Clarence and Sophyra Hartness, 1941

It is my good fortune to possess the negatives that once belonged to my husband’s grandfather Tom Boothby. Tom and his wife Winnie drove all over the northwest in their free time,camping and cataloging their travels with their camera. Most of the pictures are of themselves, but they also took pictures of relatives. The people in this painting are snatched right out of one of their negatives, one of the many treasures I found there. I believe they are the great grandparents of a semi famous physician and musician, a friend of mine who lives in Georgia.

Sophyra is not used to people visiting, so she is shyly looking down as the photo was snapped. Clarence on the other hand, is not as shy, but mistrusts Tom as he is taking the picture. And the chickens continue to scratch and cluck because they’re hungry.

This painting is SOLD

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S is for Summer Avenue

As part of a project for the Brooklyn Art Library, the Art House Co-op challenged 500 people to write a letter to their old home. I had many old homes to choose from, but this is the one I chose. The reference for the painting was a google street view!

Dear 565A Summer Avenue

You are the house of my dreams. For 50 years I have dreamed of your rooms, your halls and your stairs. Where once I played and read and watched television (when the president was shot and then Lee Harvey Oswald..) still lodges in my brain.

You were the far side of a duplex. The fair side in my opinion. Your front porch was probably screened in once, but even without a screen, it was a wonderful place to play. Your outside wall was so close to the house next door, that we had a window that let in almost no light- no one liked that room much, so we stored curious things in it.

And only me and my cats could get between you and the house next door, because the space was so narrow. My secret was the secret entrance to the back yard – your yard, which was the only disappointment I had with you, it’s too small. I did try to grow a Pussy willow there, but my stepfather mowed it down.

I was a city kid, and soon after I left you, I escaped the city. I quested for mountains, country roads, and wide open spaces. But then, after less than 10 years, I came back to the city; albeit a much younger one, on the left coast, and; just as when I was living in your attic, I can hear and smell my neighbors, it is a fact of life, now I like my neighbors better, and we share with them the fruits of my back yard, figs, plums, cherries.

I checked you out on google maps, even though you are in the heart of Newark, NJ, you are still in a healthy neighborhood, but now you are painted brown instead of the grey I remember. Maybe now there are less children running up and down the streets, or effortlessly rollerskating on the blue slates in front of you, in fact, they took the slates out and now all the sidewalks are boring cement.

I loved the circular windows and the built in desks in my attic bedroom. I loved how I could climb right out on the roof from the attic hallway. That was another secret place. You had other secrets too; in some attic space was found ancient notebooks, belonging to a child – filled with slashes and circles, page after page. Who stored those notebooks there, and the shutters? The tiny mezuzah holders on the walls, and even the gas lamp fixtures were still in your walls, and the push buttons to turn the lights on and off.

Now I live somewhere that shutters do not exist, gas lamps are for camping, and pushbuttons are on the remote control for the television. But you are still with me. I dream about you in various stages of repair, I dream about you with new fascinating hidden rooms, I think, did I know that room was there?

I long to drive through Newark, NJ again, so this time I can stop, knock on your door and request a tour. I am sure the new owner would think I was nuts. Can they speak English? How many languages have been spoken between your walls anyway?

Dear 565A Summer Avenue, I lived in a lot of houses as a child, but you are the only one which actually resides in my brain. I hope someone plants flowers in your yard, I see the Rhododendron is gone, you deserve another.
Sincerely
Mimi

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Not Nonno – Becoming American

So here’s the question that my cousins and I all fruitlessly discussed: Why did we call our Italian grandmothers “Nonnie” which is very close to “Nonna” or “Nonnina” – the Italian word for grandmother; but none of us called our Italian grandfathers “nonno”? We called them Grandpa and Pop. I had been thinking about this puzzle for some time, when it hit me. Grandpa is an American word. My grandpa was a very proud American. It would not do to have his grandkids calling him by an Italian name. Here he is with his youngest son Frank, who he called Sonny, proudly posing in front of his shiny new Buick. I know I’ll never get my question answered, but there he stands, looking confident, affluent, happy, and well, American. Even though he never lost his accent or his taste for Italian food and drink. He’s not nonno, he’s Thomas spelled English style with an “H” Torchia, my grandpa.

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Aunt on an Automobile


Here is my Aunt Tess sitting on her husband’s Buick. I actually have more pictures of that Buick than I do anything else from that time. Cars meant a lot to my family, they were status symbols even in the 1940’s. My Aunt looks a bit like a hussy here; but she was a beautiful woman. I can imagine my long deceased uncle making comments to her about being careful not to hurt his fancy Automobile.

This is my first entry to the A to Z challenge, happy April fool’s day! Is there a car in your memory that really stands out?

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Boise, Idaho – a jaunt to the hot dry side

I flew to Boise on Saturday to visit some family; and while I was there I had a little time to work in my journal. While sitting with my dear husband in Starbucks, I sketched him writing about the frustration of his niece having cancer — “Life isn’t fair”

At the niece’s house, the only good subject was the dog, so you see him here.


Later I went out on the hot porch, and sat with my hubby’s bicycle and drew it. Finally out on the road, on our way home, we stopped at a park in Baker City, Oregon, which was across the street from a museum. That’s where I found this wagon. In my journal, the bike and the wagon are side by side. I like the effect.

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