Writing is like being able to put life into a snow globe. It takes the things that are too big and scary and reduces them into a form that I can put away when I want and look at from a distance. It also takes all that’s good in life and captures it into something I can take out when I want and look at close up and keep forever. It makes the bad things into something I can hold…and the good things into something I can hold onto. Both help so much that I need that little souvenir of life.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Ode to a Great Lady

 She was a stern looking woman for being only 30. She had severe black hair parted in the middle, and she looked down at those around her as if to say, “You disappoint me.”

Her picture hung over my grandmother’s fireplace for as long as I could remember. For a long time I assumed—as did most people—that she was a relative. My grandmother’s great-grandmother, perhaps.  It wasn’t until later that I found out she was no relation at all, but merely a painting my grandmother had liked. So when my dear grandmother died and my sisters and I went through her things, I chose Mrs. Maria Ogden.

I don’t know why. I think it was because I also got my grandmother’s piano, and Mrs. Maria Ogden seemed like she needed to preside over something grand. It wasn’t until I took the painting that I was able to read the back:

“Mrs. Maria Ogden,” it read. “Age 30.” I think that was it. I remember being surprised that she was a couple of years younger than I was at the time. There was also a date that was right around the time of the Civil War.

For a few years after Mrs. Maria Ogden moved in, I stood a little straighter when I passed her because she looked like she didn’t approve of slouching. I watched my mouth; I’m sure she didn’t approve of colloquialisms, let alone swear words, even mild ones. I’m certain Mrs. Maria Ogden believed that young ladies needed to conduct themselves with decorum even though I was quickly becoming a much older woman than she had been when her portrait was painted. “Be careful,” we whispered. “Mrs. Maria Ogden is watching.” And she was, of course; her eyes followed us.

Then one year when my life was falling apart, I wrapped up Mrs. Maria Ogden and put her in my car and drove her across town to the estate dealer, and I sold her. I cried behind my sunglasses on the way home. I have no idea who this woman was, but over the years she had nonetheless become a part of my roots. I missed her.

Mrs. Maria Ogden helped put my son through college. Now that I’m much older and wiser, I am certain she would not have been disappointed. In fact, I’m sure it’s what Mrs. Maria Ogden would have wanted all along.


Beauty is a miracle of things going together imperfectly. ~Anne Lamott, Stitches


18 comments:

  1. Hari OM
    ...I have the sense that Mrs Maria Ogden still keeps an eye on you; in the same way your grandmother does... YAM xx

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  2. Thank you, YAM. That is exactly what I like to think! :)

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  3. Mrs. Maria Ogden. Gone. But not forgotten.

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  4. Tammy--A picture's worth a thousand words... and also lots of bucks?

    Perhaps you could write a story about all the past (and present) owners of the painting. And over all of them, Mrs. Maria Ogden will reign...

    By the way, congratulations on all the publishing credits. Your sidebar is full of wonderful titles.

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    1. Thanks, Sioux! Interesting thought about her history. I do hope her current people appreciate her.

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  5. I love everything about this post and agree with Sioux. This story belongs in a book or magazine.

    Pat
    Critter Alley

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  6. Tammy, I love this post. Marie was meant to be in your family, and she served you well.

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    1. She made us better people. That's kind of a cool accomplishment for a painting of a woman long dead, huh?

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  7. Beautiful story!
    Have a great weekend...

    Vicki
    www.afewsmallstories.blogspot.com

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    1. Thanks so much for visiting, Vicki!

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  8. You are doing Maria proud, Tammy! What a wonderful story about what I'm sure was a beautiful, strong woman. I'm also sure she's still watching over you, probably chatting it up somewhere with your grandmother. Congratulations on your upcoming publications, especially on placing Powow at Sasee. So happy for you! I know how much that story meant to you, and I'm so glad it's found a home :)

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    1. Thanks so much, Teri! Yes, I'm proud of "Camp Smooshabosom" and excited that it will be published in Sasee. And what a sweet thought about Mrs. Maria Ogden. I hope so!

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  9. I love everything about this post. I have a portrait like that, except that it really is my grandmother. My mom always had the portrait with our piano, too---the two just went hand in hand---classy lady, classy piano. Now I have the piano and the portrait. Together, of course. Just the way they belong. :)

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    1. It makes me smile to think of your grandmother and the piano staying together. That is the way they belong. And perhaps one of your daughters will carry on the tradition!

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  10. Yes, Ms. Maria would have approved. Such a sweet story. I'm sorry you had to give her up, but it was for a good cause.

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  11. Thanks, Lynn. I hope whoever gets her ends up bonding with her as much as we did!

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