Monday, February 6, 2012

Monday Memories – Love, Love, Love

There are lots of love ideas floating around the internet. In fact, I’m excited to share a couple of recipes with you myself on Wednesday.

Valentine’s Day was an anticipated day at our grade school. A week before school, each student took a plain shoe box to school and the teacher covered it in paper – usually pink, white, or red, but every now and then someone would request a yellow, black, or blue one. Then, during Art, we decorated the covered boxes with pipe cleaners, glue, glitter, and crepe paper.

Every student took a class list home to help them spell the students’ names on the valentines (and make sure no one was forgotten). Our class had seventeen students. We were a big class. The class older only had nine.

At home, my brother and I would sit at the kitchen table and write our valentines. We’d stick two conversation hearts in the envelope with the cards and lick them closed. The next day we took them to school in a brown paper lunch sack. Before heading out to the playground, we dropped the valentines into the slits made in the homemade boxes.

On Valentine’s Day, mom put a box of candy on our breakfast plate. Then right after the afternoon recess at school, the room mothers brought cupcakes or cookies and we ate them while we opened our valentines. It was a sweet and simple holiday. Cupid and his arrow was cute and all, but he didn’t mean anything. Valentine’s Day was for loving everyone.

And that’s why I often think of this as a valentine’s story:

Winslow Homer was a great American artist.  Many of our great Civil War paintings came from his hand.  In fact, Bill gates paid $30,000,000 for one of his paintings – the highest price ever paid for any American painting.  But Winslow Homer wasn’t always an artist. 

Winslow’s father was a practical man and did not think art a wise profession to follow, so Winslow apprenticed as a lithographer.  Winslow’s father lost his job, and though Winslow was miserable and hated his job as a lithographer, he kept it to help his family.

After his five year apprenticeship ended, Winslow decided to try it as an artist.  He saved up enough money to give him a few months to try painting.  He worked very hard to get his first picture finished and then took it to a store to sell it.  He wrote his brother a letter that said he’d done his best on the painting and had given it his honest effort.  He said that if the picture sold he would continue to paint, if not he would go back to the lithographer and content himself. 

Winslow waited for two weeks before he got the courage to go back to the store that promised to try and sell his painting.  He was too nervous to look inside, so he kept walking until he had completely run out of money.  Finally, he went into the store and the storekeeper said, “Oh, I’m glad you’ve come.  Your painting has sold and we would like another!”  Winslow was thrilled.  Overcome, really.  He wrote his brother and told him of his good fortune.  He drew more pictures and delivered them to Harper’s Weekly, the noted magazine of the day.  They admired his work and contracted him to illustrate for them. 

Winslow would have never gotten the courage to paint without that first picture selling.  He never found out that it was his brother who, after reading Winslow’s letter, came many, many miles to buy the painting which gave Winslow the encouragement he needed to succeed.

Love, love, love. Pink, blue, red, white, yellow, green. They’re all the color of love.


Cali said...

I love that story.

I had forgotten about the list of names the teacher sent home, so you wouldn't forget anyone. I remember that the lists were made not on a copy machine, but on that machine that copied them in blue and was faded. The teachers at Hollister had a limit of how many copies they could make a month, and the name list wasn't important enough I guess. Funny how we grew up 20 years apart, but had similar elementary experiences because old habits die slow at Hollister Elementary.

Portrait Painting said...

I like your post so much.This is a portrait painting.Thanks sharing

Neighbor Jane Payne said...

Yes, Cali! You're right. They sent us home with mimeographed copies...usually printed on that orange, soft, kind-of fuzzy paper...the same paper they copied our copies of the Christmas play onto as well.

Sometimes I really miss that school.

michelle said...

Wait. Did you and Cali go to the same elementary school?? I can't even wrap my mind around that.

I love that story! I had never heard it, and it's a keeper. I have always loved Valentine's Day because I think of it as a day to show love to everyone.

Becky said...

Have never heard that story but it brought tears to my eyes. It is nice to end our busy day of travel by sitting in my hotel room and reading your blog while I wait for the kids to fall asleep :)

Love all your memories of Valentine's Day.

Deidra said...

I remember sittin at our kitchen table, addressing Little Mermaid cards for my first grade class. It was tricky because the Valentines had to be sorted out, so as I went down the list I didn't give a Valentine that said something too positive to the wrong person (whether I really liked that person or didn't like that person at all).

I got to see a Winslow Homer exhibit at the National Galley of Art. I was smitten. Glad his brother loved him enough to encourage him.