Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Watercolors

Click here to read the previous entry in Becky's diary.

I'm so tired. Every Friday is a cleaning day here. I was sent to work upstairs, and Catherine remained downstairs, so at least I didn't have to endure her company throughout the morning. The boys were sent into the garden to do some weeding, and Aunt Anne spent the entire morning holed up in the kitchen making food. By the time I swept, dusted, vacuumed, mopped the floor and did the laundry, I was so tired I wished it was school day. I would have even been happier to sit in my room cross-stitching. Yes, with Catherine.

One of these days I was so bored that I decided to go with Catherine to visit our neighbours, the Elliots. She gives their children, three girls and one boy, piano lessons. To tease her, I asked why the Elliots have only four children. She very seriously replied that they actually have nine, but five of them have already moved out. I'll bet they did it as soon as they came of age. I wish I hadn't told Catherine I'm bored around here. She took it as a challenge to entertain me, and drags me around every day, showing me the hills and forest and river and all the homesteads around. I won't deny it's a beautiful area - for a week-long vacation. But to live here?

I found a letter from Grandma, addressed to Aunt Anne, on Uncle Ben's desk. Grandma wrote that she decided not to send my clothes and make-up here after all, because in her opinion, it's better for me to have a more modest wardrobe (!) and it's too early for me to wear make-up (!!) - she said she always thought so, but didn't dare to confront me or my parents. And now Grandma and Aunt Anne have the perfect opportunity to keep me dressed in Catherine's clothes. As you can imagine, I was very angry. But Aunt Anne just gave me a stern look and told me I'm not supposed to read other people's letters.

... Following Aunt Anne's advice, Catherine started what she calls a "home management binder", where she writes down everything she plans to do: cleaning, laundry, new recipes she wants to try, how many skeins of wool to buy for her latest knitting project, stuff like that. Because you know, God forbid, she might forget to wash the floors! She tried to convince me to do that too - "if you are bored, Becky, you can just take a look of your list of chores in the home management binder, it's so convenient!"

I have one bit of good news this time, though: I found a way to be alone for at least a couple of hours each day. I used to do some watercolor painting once, and then dropped it because I thought it makes me look like a nerd. Now I told Aunt Anne I want to go back to it. Maybe the result will be awful, but at least I'll get away from making doilies with Catherine. Aunt Anne, just like I predicted, was delighted. First, it fits her most cherished principle: "children must keep busy"; second, watercolor painting, in her opinion, is a "fine feminine art" too. It turned out that Mrs. Elliot's eldest daughter used to paint once too, and Mrs. Elliot was happy to give me all her daughter's paints and brushes.

Now I go out into the fields and paint every day. I do that from the time classes end, and until lunch. I told Aunt Anne I must be alone, because I "lose my inspiration" when someone else is hanging around. How wonderful! When the weather is good, I get two or three hours of peace and quiet every day. No one bothers me and I can quietly paint a landscape, while thinking about whatever comes into my mind. I paint whatever I see - an old mill, a river, a giant crooked tree, the hills, a distant farm. I made a painting of the Elliots' house and gave it to Mrs. Elliot, who was delighted, even though it was not exactly a masterpiece, if you get my drift.

To my vast surprise, a few other neighbours expressed their wish to buy some of paintings, and asked me to tell them when I have new ones. I finally have some pocket money!

11 comments:

Sasha said...

Anna,you know what is the best part of your story?The fact that I catch myself making out plot for it.
For example,aunt Ann might become pregnant and the doctors will say the baby will be born sick and push her into doing an abortion,but she will refuse and a healthy girl will be born.
And Becky might find out right now that she is pregnant from her former BF.
Also there's a secret in the family - one of the children is adopted,and Becky will find out.
Oh My God,so many ideas!!!

Daniel said...

So did you decide to make them Jewish?? Cleaning and cooking on Friday sure sounds like it. In non-Jewish family's that can get done on Saturday in order to prepare for Sunday. Just wondering...

Paulina said...

I really enjoy reading these stories - keep it up!

Kim M. said...

I am looking forward to the next! Happy Belated birthday. :-)

Rose said...

Becky's neighbours have my maiden name, except we spelled it with two 't's. Good stuff Anna.

Mrs. R said...

Hi Anna,
I am quite enjoying your story! How funny that I am "hooked" on checking your blog on a regular basis to read about homemaking and now to read another excerpt of your wonderful story!

You know, something that I have struggled with lately is 'how to BE feminine'. How does a feminine lady walk? Sit? What exactly does a feminine-lady-in-training (at near 50) practice? I was not raised with any feminine examples. I don't "feel" feminine or "lady-like". Is this an attitude or deportment? Or both? I imagine Becky would be the same and possibly wonder 'how to BE feminine' later! I know "I" could sure use the teaching...
Blessings,
~Mrs. R

Mrs. Anna T said...

Sasha, you are almost on spot with ONE of your ideas... but I won't tell which! :o))

Anonymous said...

I have a neice and nephew here in our home in the country. I am enjoying your story and living it out a bit right here at home.!!
They are only here a short while so hoping they pick up on some things naturally. Your story reminds me not to preach, just live it.

jAne said...

I'm thoroughly enjoying this story, Anna. :o)

jAne at tickleberryfarm.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Anna,
I like that you're pursuing creative writing. As constructive criticism, might I make one suggestion? Becky's traditional relative seem a bit too perfect. Aren't there challenges/problems/frustrations within their family and lifestyle? Exploring how they get through the tough times might be a way to both make the relatives more interesting and also serve as a way for Becky to bond with them.
-T.S.

Crystal said...

Yes! I was just thinking what Anonymous said--yes, yes, yes! I love your story. I don't want to dictate, but it seems like the name Becky doesn't quite fit the character. It's short and pretty and sweet . . . not exactly Becky's character at this point! Besides, I don't think Becky's businesslike parents would have chosen a name like that.
Just an idea. No pressure! Thank you for writing this. I thoroughly enjoy it!

Crystal