Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Mystery Adventures (and the Case of the Naked Women)

When I was little, my grandmother would pick up my brother and I for something called a “Mystery Adventure”. We never knew what it was or where we were going, only that we were excited.  Sometimes we would wind up at mine digging for fluorescent rocks or at a tiny museum that didn’t mind having small children running around with their voices echoing off the walls. Other days she would take us to her house and we would create our very own recipes. For the most part, they were terrible; we were children and had no idea what we were doing. She wouldn’t intervene in any way; she would sit back and stick it in the oven once we announced it was ready to be cooked. In the end, we would give each creation a group taste test and rarely, if ever, was it palatable enough to move to Phase Two (which was offering some to Grandpa). One “Mystery Adventure” in particular has always stuck with me, even as an adult.

Grandma was always the Queen of Garage Sales, Empress of Estate Auctions, the Explorer of All Bargain Bins. She had come through with many much-needed items (fencing equipment, softball cleats, and a tiny suit of armor when my brother was obsessed with knights to name a few), but also her fair share of junk. 

Garage. Sale. QUEEN.
Image via Pixabay
At one of these sales, she picked up paint by numbers for our next adventure together. My grandmother is an artist herself, her home has always been adorned with large canvases covered in mermaids and flowers of her own creation. So, she was very pleased to find a way that we could paint with her. When Grandma came and swept us away to her house, we found real artist’s easels, brushes, paint, and the paint by numbers boards.  We squealed with delight and immediately got to work matching colors to numbers on our masterpieces.

It was beautiful outside; we painted in her yard at first only stopping for lemonade and lunch. It was truly an idyllic scene. Just picture it: standing in the garden, watching your young grandchildren paint at their tiny easels, eagerly working to see what the final products will look like. While you, their doting grandmother, work on your latest floral piece for your collection. Because they had come from a garage sale, we did not have the box cover to tell us what exactly it was we were painting a picture of, so each new completed portion was like peeling back the mystery to unveil what it was.

Image via Pixabay
As my brother moved ahead excitedly painting away he declared, “Look! This is hair! I think there’s a woman on mine.” I was slower and more careful with my paint, but sure enough a woman began to materialize on my little canvas board as well. We painted more and began to feel confused. Finally, my brother called out, “Grandma?  Why isn’t the lady wearing any clothes?”. My grandmother stepped over to our little easels, her mouth open in horror. Both of our paint by numbers kits were of nude women in repose on chaise lounges.  She hadn’t really been able to tell what they were pictures of before we filled in the paint, but now here it was. We were creating naked women while she was supposed to be babysitting.

Grandma paused and then shrieked. Peals of laughter came from her and tears sprang from her eyes.  Once she calmed herself down, she explained that there is so much art out there in the world that is just like this, only they aren’t normally created by little boys and girls. My brother, not fully grasping that this was what the painting was actually supposed to look like said, “It’s okay Grandma, I’ll make it better for the lady” and proceeded to paint a solid red dress over the nude figure on his canvas board. After doing so much work on my piece, I was unwilling to abandon my art and also began to paint clothing onto my woman. By the time we were done, we had paintings in paint by number style of women, with the exception of their solid red dresses.

When our mother came to pick us up, Grandma fessed up immediately and the laughter began anew. She inspected the work of her children and told my brother that his idea was very kind and modest for the nameless, naked women. My mother also requested that Grandma steer clear of paint by numbers for the time being. We created art many other times with Grandma over the years, but only once did we paint naked women together. Funny enough, that’s the only subject that I can clearly recall.

#mystery #adventure #grandma #art #nudeart #paintbynumbers

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