Tag: Paint

Andalusian Dancer In Cave Café At Sacro Monte" By: The GYPSY

Anatomy Of A Painting “Andalusian Dancer In Cave Café At Sacro Monte”

Acrylic On 16″ x 20 ” Gallery Stretched Canvas.

This painting was my last of 2021 and my first of 2022 having started it on 12/22/2021 and finished it the afternoon of 01/01/2022.
The photo that this painting is based on comes from the National Geographic book “Gypsies Of The World”. This picture has always held a fascination for me. My family migrated from Sacro Monte, which is near Granada, Spain, to Enigen, Germany in 1543 to escape the Spanish Inquisition. My family consists of Artisans, Craftsmen, Healers, etc. and were prime targets.
Romani businesses and skills are passed from one generation to the next. I cannot help, when I look at the photo of the dancer in the café, but think that perhaps my ancestors visited the café and enjoyed a nights entertainment much as the people are doing that I have depicted in my painting.
I have taken liberties with the photograph and have added my own take on the people within the café. I have also included, in the photos on the wall, members of my family as well as the family crest. Most notable is a picture of Berta Hummel also known as Sister Maria Innocentia Hummel. She is a distant cousin of mine and the Artist who inspired the Hummel Figurines.
There are many surprises and a multitude of stories within this painting. I hope you enjoy them all.

-The GYPSY-
“Art must evoke an emotion in order to be art. If it only creates indifference then it is not art, it is garbage!”

End Of The Green: College Of Crows - Oil Painting By The GYPSY

The Artist Life: Topeka Spring Eve

Daffodils and Peonies lift up their scent from the garden below

Through the window their fragrance drifts poignant and ever slow

The sun settles towards the west drawing with it the last light

Shadows creep across the floor chasing the day from our sight

 

Soft breeze rustles the blinds, music swaying the slats and cord

Wood grain trails from wall to wall changing with each board

Mindless chatter touches the dusty air around the empty time

Coffee, tea and laughter fight on the screens electric vertical line

 

Images fade to a small gray dot as the oak box is shut off

Cracking, popping its protest as I exit the door of the loft

New leaves wave as I pass under their light green ceiling

Young grass dances upon the walkway blind and unfeeling

 

Houses of white, gray board and brick fade behind a tree

Structures of granite, marble, and stone loom ahead of me

Car radio blares out Broadway, a street in a city far away

As I step upon broad Kansas a street in this city today

 

Light glows green, mocking the color of Topeka’s Capitol dome

Autos suddenly stop their engines belching protest as I roam

Lines in a sidewalk try to jump forth and break my mom’s back

I dodge and weave counting steps so I may avoid each evil crack

 

Old people stare at women where men browse and children play

Searching for the news, fiction or just a thing too important to say

The smell of tomes, newsprint, candles, candy, ink old and stale

Fills the fluorescent glow of the interior where the world is for sale

 

Casper, Superman, Batman and Wendy reach to me from the rack

Richie Rich, Mighty Mouse, Flash and Spooky beg me from the stack

I flip the pages as the four colors explode into tempting allure

Nightmare, Green Lantern, Black Hawk, or Dot I’m just not sure

 

My choices are made held secure and close to my heart within one arm

The rest returned to their slant seat awaiting for the next soul to charm

Silvery coin to clerk, butterscotch stick in mouth I leave with my treasure

Turning towards home I direct my step anticipating hours of pleasure

 

The red and white machine looms ahead wherein the green bottle lies

Dime in the slot, Twist of the handle to hear the slide and out it flies

Cap popped off as the fizz escapes and tiny bubbles fill the dusky sky

Icy cold the syrupy liquid sharp and sweet burns the throat till I cry

 

In one hand the bottle kept intact for the two pennies it has earned

In the other hand the magic paper whose pages wait to be turned

Red sky turns purple as blue lights high above hum to dull glow

The cobbled walk tries to trip my step as it leads me home too slow

 

Upon my porch the round orb above casts it’s yellow and hazy light

As moths and their cousins dance and swarm within their endless flight

The brown, rusty springs stretch on the end of the porch swing chain

Screaming their protest as my weight settles in  the seat that I claim

 

Lost with Uncle Scrooge, Huey, Dewey and Louie within a vault

I sail away until mother calls me to bed, until tomorrow I shall halt

But upon the sunny morning I shall again be whisked far and away

As Hot Stuff, Green Arrow and Lottie jump forth and ask me to play

 

