Archive for March 15th, 2021

“Home In Sight”– Now at the West End Gallery

Knowledge of what is possible is the beginning of happiness.

— George Santayana

As St. Patrick’s Day approaches, which was also my mother’s birthday, I gave some thought to my parents this past weekend, thinking about how they influenced me early in my life. It reminded me of a post that ran many years back, in 2009.

It was a brief recollection of that time as a child when I had not idea what was or wasn’t possible in my life. Oh, I had an idea that I would never be roaming the outfield for the Yankees or taking one small step on the surface of the moon but for the most part, everything seemed in play.

To an 8 year old everything is still attainable, anything is possible. My parents never pushed me in any one direction or tell me what I should try to accomplish, mainly because they most likely because they themselves didn’t know what was possible. They simply didn’t have the knowledge needed to direct me in any way. At the time, it seemed frustrating because of the lack of direction given.

Kind of like being told that you should build a cabinet but you’re not given any materials or instructions. You had to figure it out for yourself. You had to design and build it on your own. Except it wasn’t a cabinet, it was your life.

But to their credit, my parents never discouraged me or imposed any limits on my imagination or aspirations. They gave me free rein to explore and a little help when the opportunity to do so arose. That was their form of encouragement. 

It worked out in the long run. It took a lot more trial and error but the independence gained in those early years got me through the difficult times. I overlook their flaws now and focus on the appreciation I have for the things they did try to do for me, knowing that they were grasping at straws in the dark. They didn’t know what to do, didn’t know what was possible. They just wanted to help. And I am forever grateful for that expression of their love.

Here is what I wrote back in 2009:

When I give gallery talks, generally there is a part at the beginning where I run through how I came to be a painter. I usually tell how I somehow came across the idea that I wanted to be a painter when I was a small child, maybe 7 or 8 years old. Don’t know what made me come to that idea.

My parents didn’t know how to foster this idea but they did react, buying me an oil painting set from the old Cardinal Paint store in Elmira, where they sold art supplies alongside their house paints. I remember standing on the street looking at the display of art supplies in the window of their store on Water Street. I think I was only there because it was next door to the S&H Green Stamp Redemption Center, the place where you traded in your books filled with those green stamps for household items. I guess S&H Green Stamps may have had something to do with me becoming a painter.

Of course, I didn’t have the first idea how to use the paints and the canvas panel ended up covered with a smear of a color that could best be described as looking like gray and brown puke smeared on a board. Unfortunately, that was not what I was hoping to see. Discouraged, I put the paints aside and moved on to other things. Many other things through the years.

Now, that might seem, at first blush, like a sad little story but it always touches me. My parents didn’t know how to go about helping me but they did what they could and never discouraged me from whatever avenue I chose to follow. I was never told I couldn’t be this or that I should be that. They didn’t know what was possible and never tried to put limits on my hopes.

In high school, I harbored dreams of being a writer and for Christmas one year they gave me a Remington Rand office typewriter. It was a reconditioned monster of a machine, must have weighed 75 pounds. I had it for years, hefting that monster from place to place, and when I did finally get rid of it, it was with great sadness. It remains one of the best gifts I’ve ever been given and is forever a symbol of my parents’ desire to encourage me. 

The point of this is that my parents allowed me the freedom to discover what was possible for me in my life. Did they always go about it in the best way or guide me in any way? Probably not but that didn’t seem as important as the freedom they gave me to search for what was possible for me.

And being able to find what was possible, as the saying above says, is the beginning of happiness…

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