Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Art (01/18/07)
TITLE: Homespun Vision
By Marlene Bonney
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As she approached the blueberry bushes, she checked her pinafore pocket for the precious piece of paper that Mrs. Nelson, the mercantile proprietor, let her have. Previously wrapped around elegant dress goods, it was a fine piece of paper and a lot lighter than the brown Annie’s mother used for writing letters.
As Annie unfolded her paper, she remembered the look on Mama’s face long ago when she softly traced the floral design on a china plate displayed at the mercantile with her calloused fingers. It was a mixture of awed appreciation, and Annie determined right then and there to get her mother a fine plate like that for Christmas. But the plate was bestowed upon Miss Gibbons, the schoolmarm, and it had not been replaced with anything as exquisite. Besides, the pennies Annie earned for helping old Mr. Hibbard with his meals were not enough for the purchase.
Now, Mama’s birthday was tomorrow. Papa had invited the Sorenson’s from down the road to join them for a picnic as a surprise celebration for her, and Annie had only today to prepare a gift.
The cicadas and birds were loudly singing separate melodies as Annie scrambled past the blueberry bushes to her hidden spot where cascading vines and groups of colorful wildflowers bloomed. There she stopped and carefully spread out the folded paper on her lap. Holding a pencil stub she had found on the floor by Jimmy Deaton’s school desk, Annie laboriously copied the many shapes and petals of the posies surrounding her.
An hour later, she finished her creation just as the pencil grew too dull to be of further use. Standing and stretching, she balanced her artwork against a tree trunk and stepped back to gaze at it. Disappointment brought tears to her eyes, as she again remembered the dish pattern at the grocery and compared it to her sketch. It seemed so drab and pale! As she perused the nature around her, she suddenly bent down, picked a dark purple bloom and rubbed it on a flower-shape on her paper. Next, she ran over to the dandelion patch and beheaded several, taking them back to her tree-trunk easel and smearing the yellow blossoms across the paper. Encouraged, Annie took the picture over to her empty blueberry pail and began picking. Her stained hands from this endeavor soon transferred to her paper amidst the other floral colors.
The afternoon was almost gone! In her haste to get home, Annie fell, scraping her knuckles. Still clutching her artwork, the blood from her scratches smudged red onto the painting. After delivering the pail of blueberries to Mama, Annie found Papa mending Breeta’s harness in the barn. She gave him some thick sticks and together they shaped and nailed them for a frame, attaching the picture into its form.
The next day, Mama had three gifts to open during the picnic. Papa’s was a blue bolt of cloth for a new dress that he said would match her pretty eyes; next, her siblings gave their mother a bonnet to match. The Sorenson’s presented her with a sample of their renowned fruitcake on a finely floral-etched plate that Mama exclaimed over. Then, Annie held her breath as her mama carefully peeled back the burlap wrapping on her picture. Mama studied Annie’s offering tenderly and then, ever so gently, traced her fingers around the edges of each yellow, purple, blue, and blood-red smudge painted by her daughter. And, amazingly, besides the familiar looks of awe and appreciation Annie remembered from the scene at the mercantile, there was another expression present—one of great pride, and she hugged her little girl tightly and promptly placed the crudely made picture up on the mantle over their fireplace.
And that is when Annie learned for the first time, that beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder’s heart.
And, that is the story behind the little rough-hewn framed faded painted picture that presently hangs on the wall of my mother’s room in the hospice hospital ward.
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