And when the magic has been used up within the pages faint and torn

Again shall I visit the World News Stand where my mind can be reborn

-The GYPSY-

Gypsy Stew

The Artist Life: Gypsy Stew And The Perfect Day

GYPSY STEW AND THE PERFECT DAY

There is an old saying, “Any day I wake up is a good day.” I totally disagree with that sentiment. There has been many a day that I woke up that I just wished that I would have stayed in bed and slept until the next day. Fortunately however, yesterday was not one of those days. Yesterday was a “Perfect Day.” What constitutes a “Perfect Day”, you may ask?! A “Perfect Day” is a day filled with those things you enjoy doing the most.

For me there are three things in my top ten list of “Things I Enjoy Doing The Most” that I was able to do yesterday;

  1. Ride my motorcycle
  2. Paint
  3. Cook

For those of you that are nosey and are wondering what the other seven “Things I Enjoy Doing The Most” in my top ten list are (and not particularly in this order);

  • Spending time with family and friends
  • Volunteering To Help Worthy Causes
  • Yard work and gardening
  • Hiking through the woods
  • Exploring new places off the beaten path
  • Visiting Landmarks, Zoo’s and Museums
  • Watching a great show whether it be movie, TV, concert, live or circus

“But Gypsy”, you may say, “You didn’t mention tattooing.” That’s correct, I didn’t and I also did not mention building and updating websites. Both activities, though I greatly enjoy doing them, are my job, not my life. The top ten things I listed keep me a happy and well rounded person. Tattooing and Websites keep me fed.

I started out the day as I always do, drinking my morning cup of Java and answering emails. I then went for a cruise on my scooter and ran some errands all while enjoying the beautiful day we had been given. I then returned to the house and started a batch of “Gypsy Stew”.

Here’s the thing to remember, open air and the feel of the wind in your face and the road beneath your wheels wets your appetite making you hungry for all that life has to offer. That includes good food, why do you think there are so many fat

bikers, me included?! So I came home pulled out the crock pot and went to work;

INGREDIENTS:

¼ cup Worchester Sauce

2 well rounded tablespoons chopped Garlic

1 cup white flour

1 tablespoon Seasoning Salt

1 tablespoon Pepper

1 tablespoon Garlic salt

1 table spoon Cumin

2 packages of Lipton Beefy Onion soup mix

¼ cup of cooking oil

2 pounds beef stew meat

4 Large stalks of celery

4 large russet potatoes

1 16 oz bag baby carrots

1 large onion

1 16 oz bag frozen green beans or frozen sweet peas

PREPARATION:

  • Combine Worchester Sauce and cooking oil into a large skillet.
  • In a 1 quart zip lock bag combine flour, seasoning salt, garlic salt, pepper and cumin. Shake well to mix.
  • Place ¼ of stew meat into the bag and shake well. Place coated pieces into the skillet that contains the oil and Worchester sauce. Repeat until all the meat has been coated.
  • Turn the burner under the skillet onto medium heat. Brown the meat stirring frequently.
  • Rinse and cut each Potato into 12 pieces each. First cut the potato in half then section each half by 6. Do not peel the potatoes.
  • Rinse the baby carrots. Do not cut them up, leave them whole.

Gypsy Stew and Homemade Sourdough Bread

  • Rinse and cut up the celery. Do not chop, cut into half moons.
  • Rinse, peel and chop up the yellow onion.
  • Combine the browned meat, vegetables, soup mix, chopped garlic and eight cups of water into a large crock pot. No not add the peas or green beans yet.
  • Cook on high for 4 hours. Remove the lid after 2 hours and stir once.
  • At 4 hours stir the stew again and add the green beans or peas, whichever you decide to use (I prefer it with green beans, makes it heartier). Stir in the green beans and recover.
  • Cook on high one more hour and then shut off the crock pot.
  • Leave to cool, covered for one more hour.
  • Stir and serve with cornbread (Jiffy mix is by far the best) and bring your appetite. Total prep time is 30 minutes and total cooking time is 6 hours. It is well worth the preparation and wait time. It will feed an Army at one setting or just yourself for several days.

After getting the stew started I went to my computer and worked on updating my websites and answered some more emails. Before long however I was in the “Bloody Vardo” (our art studio) starting a new painting.

