not labeled

a reference to a ring that your great aunt had
but she has been dead since 1986

when you go to your parents’ house
ask them what they have saved

ask them why it has been saved

ask them now
because when they are gone
it is too late

to ask about what they saved

________________________

There are also families estranged, where they have cut ties or emigrated or escaped abuse, and have reason not to save anything or speak about it.

We want freedom but we want love too. For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: freedom.