August 1, 2020

last glad
Great Grandma’s gladiolus, July 2020 (Prismacolor colored pencils and watercolor on Strathmore cold press illustration board)

Here is the most recent botanical I have created on my beautiful and wonderful Strathmore cold press illustration board. It was a bit tricky to get the color of the blossoms just right. I have glads in my garden right now, but none were the color I was after. (That probably seems like a weird thing to say, but it will become clear if you keep reading. If not, please enjoy this peach/pink/apricot/salmon colored gladiolus and you are done with the rest of this post. No worries.) Otherwise, please continue. First, I sketched an actual stem from a non-heirloom plant in a pot on my front porch. Then I scoured the internet for photos of old gladioli for just this shade of…what? Pink? Apricot? Peach? Salmon? Yes, I looked high and low. You are probably wondering why I went to so much trouble. Well, it turns out I wanted to capture the color of gladioli that I once had in my garden, but never learned its name and therefore could not look it up. 

gladiola story
Great Grandma’s Glads (Story from Central Coast Parent Magazine, March 2001)

Here is a magazine article that shows the color I was after. (What color would you say that is?) After reading this story you may have realized my son’s great grandma passed away some time back and it never occurred to me to ask her what her particular gladiola were called when she was alive. Back then I also didn’t know there was such a thing as a pass along plant. But when she gave them to us I knew I always wanted to have her flowers in our gardens. (She also grew garlic, but she never offered any of her garlic seeds and I never thought to ask.) So, I dug up the corms in our Paso Robles ground and took them with us when we moved to Grass Valley. However, when we left Grass Valley I forgot to take any. What was I thinking? For this botanical I had to rely on just the tiny bit of art from this old magazine article I wrote and illustrated. And to compound my color struggles I seem to have given away that original art to someone. Why hadn’t I made a photo copy of the original? Again, what was I thinking? 

As I thought about other pass along plants I have received and shared since then, I also got to thinking about other kinds of “pass along” treasures that can slip through our fingers if we are not careful. The first family treasure that comes to mind is a translucent pink vase that had belonged to my mother. It was her “go to” special vase when she was given flowers. I vividly remember that special pink vase. But this treasure was actually so much more than that as it had been a gift my mom had given her mother when she was a child. I remember my mom telling me that she had saved her money to buy it. So, when her mother died, the vase came back to her. And when my mother died it was passed to me. This same grandmother, whom I never met, also had a family bible that passed to my mom and then to me. We were never a particularly religious family, so the bible mostly sat on the shelf. When we were kids I remember there were tin types of my grandmother’s family in the back pages of that bible. Sadly, those have disappeared. But the pink vase was frequently used and I probably value it a little more. In fact, I used it for some red roses just the other day.

Music was very important to my dad, so I have some original LPs that he played countless times in our house when I was growing up. He also had a technical pen set that he had used in high school and that has now been passed to my son, his grandson. Other pass along stuff from my grandpas include a variety of tools. My mom’s dad had a pair of giant pliers and a level that somehow made it into my tool kit. My dad’s dad had an amazing basement of tools. And somehow I wound up with a double headed ax and a giant clamp. I have several hammers, and I think one of them came from one of them—not really sure who. Both grandpas were plumbers, so I’m not sure how such a tool could have been used by them for their livelihood. (Or maybe I want to imagine they were good plumbers and didn’t use a hammer to fix a leaky kitchen faucet.)  

How about you? Are there any treasures that were passed along to you in your family? My mom and ex-mother in law were big tea drinkers. So, I have several old tea cups from them. I also have tea cups from great grandma, my aunt, as well as a good friend’s grandma. I almost never use such tea cups anymore as I usually want more of a mug of tea than a dainty cup and saucer of Earl Grey. I guess that some pass along items can be a little on the weird side. Somehow I inherited my mother’s wooden hamburger press. It’s pretty cute as it has a stencil of two roosters on one side. I may not use fancy tea cups anymore, but I still use that press to make hamburgers. Probably the weirdest pass along treasure I never saw was my mother’s wedding dress. As I was making mine she so wanted to show me the dress she had made when she married my dad. As the story goes, after their big day my mom asked her dad (my grandpa) to store the dress for her at her family home in Mariposa. It seems that my grandpa didn’t really have a good place to keep it and put it in the brooder house (once a place for their chickens). And, as the story goes, the rats that frequented the now neglected brooder house, ate it. Even after all the times my mom told that story, I still can’t quite picture what that looked like. Thankfully, I have one photo of her in her wedding dress and that will have to do for the passing along of that particular treasure. But this CA girl is thankful to have a virtual way to hang onto many missing pass along family treasures and that’s in the telling of my family stories right here. The end.

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