Right outside the “Bloody Vardo” windows is a very large Lilac bush. Lilacs and Iris’s are my favorite flowers and the breeze was carrying the scent of lilacs through the window. I generally do not paint flowers. Oh I might add a flower here or there for effect within a painting but flowers is not my thing, I leave those to my wife Debbie who loves to paint flowers. But I was inspired so I have started a painting whose main subject is flowers. It is entitled, “The Scent of Lilacs”; Hmmmm, wonder where I got the idea for the painting‘s title. I will share the painting here as soon as I complete it.

Later I did my radio show, as I always do each Monday evening at 6:00. It was a good show and we had a lot of listeners. Afterwards I partook of some of my “Gypsy Stew” and watched my favorite television shows.

I ended the evening by working on “The Scent of Lilacs” a little bit more before calling it a day. All in all it was a “Perfect Day” and I hope you don’t mind that I shared it with you!

-The GYPSY-

The Scent Of Lilacs Oil Painting By The GYPSY

The Artist Life: The Scent Of Lilacs

Drifting on the breeze
A scent that puts my soul at ease
Lilac fragrance fills the air
Triggering memories of time without care

Delicate blossoms on the sprig
Not long they’ll last what joy they bring
One bush here another there
Signals of spring sight and smell to share

Grandpa loved the flower
In it’s color there laid such power
When I was just a child
The bush he planted grew so wild

Outside my bedroom window
The bush would bloom and ever grow
Never again to be shorn
As each spring its scent would be reborn

Now my paint brush
Tries to capture the fragrant rush
Of my own Lilac bouquet
Whose color and scent hold me sway

And when the canvas
Has taken my color within each crevasse
Then the scent of Lilac
Will be captured and kept intact

And I will have painted
Pure nature, perfect in essence and untainted

A scent that puts my soul at ease
Lilac fragrance fills the air
Triggering memories of time without care

Delicate blossoms on the sprig
Not long they’ll last what joy they bring
One bush here another there
Signals of spring sight and smell to share

Grandpa loved the flower
In it’s color there laid such power
When I was just a child
The bush he planted grew so wild

Outside my bedroom window
The bush would bloom and ever grow
Never again to be shorn
As each spring its scent would be reborn

Now my paint brush
Tries to capture the fragrant rush
Of my own Lilac bouquet
Whose color and scent hold me sway

And when the canvas
Has taken my color within each crevasse
Then the scent of Lilac
Will be captured and kept intact

And I will have painted
Pure nature, perfect in essence and untainted

Yeso Wall Watercolor Painting By The GYPSY

The Artist Life: Yeso

YESO

I rolled down the endless highway into the bright New Mexico day. Clouds hung low in the blue morning sky like poly fiber torn from an over stuffed pillow. As I rolled along I knew that the soft clouds could gather into a storm, I watched the sky with wary eye.

Mile after mile passed beneath my wheels as I headed east along Highway 60 towards Ft. Sumner. I watched the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe tracks running along side the road, rail keeping pace with asphalt.

The clouds had congealed into a soft gray mass and I prayed that if they opened it would be a quick desert rain and not a deluge of biblical proportions.

I was thinking about the last 22 miles I had to travel to our destination when I topped a rise in the highway and there it was; A Ghost Town!

I grabbed brake, instinctively, pulling onto the dusty shoulder in front of, what was once, the dead towns post office. I did not have to wonder if I should stop, I knew the answer. My artist eyes had seen this treasure and I knew Yeso, New Mexico was mine for the taking.

Yeso means “gypsum” in Spanish; the town was established in 1906, when the AT&SF RR came to the area, and it became a trading center for ranchers (and the very few farmers) in the area.

Its post office began operations in 1909, and is now the towns only business servicing the nearby ranch’s from a small metal building. The postmaster lives behind the small office in a 5th wheel trailer.

Yeso was spelled Yesso during the years 1912-1913, for unknown reasons. When it became clear that the land was not suited for farming, and only useful for sheepherding and cattle grazing, many of the original settlers moved away. Only a hand full of people still call Yeso home. On this day I was Yeso’s only tourist.

Yeso is a true ghost town in every sense of the word. It’s abandoned red adobe brick buildings are slowly returning to the earth from which they arose.

Open doorways beckon you into passages dimly lit by the ambient light of the desert sky. Sage and course grass cover areas of collapsed flooring like a rolling carpet of dusty green and dark sienna. Empty windows stare out at the world while tumble weed residents roll along long forgotten sidewalks.

