|BWS Stories - "Reflections of the Way Life Used to Be"...Times Have Changed|
"Reflections of the Way Life Used to Be"...Times Have Changed - TO KIM (Wherever He May Be) and to the Ripples He Created ?
Jean writes from home in her native Northern California. Her work has appeared in such widely diverse publications as "California Wild" (Calif. Academy of Sciences), "Haunted Encounters" (ATriad Press), "GreenPrints", "Nostalgia" and online at "WritersWeekly.com" and "ALongStoryShort.net", among others.
See her homepage at: http://home.comcast.net/~lilfishjean/resume.html
TO KIM (Wherever He May Be) and to the Ripples He Created ?
The year was 1966. I was 13 years old and the Hippy Movement was bringing people from all over the world to a point about 50 miles south of the small town where I lived to witness its birth on the corner of Haight Street and Ashbury.
When the very first hippies moved in that anyone in our neighborhood had ever seen up-close, included among them was a little, red-haired girl (about two years old at the time) whom I came to know as Elizabeth, her mother, MaryAnn, and her step-father, Kim.
MaryAnn immediately got a job as a waitress on the lunch and dinner shifts at an Italian restaurant downtown, while Kim was a late-night cook at another restaurant several blocks away. The differences in their work schedules left a few hours on a couple of nights during the week when neither of them was available to take care of Elizabeth, and I was fortunate enough to get the babysitting job.
How I loved their house! MaryAnn and Kim had all the cool records (real, vinyl ones) of the time: Sgt. Pepper, Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones. Additionally, Kim was a crafts person and artist of extraordinary talent.
Fascinated, I would spend hours watching him, learning how to make the beautiful things that he made with his hands. When I think back on it, I can appreciate how patient Kim was with me -- an eager, curious teenager who followed him around -- questioning his every move.
One day, I found him in the hallway between their kitchen and bathroom making a colorful collage that covered the ceiling and both walls. Amazed, I asked him how he created it.
Ever-tolerant, he patiently explained how he cut photographs from magazines and album inserts and the like and glued them together create a collage.
Holding up what looked like a small can of paint, he told me, “This is the stuff you need to make collages that last. It’s called Varathane® -- it’s what they use on roller skating rink floors. It’s kind of expensive -- this little can costs more than a whole gallon of paint -- but, if you brush on several coats, one layer at a time, and allow each of them to dry completely before applying the next, the surface will be hard, durable and washable and it will keep the colors from fading. It’s the best stuff there is!”
I couldn't wait to spend some of my babysitting money to purchase my very first can of Varathane® that summer to make my own collages. I’ve used up many, many cans of it since then...
On another occasion, I remember admiring a mobile that Kim made out of pieces of driftwood and shells. As was his practice, always, with me, he took special pains to show me how it was constructed, explaining how I could create one like it.
Kim, MaryAnn and Elizabeth moved away a couple of years later. I have no idea what happened to them but I couldn’t even begin to tell you exactly how many, many collages and driftwood mobiles I’ve made in my lifetime (I’ll be 53 next month).
Recently, I happened to be driving past an apartment building where my mother and I lived in the late 1960s, and noticed that the apartment next door was open and a couple of men were working inside.
I’d long been curious to find out if a large collage that I’d made on the garage wall when I lived there in 1968 might still be there, so, I parked my car and hailed one of the workmen. He turned out to be the building’s current owner.
When I asked him about the collage, he assured me that it was still there -- adding that he’d replaced nearly every, single piece of sheetrock in the building over the 20 years that he’d owned the place, but, somehow, could never bring himself to tear out or paint over my collage.
"From the first moment I saw it," he told me, "I knew it was a very special work of art. It conveys the essence of the 60s so well -- those were turbulent, frightening years and, yet, in some ways, they were also wonderful, magical years... And you say you were only 16 when you made it? Amazing... I've always wondered about the artist."
He added that he believed the present tenants were home at that moment and offered to go ask their permission for me to enter the garage to view the collage, if I wished. I jumped at the chance.
As I stood before the artwork that my young hands had fashioned so long ago, I ran my fingers gently over the pictures of surfers, flower children and newsmakers of the time – many of which I’d forgotten about long ago -- and tears came to my eyes.
I could hardly believe that my collage was still there -- that is, until I remembered the coat after coat of Kim’s "Varathane®” that I'd dutifully applied to it over the several days following its completion.
“That’s how you make a collage that lasts,” I whispered to myself, wishing there was some way to let Kim know that -- through me -- his art had survived for all these years.
The skills that I learned from Kim didn’t end with me, either. Over the course of my life, I have passed-on what he taught me – setting many other pairs of young hands in motion. I’ve taught strangers, friends and even the children of friends how to make collages and driftwood mobiles. Many of them, before that, were feared to be irretrievably lost to crime, drugs and despair...
I’ve seen children’s relationships with their parents strengthen as they hunted together along a beach for just the right pieces of driftwood to make their mobiles out of and as they thumbed together through old magazines, looking for only the most colorful pictures for their collages.
To think that it all began in 1966 with one young man who had the patience to teach the means of his arts to a pesky teenager who was so eager to learn. Even now, like slow-moving ripples across time and space, the influence of Kim’s art and humanity continue on their way across the surface of this huge pond that we call Life...
And who can say just how far into the future those ripples might eventually extend or, in the end, how many people's lives will have been forever changed by them?
I cannot say... I am merely grateful to have been included in one small wave…