Peace, love and understanding wrapped up in my treasured folk-art piece

Peace, love and understanding wrapped up in my treasured folk-art piece


As a poor girl growing up in the South Bronx, I didn’t have much. I definitely didn’t have much that was of monetary value.  I didn’t really have that many toys; which may be why I have gone a bit overboard with the gift-giving for my son.  About 18 years ago, I started collecting art. I was actually gifted many art pieces. I made jokes that I now had things I could pawn off if my financial situation ever necessitated it.  I know, my sense of humor is a bit twisted.  Now the majority of the walls of my house have art work adorning them: many gifted, some purchased and some won at silent auctions. I love local art, folk art and grand art. I guess that comes from having gone to Vassar College where Art History 101 was the most popular college course.   Even before then, when I lived in Barcelona, I went on an unescorted clandestine trip to El Prado to catch the Velazquez exhibit. Boy was that geeky. All this to say I love art.

In her visits to my apartments and house throughout the years, my mom noted my growing fondness of art work. She looked at them longingly hoping to understand what I saw in them.   Then one Christmas ten years ago, my mom came out to my place in California to visit me. Her luggage was a bit heavy for her, I noted.  We put up the Christmas tree and she carefully laid out her gifts. There was a rather large bulky, oddly-wrapped gift that she encouraged me to open first thing Christmas morning. I picked it up wondering what she was giving me.  Usually she would give me blouses and wacky Santa Claus cups.  Upon unwrapping the gift I saw that it was a painting- a commercial, folk art painting of San Juan, Puerto Rico.   It was something that one would find at the cruise ship ports. I looked at it and loved it immediately. Not that was great artwork or great craftsmanship.  She had tried to understand my world.   There was such a cultural gulf between us that steadily increased throughout the years. There I was in Berkeley (a completely foreign world to her and in all fairness to most people) getting a PhD in social psychology, which no matter how much I explained she still thought I would be engaging in counseling.  She didn’t get what I was doing or why I did what I did. She did get that art was important to me and she enthusiastically, happily bought that for me.

I happily and proudly placed the folk art painting right next to slightly pricier pieces of artwork.  My mom and I had reached a sense of peace in our relationship where I could be, in her eyes, as eccentric as I wanted to be.  One day a guest went over and looked at it and asked me what it depicted.  I told him that it was San Juan –in particular Viejo San Juan (Old San Juan). He shook his head noting it didn’t really capture what that neighborhood looked at base don his recent vacation stop there.  I felt a heat come up from my stomach and fire come out of my mouth as I noted to him that it captured a key part of San Juan- it captured my mother’s love and understanding. He arched his eyebrow and started to make his counter-argument but his wife noted the look in my eyes and steered him back to the living room.

stripped to its core

stripped to its core

I never loved that painting more.   That is, until my mother’s death. Whereby I placed the painting right next to her ashes forever reminding me that even when you don’t understand where your child may be coming from, love is love.

If I had to immediately evacuate my home for whatever reason and had a few moments to grab some items, in a heartbeat I would take that with me over all other pieces. In this Valentine’s Day weekend, I feel the love emanating from that piece.

Other thoughts on Treasure

Nola Roots, Texas Heart


What’s in the picture

To breathe is to write

Through the eyes of bastet

Irene A. waters




25 replies »

  1. Thanks for sharing, Mimi, I hope to be a mother like the mother you had. (Btw, I have a cheesy plaque from Walgreens in Condado depicting a pastel-hued Old San Juan. It’s chipped and has lived with me in three homes now. I love it!)


  2. @ even when you don’t understand where your child may be coming from, love is love…>> A true mouthful indeed! I’ve lived this on both sides of the coin(as my parents’ child & as a mother) and its one of the most special things about parenthood, imo..Yes, uncondtional love is a beautiful thing. Very beautiful sentiment and write..Thanks for sharing!


  3. It’s very funny how parents work. My mother and I developed a gulf perhaps like you and your mother but I find that she is truly trying to understand me after all these years and I find that I am being more listen more.


  4. Love is love = Unconditional love 😀 and I wonder if a parent’s generosity in gifts to own child does in fact have a great deal to do with the parent’s own childhood and having to go without “extravagant” gifts etc. It fits into my own: I was 13 when I could eat a whole Orange, Apple etc without needing to share it with everyone around family table after dinner…we had escaped the post-WWI poverty in Croatia and landed in this blessed land of Australia 😀


  5. Mimi, I was so moved by this post. I think so many of us experiences these differences in our family relationships. My mum is a fairly conservative introvert whereas I’m a fairly extroverted extrovert…out there. My son is also out there and sometimes I’ve struggled with some of the ways he’s expressed himself such as when he wore his pants on his head and his top on his legs about a week before starting big school and I was terribly fearful he wasn’t going to adapt. He is a bit of a Fed Foo character but quite the entertainer too and has people in stitches.
    I can understand why your Mum’s gift to you is so precious and why you would defend it to the death xx Rowena


    • My son is also very extroverted. Im kind of in between. Lol. I can be a diva in front of an audience but a little more laid back at a party. It takes a special mom to handle an extrovert. Always on the lookout 😉


      • I didn’t really understand the whole introvert extravert thing well until my 30s. It would have been very helpful with dating because I came to realise that I always went for that guy in the corner. It would have made things a lot easier for me to know that early on.


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