Here and there you can hear the residents of this once thriving town talking to each other. The desert finch warns the curious Kangaroo rat that the red tail hawk is nearby while the crows gossip about what the diamondback did last evening. If you listen even closer you can still hear echo’s of the human voices that once filled the vacant structure’s.

I moved around the town, photo after photo capturing what one day would be no more than a dusty pile along a busy road. Foundations that served as planters for prickly pear and cholla cactus today would tomorrow be nothing more than a mound from which creosote arose.

My camera’s shutters click, click, click was answered by the whistling wind that played through missing roofs and broken rafters. I speculated on belongings left behind and what the town must have been like when it was populated with humans instead of desert willows.

I returned to the highway and continued on towards Ft. Sumner. The thick gray clouds were started to thin out as I rolled on. I looked in my rearview mirror one more time for a final look at Yeso. The desert ghost town disappeared from my view as it would one day disappear from the world. It will be forever lost to the ages but captured, at least for a brief time upon my film to one day be brought back to a tenuous life upon my canvas’s resurrected by an artists brush.

-The GYPSY-

1963 Spacewalk Revisited By: The GYPSY

The Artist Life: Am I A Figment Of Your Imagination Or Am I One Of Yours

AM I A FIGMENT OF YOUR IMAGINATION OR AM I ONE OF YOURS

As I sit here watching the words appear upon the screen of my laptop I have to ask myself; Does life imitate art or does art imitate life?

I remember drawing a man walking in space. I carefully rendered the image with my 6 year old hand upon the Manila paper with the fat crayons. I remember getting a Dixie cup full of water and dipping my paint brush into the clear liquid. I moistened the small pat of blue paint and soaked my brush with the azure liquid. I rinsed the brush in the water turning it light blue. Dip, moisten, rinse, dip, moisten, rinse until I was satisfied with the shade of blue within the cup. I then started brushing the diluted water color across the surface of the paper; back and forth, forth and back I went until the large sheet of paper was covered. Years later I would learn that this was called a “Wash” but on that day I was just was trying something new.

Did I know that I was supposed to do this or did someone tell me how to do it? The sands of time have coated my memory and fogged my vision. What I do remember is my first grade teacher, Miss Pyle, making a big deal out of it. I remember the picture being on display in the Clay Elementary School hallway for a long time. I remember my Mother and Grandmother excitedly telling me that my picture won the number one place in the State of Kansas. I did not understand what that meant but they were excited and happy so I acted excited and happy too.

I remember a newspaper reporter with a big camera taking my photo and asking me how it felt to know that I was the number one artist in my age group in the country. I remember two years later when the same reporter asked me; “How did you know two years ago that man would walk in space?” I remember my Mother and Grandmother being so proud that my simple picture was on display in the Smithsonian Institution. I remember asking, “What’s a Smithsonian?”

My Mother once looked at me and said; “I don’t trust you, when I am old you will put me into a nursing home and leave me there to die.” I argued that I would never do that and that if she ever did need to be in a nursing home I would not abandon her and just “Leave Her To Die”. She did not believe me and said, “Your sister will take care of me, unlike you.” I told her, with as much conviction as my 15 year old mouth could muster, “Pat will not take care of you but I will.” When the time came Pat did not take care of her… I did.

How did I know Man would walk in Space? How did I know my Mom would need me one day? I have known these things and so much more about my life. I once heard it said that life is a canvas upon which an unfinished painting resides. No one knows what the next brush stroke may bring. But within my life the canvas is not unfinished; I know what the next brush stroke will be and where I will put it.

I cannot tell you why or how that I know what the painting of my life will be I just know that it is. Sometimes it weighs heavy on me, this knowing. I often feel like that Astronaut, coupled to his capsule by a thin life line as the void of space beckons. He cannot be distracted by the darkness around him; he must forever keep his eye on that silver metal life raft which floats high above the planet of his birth. Some day the space man will re-enter his capsule, secure the hatch and plummet at 185 miles per hour like a shooting star back from whence he came. But today he will not fall back to earth; today he shall live in a crayon Universe and swim in a wash of blue in manila space.

