WEP: my mother’s flowers

Badge_AlfredHutty6For this blog hop, Yolanda Renee and Denise Covey of the WEP website settled on the theme of gardens. It is such an all-inclusive theme, it could inspire hundreds of different interpretations, both fiction and non-fiction. My entry for this blog hop will be non-fiction – a true story about my mother. It’s not really about a garden, but it’s about flowers and a park, and flowers in a park is almost a garden, isn’t it? Same associations anyway.
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On June 29, 2016, my mother Valentina turned 83. When she was 65, my father died, unexpectedly, in his sleep, with a book in his hands. They had a good marriage, and my mom was devastated. She didn’t know how to live alone, didn’t know how to care only for herself.

Both her daughters had their own families by then. My younger sister with her husband and children lived in the same country as mom, Israel, but in a different city. My kids and I already lived in Canada, in Vancouver, half a world away.

Mom felt alone and abandoned. To help her fight her grief and depression, one of her friends took her to a community center, to a class that painted fabric napkins. Before that day, mom had never been into arts, never painted anything in her life, never picked up a brush. She had been a computer professional before her retirement but she took to painting like a natural and she enjoyed it. She immersed herself in her new hobby, began reading books on the subject and studying new techniques.

Soon, simple napkins stopped satisfying her. She needed more sophisticated projects. She left the group but continued painting. In the years since, she has created a universe of flowery compositions, the bright and whimsical acrylics on fabric.

Mother's painting

Most of her paintings are stylized flowers: a shy water lily surrounded by reeds, proud daffodils with their golden hearts, crimson asters peeking out of their tangle of greenery. She doesn’t concern herself with photographic truth. Her pansies and lilacs, chamomile and clematis come in all sizes, colors, and shapes, even those not encountered in nature. Especially those. She had created her own fantastic garden in acrylic: Valentina’s garden.

My mother's painting

My apartment is full of my mom’s paintings. I have a couple dozen of them and I rotate them occasionally. They enliven every room, jazz up every wall, and make my mundane co-op flat worthy of a smile. I seem to live in a garden of my mother’s imagination.

She has given away numerous paintings as gifts to friends and relatives, but after a while, like every artist, she started craving a wider audience. She participated in a couple amateur art shows in Israel, but no professional gallery would accept her paintings for sale.

A few years later, during one of her annual visits to Vancouver, she hit upon the idea to sell her paintings in our biggest city park, alongside the other local artists. The artists’ circle was a Vancouver tradition by then. Every year, the artists set up their wares in a small clearing of the park, surrounded on all sides by the wondrous flower displays, different in different seasons. My mom visited in the summer, so begonias bloomed like crazy, and roses added a touch of elegance to the whole tableau.

I worried about the legalities and tried to dissuade her, but she wouldn’t deviate from her chosen course, even when a problem arose: only Canadian citizens could buy a license to sell their art in Vancouver. Mom found an original solution. That summer, my son was still in high school, at loose ends during his vacation. He wasn’t an artist, never even attempted to draw, but he was a citizen. Mom conscripted him into her scheme and promised him a percentage of her proceeds. She has always been good at persuasion. He agreed and registered the license to his name, while she paid for it. Together, they carted her paintings to the park every weekend.

They didn’t sell anything. Not many artists did, although every visitor to the park wandered by and admired the free art exhibition. Many complimented my mom’s incredible flowers.

In the absence of paying customers, the artists also visited each other and commented on each other’s art. As the license bore my son’s name, the compliments and constructive, professional criticism were all directed his way. His grandmother was just ‘helping along’ and listening, absorbing the critiques like a sponge. My son, the pour boy, couldn’t help but cringe in shame. Although his English is perfect, he couldn’t understand half of what the artists were saying. Their painterly advices, stuffed with trade talk, baffled him, but he manfully kept on the charade for his grandmother’s benefit.

Her inability to sell grated on my mother. For a practical woman she is, having a closetful of unrequited art rankled. In her search for a market, she later switched to hand-painting silk scarves, and suddenly discovered a niche she could fill. The same colorful flowers that graced her paintings migrated to her scarves and shawls, as beautiful and elusive as the rainbow. Many women in Israel wear her fanciful hand-painted scarves now.

I have a few of her scarves myself, and every time I pick up one to go out, its flowing arabesques and vivid petals envelop my neck. And I think of my mother. She still paints new scarves. And sells them too.
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Word count: 850; FCA (Full Critique Acceptable)

After I wrote this little essay I thought: what a grand idea for a fiction story. And I wrote one too. Only that story is almost 4,000 words and science fiction. It happened on a space station. If anyone is interested, here it is.

Note: Sorry for the quality of the photos. I just photographed what is hanging on my walls.

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This entry was posted in art, Olga Godim and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to WEP: my mother’s flowers

  1. Lovely paintings! Your mother has an amazing talent. Thank you for sharing her story.

  2. Denise Covey says:

    Olga, what a heart-warming story. And what a talent your mother discovered in her later years. Those paintings are beyond beautiful. Such a pity she didn’t sell some in that Vancouver park. I love the picture of your son listening as the artists discussed art with him. Your walls must look magnificent with all those lovely flowers! And the silk scarves and shawls sound beyond beautiful. So pleased your mum found her niche!

    Thanks for this lovely addition to the WEP GARDENS challenge Olga. I will definitely read your sci-fi story when I have a chance.

