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My Aunt Becky, The Artist In the Family

Wednesday 01/16/2008 12:13 AM

It was summertime and we were in the attic together. I was ten or so, visiting my family in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for the months of June, July and August. My Aunt Becky (AKA Benka or just Beck) and I were alone in the large unfinished room at the top of the farmhouse (the same one where my grandmother, Mummu, and I would sleep together on Friday nights so she could keep me company while I watched old back-and-white horror films on the television into the wee hours of the morning).

It was the early afternoon and I'm not sure how we got started but there's little doubt you can file it under the category of Keep-Peter-Occupied. Benka pulled out what seemed like an endless bounty of pens and pencils and such. I'm sure she let me start, but after a few minutes she started working on something of her own. And I was mesmerized.

I watched her layout on array of geometry and then slowly connect it, make sense of it with dabs and strokes of ink. Now, decades past, I can see the pattern and guess at her inspirations, but that doesn't erase my memories of the magic. How I wondered at the sum of the thing and how she got from there to here — tabula rasa and all. If only I could one day make something half as neat as that.

When she decided it was done, Beck ripped it from the spiral-bound notebook and gave it to me. Over the years I moved it from one envelope or folder to another, but every time my fingers held the flattened paper with ragged edge, I marveled at her creation.

This evening, while looking for something else entirely in the big black file cabinet in my storage unit, I found this relic, my treasured work of art from my prettiest, friendliest aunt.

And all these memories came rushing back.

File Under: Artwork, Someone Else's; Becky, Aunt; Family, Lakanen; Farm, The; Mummu
Music: Nine Inch Nails "Y34RZ3R0R3MIX3D"

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