Tuesday, January 2, 2018

To Grandmothers house we go.


Christmas with the Schwartz family always involves a car ride to Grandma Martha Schwartz's home. Dirt snow encrusted roads turned into asphalt roads that then turned into snowy side roads.  The small farm house has been in the family for generations.  The white paint is worn and chipped and the place lists a bit from the pull of gravity over the years.  The front port is at such an angle that it feels like being on the Titanic.  Years ago a family member had a ticket to go on the Titanic, but he decided to make the crossing on another ship two months later.  Had he made the Titanic trip he would have been in steerage and would have most certainly died.  That would have meant that Pam, her dad and all the siblings would have never been born.

In the living room, the TV was on, showing a program where a bow hunter was tracking a goat with a huge lion's mane. The men were seated and stories told were of the latest dear hunts. Ron had to shoot at a deer from a huge distance between one foot gaps in the tree branches.  The end of his barrel literally covered half of the deer.  Regardless, the shot dropped the animal to the ground.  The venison is packed and ready for the winter in the outside barn cooler.

The temperature outside had dropped to negative nine so cold drinks could be stored out on the porch.   A refrigerator would be overkill.  Grandma Schwartz is a traditionalist.   She insisted that the men line up for food in the kitchen before the women could eat.  That left the living room available for the children to open presents.  I kind of would have liked to sketch the kids ripping open presents, but instead, I had to do my manly duty and eat.  I learned quite a bit about the narrow profit margin in farming corn and the challenges of moving huge hay bails.  I listened intently wondering how I would fare in this harsh winter landscape.  Outside the snow blew horizontally past the window insulated by sheets of plastic.  I spotted black cows marching against the stark white landscape. 

The children played in the front room with a small Christmas tree.  There is a tiny little half step staircase that spirals up to the top floor of the rickety farmhouse. The tiniest toddler couldn't resist trying to climb her way up. Parents kept having to interrupt her progress. Pam's dad Ron Schwartz told the story of how he climbed that staircase as a child and his sister pounded him with a pillow at the top of the stairs causing him to topple down the steep steps head over backwards.  He had his revenge when he slipped a whole bunch of pins inside his sister's seat cushion at the dinner table.  She squealed loudly and never again tried to knock him down the steps.

Family history covered every wall.  A wedding photo on the wall showed Ron and his wife, both slim and beautiful in their youth. Pam keeps 5 by 7 inch note cards that have notes about what she has done each year.  Her notes for Christmas day were always the same, "Christmas at Grandma's and then at home." Family traditions remain strong on this Iowa farm thanks to a matriarch that is approaching her hundredth year. 


Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at analogartistdigitalworld@gmail.com

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