Today was my grandmother’s 85th birthday. For those of you who were in town, you know it was surprisingly pleasant, weather-wise; the sun shone, the air was mild, there was even a hint of warmth.
I always have a tough time coming up with a gift for my gran. Over the past few years she’s got rid of many things as a way of decluttering her home, and I don’t like to add to that, so ‘stuff’ isn’t something I consider seriously.
This year I opted for the gift of time together – we (my mom, gran and I) met at the Vancouver Art Gallery and checked out the Emily Carr exhibit, then had lunch at the Gallery Cafe. I had already been quite a few times, and though that as neither my mom or gran had been yet, I might be able to give them something special.
For my grandmother it was like visiting old friends – some of the paintings were part of the gallery’s permanent collection, and she commented on them as we stopped to enjoy them. Others were generously on loan from other galleries across Canada and the world, and became new acquaintances. Those that she liked she spent a little longer with, and those that didn’t please her she gave a respectful bit of time, but didn’t stop to visit long.
I can remember being a young child when my grandmother first talked to me of Emily’s writings and of the subtleties of the native art we were privileged enough to see up close. I think time and experience has deepened her understanding of what she read, for she talked to me not only of the way in which Emily’s brush strokes changed, but also how her attitude towards her subjects changed. Listening to my grandmother, I was reminded that Emily was many things to many people, but that in the end the only person she really ever wanted to answer to was herself.
I’m glad I stepped out of the usual and opted to spend the time together. It may have been meant as a gift for my grandmother, but I think I got one just as big back…