-The GYPSY-

Orangutan Djakarta Jim and Gary Clarke Topeka Zoo

The Artist Life: Anyone Can Create Art You Just have To Have A Desire To Do So

Anyone Can Create Art But Not All Art Can Be Created By Everyone

The Human Species has an ingrained desire to create. Whether planting a garden, building furniture, decorating a home, customizing a vehicle or creating works of art men and women long to create. It is one of the ways we leave our mark on the world and it has been ingrained in our species since the beginning of time.

But the desire to create is not just limited to our species. That desire can be found in many other creatures that we share the world with. Take for instance Djakarta Jim, a male Orangutan from the Topeka Zoo in Topeka, Kansas. Djakarta Jim came to the zoo as an infant in the late 1960’s. In 1971 Zoo Director Gary Clarke was approached by Jim’s Keeper who told him that Jim seemed to be drawing pictures with his food. They gave Jim non toxic paint, a brush and canvas and the rest is history.

Djakarta Jim won awards for his art and opened a door for other animal artists. Research into the artistic abilities of animals was in it’s infancy. But with the public acclaim of the orangutan artist more and more people took notice and more animal art was born and inspired. There are now famous works by Elephants, Horses, Chimpanzees and even dolphins.

If animals are able to create art then so can you. However understanding that you may not have the ability to create all types of art is the first step on your artistic journey. Let’s take a closer look at what it takes to become an artist…

I have people come into my studio all the time and say, “I have a friend that can draw really well and is thinking about tattooing.” My response is always the same, “Just because you can draw a pretty picture on a piece piece of paper does not mean you can tattoo; it takes a certain touch.” This is the same for all art. A Pottery Artist may be the greatest Pottery Artist to step foot on the face of the earth but may be unable to draw a straight line on a piece of paper. Being good at one thing artistically does not guarantee you will be a master in all things artistically and that is OK.

Discovering what your artistic talent is actually easier than you may think. Here is my advise on where you should start: get a pencil and piece of paper. Write down a top ten list of things you like and I do not mean artistically I mean those things you like that make you happy. Arrange the list in your favorite thing at the top and working down to number ten. Now make a separate top ten list of the type of art you like. Examples might be; pencil drawing, pen and ink, watercolor, acrylic painting, oil painting, block printing, decorative art, stained glass, graffiti art, pottery, plaster cast, digital art, pastels, crayon art, portrait art, landscape art, cityscape art, seascape art, animal art, jewelry art, sculpting and on and on and on. The possibilities are endless. Now arrange that list in the order of the type of art you like best with #1 being your favorite and #10 being your list favorite.

You now have two lists; favorite things and favorite art. What are your two number one things? Do you like Motorcycles? Do you like Stain Glass? Now think how you might combine those two things. Maybe make stain glass images of motorcycles or motorcycle events. Do you like Birds? Do you like Decorative Art? How would you combine those two things? Stenciled wall art feature birds or bird themed decorative trim? Do you like Trains? Do you like Graffiti Art? Well I wouldn’t suggest going out and doing graffiti art on trains but what if you painted a picture of a train using a graffiti art style? Are you starting to get the idea?

You can even go a step further; You like old buildings. You also like pottery and acrylic painting. What would stop you from creating artwork in acrylic paint of say an old barn on the side of a pot you made and then glazing that pot. You see where you start on this artistic journey is only limited by your imagination. Now that you have your key elements the next step is fairly simple… experiment and I mean really experiment! Do not just try something one time and say, “Well Gee I guess I can’t do it.” There is an old saying; “Practice Makes Perfect!” If creating art in a style you like is what you really desire to do then practice, practice, practice. But there is a Catch 22.

If you are unfamiliar with what a Catch 22 is it can be defined as a dilemma or difficult circumstance from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions. Remember what I stated above, “Just because you can draw a pretty picture on a piece piece of paper does not mean you can tattoo; it takes a certain touch.” If you have practiced and practiced and practiced the type of art you have chosen and still cannot seem to get it do not let your frustration rule you or kill your desire to create. At that point it will be time to move on and try a different artistic endeavor. You may go through several different things you like and several different types of art combinations before you find the one that is right for you. But I cab assure you that you will find the magic combination that will have you creating art that you admire and that will be admired by others.

Here is a final word of advice; Do not be afraid to ask for help. Taking art classes or buying books that explain the creative process are things you should be willing to do. The greatest cure for ignorance is education. Become artistically educated and you will find that your art will improve along with your abilities as an artist.

