I’ve spoken about the series on My Family I created for a year-long study group with Brugh Joy. One of my favorite paintings from the series is of my grandmother, Lyle Genevieve Smith. I was the last grandchild, and so she was always an older woman when I knew her. The older I get the more I look like her, which bothered me until I got old enough that I saw her in my own face and body, the grandmother I loved so much.
I painted her using the ancient goddess figure, the “sitting woman” of Hamangia. She had three children, but I found out she miscarried, also something she and I shared. She loved the outdoors, and I associate her with red earth and snakes and deer and horny toads and turtles and laughter and her garden. She made me love daddy long-legs, the only spider I tolerate, because she told me never to kill one, because she might come back as a daddy long-legs. They were everywhere at the ranch, and so it was good that I grew to tolerate them!
She was a crack shot, and slept even in winter on the sleeping porch at the ranch house with a gun under her pillow. She was normally sweet, but hated to be tickled, and I usually tried to do this when she was washing dishes, and would inevitably end up with a mouthful of soapsuds. My grandfather Ivan was a pain-in-the-ass, and she often could be heard talking to herself in an animated manner, probably about him, while she cooked and cleaned in front of the kitchen window overlooking her garden.
Remembering, I also felt her to be sadder as she grew older; my idiot grandfather moved her away from the ranch near Oregon House she had grown to love, and into a trailer park in Newhall. He shot the horses and her turtles and cats. I didn’t understand the man then, and don’t now, and had grown to dislike him, a feeling that was to turn to hatred when he put her into a home to die against the wishes of my brothers, mother and I.
The night she died, my mother and I had the same dream. I woke with it, and it ended with my Mimi telling me she was fine. I went into my mom’s bedroom to tell her of my dream, but she told me of hers first — and it was essentially the same dream. We saw Lyla-Mimi-Mom in a field of flowers above Rock Creek near Bishop, where my grandparents and mother and uncles camped when they were younger. She looked to be about 35, much younger than she was when I knew her.
While driving back on California Highway 99 near Marysville, I saw the image below of a California Grandmother figure in the corn and wheat colored fields sweeping up to the foothills. She is a sunny version of my grandmother, and she also contains a lot of me.
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