Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Lasting Impression

At this point in my life, there are very few things that I have had since I was single. Of course, there are the mementos that have been purposefully hidden away, things I remember from my youth, which have been acquired from family members and even the odd pair of earrings that I have somehow not lost in all this time. However, after 24 years of marriage and raising kids for 22 years very few items from our single days are part of this household. If an item has survived this long, it has become part of the backdrop and I do not even notice anymore.

One of those items is a print by Camille Pissarro. If you asked me about it yesterday, I would have said, casually, "Yeah, I guess I’ve had this a long time." Today the story is different because yesterday I saw the actual painting for the first time. It was on display at the Birth of Impressionism exhibit at the deYoung Museum. (see yesterday’s post) When I saw it, I realized that this print is something I treasure. The painting is called Red Roofs and looks like this:

I received the print as a gift in 1978, when I was 22 years old, from friends returning from Paris. It was a grown up gift, a quality print. It was the very first thing I paid to have nicely framed. At that point, my life was in flux, as are the lives of many 22 year olds. In 1978, I graduated from college, left Los Angeles and returned to San Francisco. I then moved to Boston for a year and returned to San Francisco. I worked for a few years and moved a few more times. The print always came with me.

In 1982, I moved to Sacramento and started law school and the print came with me. In the fall of 1983, I lived in a terrible one bedroom furnished apartment in Sacramento. If you have ever lived in a furnished apartment, you know what I mean. Everything is functional, but nothing is aesthetically pleasing. The only thing that was “me” in that apartment was the Pissarro print hanging in the living room.

I met Steve that fall and we started “dating” (if that is what you call two law students with zero time) right around Christmas time. He came to my strange little apartment for dinner one night and went right to the print. He then asked the question that almost ended the relationship where it started.

“Did this come with the apartment?”

Uhhh, no. that is mine. (Thinking, are you KIDDING me?)

Then, in a save, he said, “I thought it was nicer than the rest of the stuff.” (I knew he was BS’ing me, but I appreciated the effort.)

From that point on, we have always referred to the print as “apartment art”

We graduated in 1985 moved back to San Francisco and married in 1986. The print was in our house on West Portal. In 1987, we bought this house and hung the print in the living room where it has been ever since. The room has been painted several times, but the print always goes back. I am not even sure when the last time I looked at it was. It is just always there.

For 32 years, it has been part of my life and I did not realize how much I loved it until yesterday.

When I returned home from the museum yesterday, I gave the print a good hard look. After seeing the original I realize how faded it is. The “Red Roofs” are no longer red. The flowerbeds on the hillside are almost indistinguishable from one another. I should probably replace it, but I doubt I will. It is my “apartment art “and it is a part of me. I have faded along with it and that is just fine.


  1. This is a beautiful little essay. I wonder if you should try to publish it.

  2. Red Roofs is lovely. As is your story. I have a similar story (right up front saying you write better than me). The print is the icon for one of my blog carnivals. You can see it in the right column, between the two angel icons. The story of the print is in the invitation to the carnival.

    I am a little struck by some similarities in our single life timelines. We married in the same year.

    A few years ago I visited the art museum of the Smithsonian for the first time. Unexpectedly I saw a the 600-year-old original Madonna and Child by Fra Filippo Lippi. My Godmother gave me the print when I was a child - and sometimes I forget to look at it, too. Barbara

  3. Sally, this was a wonderful entry. It brought tears to my eyes as I was reading it. I can't wait to visit the Birth of Impressionism!!


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