Category Archives: Obsessions

Mary Hamilton: Apparently our favorite artist

Dean and I were first introduced to Mary Hamilton’s work when we went to Pittsburgh’s annual “A Fair in the Park” when we lived in Pittsburgh. Her artwork was on the poster advertising it and we picked up a free copy while there (it turns out she does the posters most years). That could have also been the year we bought a print — but since we were poor back then, I don’t know how we were able to afford it. It is possible that once we were settled in Alexandria and had a little spare cash we went back to Pittsburgh and bought our Wolves Dining Out (Observed) print. That also must have been the year we bought the cat print for Neal and Marie. Anyway — we first heard of Mary Hamilton in Pittsburgh in 1984 and fell in love with her linocuts. Ms Hamilton’s work is whimsical, magical and colorful and it appealed to both Dean and me — which is very rare. We bought the Wolves, Dining Out (Observed) directly from her and she told us to make note that the wolves were eating peas and were very messy eaters.

The year I was pregnant with Clare, and we were paying a visit to Neal and Marie in early summer, I wondered what we could bring them for a host/hostess gift. We both wished that we knew where to buy a Mary Hamilton print since they loved the cat print so much. I did a bold thing (for me — I hate talking to strangers on the telephone) and called the telephone number on a card that came with my Wolves Dining Out (Observed) print. The next thing I knew, I was talking to Mary Hamilton herself. She told me that the only place nearby that I could purchase her work was at P Street Gallery in Georgetown (now closed, alas). So I did another rare thing — I drove to Georgetown, parked the car and bought a framed print. This one was of two children in a tree. Marie loved it — maybe Neal did too, I don’t know. It is possible that Dean went to P Street Gallery with me at a later date and we bought our “The Invitation” print. Otherwise, I don’t know where it came from.

The Invitation
The Invitation

Now we have this thing called the World Wide Web and I can find her work on Google Image search, Pinterest, Facebook, and elsewhere.

Somewhere, perhaps at P Street Gallery, I bought a box of greeting cards with Ms Hamilton’s prints on them. I only gave them to very special people (or Dean since he could give it back to me if I wanted it) because I loved her artwork so much. I recently came across the 4 remaining cards and plan to get them framed either individually or as a quartet.

I am not sure of the reason for this post except to show off our collection of Mary Hamiltons. I’m also thinking of planning a trip to Pittsburgh in early to mid-September to maybe buy more…

Mr. Tumnus and me

4 black and white images of me holding Mr. Tumnus
Mr. Tumnus and me.

Back, a very long time ago, I enjoyed shopping at K-mart. Our family would drive to the K-mart either on the East side of Elgin, or another local K-mart — perhaps one in Meadowdale, if there was one there. Anyway, my memories of shopping with my parents at K-mart are all pleasant. We’d usually stop at the deli and pick up a sub-sandwich. I liked the ham they put in their sandwiches, and remember the bread being tasty. I even liked the raw onions and processed orange cheese they put in the sandwiches.

I didn’t often buy anything with my own money on these shopping trips, but remember one purchase when I was in my late teens. I remember walking along one of the main aisles — the area where they kept their seasonal specials — and stopping, mouth in an “o” shape, eyes wide, possibly making an ahhhhhhhh! sound of pure joy. I saw a display full of 16 or so inch bronze-colored ceramic fauns at the low, low price of $20. It may not have been a blue-light special, but it was something I could not live without. I picked one up, hugged it and placed it gently in our shopping cart.

“It’s Mr. Tumnus!” I announced to my family. “From Narnia. And I am buying him!”

Because my parents knew about my obsession with The Chronicles of Narnia, they did not try to talk me out of buying the statue. And I don’t know if it was then and there that my dad came up with his nickname for the statue, but I can just imagine him telling the check-out clerk that his daughter just had to have Mr. Numbnuts. (I do remember Dad calling the statue “Mr. Numbnuts” when he was helping us pack up my Elgin apartment for the move to Pittsburgh.)

Mr. Tumnus traveled with me from my parents house to my first apartment, to Pittsburgh, to two houses in Alexandria, then finally to his last home, Bethesda. He stood in the gardens of several of those homes, but  because he was not made out of weatherproof material, he eventually disintegrated into a white powder. He was too far gone by the time we moved to Bethesda to stand next to the gas lamppost in our front yard.

For years I looked for a similar, more weatherproof, version of Mr. Tumnus, but never found one I could afford or one that looked like my Mr. Tumnus. I no longer plan to replace Mr. Tumnus — that obsession has gone, but I cannot help looking for Mr. Tumnus when we visit garden stores or pass places that carry statues.

I thought I’d never see him again until I opened an old book I found at my mom’s a few years ago and found a photo booth set of photos of me and Mr. Tumnus. (Likely taken at K-mart the day I found him.) He’s over there, to your left — with a long-haired pig-tailed youngster that used to be me.

 

Chasing Amy*

Dean isn’t the only one in the family with obsessions. I have them too — mostly about meeting authors. I wrote about my obsession with Phyllis Reynolds Naylor a couple of times, but never really explained that the real obsession was that I could possibly be walking in Bethesda and pass her on the street or in the grocery store because she actually lived in Bethesda. Back when I was following Neil Gaiman’s blog I used to imagine bumping into him somehow, someday — not at the National Book Festival where he’s been an invited author many times, but maybe if I ever traveled to Minneapolis or something. I mean, it could have happened…

Well, my latest obsession about meeting someone sort of famous lasted about 5 years or so. A while back (like I said, 5 years or so) I was searching for something involving Bethesda on Google and came across a blog written by a young mother who, it seemed, lived in Bethesda. I read her blog and recognized places she talked about (the Trader Joe’s with the crazy stupid parking lot and the Pier 1 store not far from Trader Joe’s where she once dropped some packages and a passerby ignored her [I wouldn’t have done so, I vowed]).

As the years went on she wrote more about her family — the births of her second and third sons; the death of her father a few months after my own father’s death. She freely posted photos of herself, her boys and her husband, but I always wondered if I would recognize her or them if I passed them on the street in Bethesda. Photos are one thing — the real live person is another.

I even dreamed about meeting this blogger. I posted about one dream — where she fed us hot dogs, but have not bothered to mention the other dreams. They usually simply incorporate her as a friend of mine. Please note — while I read her blog, I do not really know her and do not pretend to know her, but try telling that to my subconscious.

So the other day when Clare was home for a few days after Superstorm Sandy hit our area she wanted to go shopping at a local mall to find some new jeans. She found a couple pairs (okay — four pairs of skinny corduroys in different colors) and we were meandering through the mall wondering where to go next when I turned around near the Fossil store and saw AMALAH! (her name is really Amy but she goes by Amalah on twitter and that’s the name of her blog). There, in the middle of a bunch of strangers was this family I’d read about 3 times a week. The whole family, was walking in the mall as if they were not totally famous. I had a few seconds to decide what I would do. Would I run up and say, “Amy! I read your blog! I am so glad to finally meet you!”? or would I just watch the family pass by without saying anything, but feeling all giddy and wanting to dance a little jig?

I chose the latter. I did tell Clare about it and pointed out each of the children by name and she thought they were adorable. (they were!)

Afterwards I felt a little let down — not because I’d seen them, but because my wait was over. I finally ran into them somewhere in Bethesda. Of course it could happen again — and maybe next time I will say something — hopefully I will be calmer then.

But really — now I have nothing to look forward to. I need a new obsession!

*No chasing was involved — it was a purely accidental encounter. Promise!