    Denise 🙂

  3. Such a lovely story. I applaud your mother’s stick to it attitude, and your son, so gracious of him! It’s a journey isn’t it, whether an artist or a writer. I’m so thrilled that she found the right avenue for her art! A fabulous story and most apropos for the WEP Gardens Challenge. Thank you for sharing! It reminded me of my grandmother’s garden and how much joy she received from her plants even after she moved to a small apartment with the small container garden she created. I still have a few of the plants she passed on to me, years later. I smile every time I water them because they remind me of her. So beautiful to have such lovely examples of her talent all around you! You must be so proud!

  4. My sentimental eyes are leaking here. I love that your mother found her creative self (and what an amazing self it is). And how I admire her work, and her determination. Thank you so much. Both of you.
    Off to read your story now.

  5. Loud applause for your story too. Thank you.

  6. I love your story FLOWER CONSULTANT! Simply beautiful!

  7. Pat Hatt says:

    That is awesome that she went down one road and it led to another where she found her niche. Never know where things may go.

  8. Rita Bay says:

    Lovely memorabilia and art that you can treasure forever.

  9. dolorah says:

    It is awesome she found her creativity after such tragedy. What a glorious legacy she is leaving. Those are beautiful paintings 🙂

  10. river says:

    Your mother’s paintings are amazing; I can only imagine how beautiful the scarves must be.
    What a great story 🙂

  11. patgarcia says:

    Your photos look fantastic. I admire your mother. What a lady. So much get up and go. I admire imagination and her willingness to change. She found her niche and that is amazing. People who rise above tragedy are stronger. They acquire inner strength and I believe this inner strength promotes the creativity within them and challenges it to come out.
    An excellent true story and I am happy that you wrote a short story about it. Are you planning on submitting it anywhere to be published?
    Shalom aleichem,
    Patricia

  12. cleemckenzie says:

    She was not only a really fine artist, she was clever and resourceful! I loved reading her story.

  13. Toi Thomas says:

    I like this story. It’s so touching and honest. Your mother is very inspiring. I also like her paintings which makes this all that much better.

  14. Ann Best says:

    Hi, Olga. I’m so happy to meet you. I’m especially intrigued because, as you said on my garden post, we both wrote about our mother’s flowers. Only your mother was inventive and determined to develop a talent, in the end achieving success with beautiful scarves. I picture them as colorful and flowing – scarves flowing in a breeze. Her paintings are awesome. She is so inspiring!

    I am now going to click on your link and bookmark what sounds like a wonderful story to read sometime in the next few days. Again, it’s wonderful to meet you. I am now a follower.

    Ann @ http://annbestlifestories.com

  15. What a shame your mother couldn’t sell anything. Her work is gorgeous.

  16. HI, Olga,

    What a charming and heart felt story. You mother’s imagination for flowers is TRULY artistic, because only an true artist would change nature’s colors….. I’m so happy to hear her lovely scarves are appreciated….

  17. Kalpanaa says:

    This is such a heartfelt story – true stories are sometimes better than fiction. The painting are wonderful and I’m glad she found a niche with her silk scarves and shawls. Your writing is beautifully crafted and the story unfolded so naturally. Loved it.

  18. authorcrystalcollier says:

    You know, that’s how it goes. We never truly see the full vision from the get go and one path inevitably leads to another. I’m so glad she didn’t give up and found an avenue that produces some revenue. There’s a niche for everything, but only for those who don’t give up after the first (or 30th) rejection.

  19. Sally says:

    Such a lovely story. Your mother is very clever, creative and artistic. How wonderful that she found another outlet and a purpose in life after learning how to live on her own.

  20. Debb Stanton says:

    Hi Olga, I really love your story, a true story. You have such a beautiful way of writing that I found myself grieving for your father along with your mom and being disappointed for your mom when the paintings didn’t work out. I think your story has real soul! Glad that you have some of her paintings and scarves. Your home and your wardrobe I’m sure are quite wonderful!

  21. Inspirational and moving! I love that you live surrounded by your mum’s art. And I salute her can-do spirit in the face of personal tragedy. Thoroughly enjoyed the story! Thank you for sharing.

  22. DG Hudson says:

    No apologies for the photos, as I can see the joy in the painting, the freedom to show her own style. I share the same birthday, June 29th as your mom, btw. Art has a way for freeing a person from the present so they can immerse themselves in art. I loved this nonfiction story. My husband used to draw little scenes on bookmarks for gifts and small cards, and he never had any art training but drew delightful impressionistic sketches. I love the story about Vancouver, as I’ve walked by those artists too selling their paintings.

  23. mplanglinais says:

    This is a wonderful personal essay. I have some of my grandmother’s paintings, too, so I know how much you must treasure your mother’s work.

  24. This is such a heart-warming story.
    Your mum has a special talent. I’m sure those scarves are as beautiful as the paintings above. 🙂

  25. hilarymb says:

    Hi Olga – what a delightful story … sad you lived so far from her – yet she was able to visit. And her wheeler-dealer instincts kicked in for the art shows – fun – bet your son has some lovely stories to tell of that time. Painting knapkins, then art, then scarves … I too bet they are beautiful – clever lady … with a very hidden talent … such a joy to read and to know about – cheers Hilary

  26. JEN says:

    I loved your story! So glad your mom found a market for her beautiful paintings. I think I’m in love with hand-painted scarves myself. 🙂

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