Nostalgic Grandmother Mandala

Painting: “Nostalgic Grandmother” acrylic on 12" vinyl record

I was skyping with my grandmother the other day as she is in self isolation in her home. She loves telling stories about her life, and at the age of 94, she has a lot of them. Her memory is amazing. Things that happened 75 years ago, seem like yesterday to her.

She grew up on a remote cotton farm back in the early 1900’s, somewhere on the border of Texas and Oklahoma. She helped her daddy pick cotton during the summer months and never imagined how her life could ever be different. Her family was poor, but they got by on selling their cotton and milk from their cows.

When she turned 16 years old, her daddy came into her room, told her to get her overalls on. It was time she learned how to milk a cow and was now part of her responsibility on the farm.

Her mother intervened and let her daddy know that she would never be allowed to milk a cow. She was not having her daughter going to school smelling like cows! That day, her mother won the argument, and my grandmother never milked a cow in her life.

One summer as she was picking cotton, she looked up into the sky and saw an airplane fly by. She thought to herself she would never get to ride in one of those.

What she didn’t know was how fast life was changing during the 1930’s and 40’s. Even though she was living through the depression era, there were still massive advances in technology happening. In just a few short years, she will have met her husband and married him within a month of meeting him, and jetting off to Europe for the war. They were married over 75 years when he passed away a couple years ago.

Even though she was a small country gal, she was brave to travel with her husband who was stationed in Germany and Austria for the war. She had three sons whom all turned out to be amazing human beings.

She lived a fulfilling life.

I cherish the stories she tells me. The era when she grew up is gone forever. The life of being able to simply lay in a field of cotton to take a break from the heat, and stare into the sky and think about life, or nothing at all is foreign for most people now a days.

This mandala is her nostalgia for her young life. The colors of that time period of machine metals, hot, sweltering summer days where the air is thick of humidity, and before the time of air conditioning. The different colors of blues representing all the different colors of sky’s she experienced during this time period from being on the farm, to parts of Europe. The fields of cotton and wheat around the center represents the beginning of her life as the mandala moves outward, represents a movement towards modern day.

It’s inevitable she will not be around much longer, but she still has immense value to me. The older I get, the more I value her life and experiences. After all, I am a part of her, and she is a part of me. Sometimes perhaps we could use a dose of simplicity and sky watching for the occasional airplane to remind us how temporary life is.