One word of caution however for those thinking about tattoo or piercing art; though there are a lot of videos on Youtube showing how to tattoo or pierce. Those “How Too” videos are garbage. You can only truly learn how to tattoo and pierce properly under an experienced state licensed  trainer. If anyone ever tries to charge you for Body Art Training you are in the wrong place. A professional Body Art Trainer makes their money when you start tattooing or piercing in their studio. They do not make their money by taking it out of your pocket and teaching you nothing. Contact your state licensing board for a list of qualified trainers.

So with all that being said I hope that this blog has helped to point you in the right direction on your artistic journey. It is worth repeating to say to you; Anyone Can Create Art You Just Have To Have A Desire To Do So.

-The GYPSY-

 

Xunantunich Pyramid in Belize

The Artist Life: Inspiration From A Haunted Pyramid

Inspired To Paint El Castillo Pyramid at Xunantunich in Belize

The moment I saw the photograph of the El Castillo Pyramid in Belize I knew that it would be on my list of future paintings I would create, People have not inhabited this site in western Belize for a thousand years, but something else is said to roam the place.

Belize is a Caribbean country on the northeastern coast of Central America. It borders Mexico to the north, the Caribbean Sea to the east, and Guatemala to the west and south.

The name Xunantunich (Stone Woman or Maiden of the Rock) was given to this ancient Mayan archaeological complex in the 19th century. The name is said to be derived from the sighting of a ghostly figure of a woman who disappears as one gets nearer to her.

Other aspects of these city ruins are decidedly more solid: Six plazas and more than 25 palaces and temples are preserved within roughly one square mile, situated high on a plateau above the Mopan River.

The Maya civilization spread into the area of Belize between 1500 BC and AD 300 and flourished until about 1200. They left behind monumental cities and pyramids. Few are as awe inspiring as El Castillo.

Sometime soon in the near future I shall take brush to canvas and create my version of the ghostly and majestic giant that has survived far past it’s creators.

-The GYPSY-

Before The Storm Oil On Canvas Board By The GYPSY

Anatomy of a Painting: Before The Storm

“Before The Storm”

By Romani American Artist J.A. George AKA; The GYPSY 16″ x 20″ Oil on Canvas Board.

A Throwback Thursday offering. This painting from 2006 was my first attempt at painting a seascape. I had always shied away from seascapes but on this particular day I was feeling adventuresome.
I originally had not intended to make the clouds so bold and dramatic but as I started layering them I could not help myself. The sea was originally calm with gentle waves but with the boldness of the clouds I could feel the approaching storm. To offset the drama of the clouds I gave the water it’s own boldness as it rolled in “Before The Storm”.
I do a Christmas giveaway every year of one of my paintings and this one went to a sweet lady in Coffeyville, Oklahoma who had some health issue. She said of the painting, “I feel like I am the sea and once I get to shore I will be calm. This painting makes me feel peaceful.”
-The GYPSY-

The List Acrylic Painting By The GYPSY

The Artist Life: The List

The Night Santa Saved Christmas By: J. A. George AKA; The GYPSY

The wind rustled the plastic on the windows at 433 East High popping the artificial storm windows in and out like the breathing of some transparent rectangular monster trapped within the window frame. This was made even more unsettling by the fact that the plastic adorned the windows on the inside of the house and not the outside.
Jimmy and Patty sat on the couch, a blanket wrapped around their bodies to insulate them from the cold. The floor heater cracked and groaned but did little good to chase off the cold in the drafty un-insulated little house on Topeka’s east side. Jimmy and Patty watched the old GE black and white TV reflect back images of Bing Crosby as he, Rosemary Clooney, Vera Ellen and Danny Kaye sang about a White Christmas. Jimmy looked over at the little tree in the corner, the red, green and gold bubble lights sending their tiny endless stream of bubbles up the tubes to go nowhere and disappear in the glass tip of the cylinder. He then looked back at the black and white image of the tree behind the four singers and though their tree was gray within the flickering image Jimmy knew it was a grander tree than he would ever have.

“Is Santa coming tonight?” asked Jimmy’s seven year old sister. “Yes”, Jimmy assured Patty, “But only after your asleep”. Jimmy was 13 and had stopped believing in Santa Claus when he was 9 or 10. Jimmy did pray however that if Santa Claus was real and he was wrong about his existence that he would brave this cold Kansas Christmas eve night and visit their house. Jimmy got up off the couch and led his sister to the bed room she shared with their Mother, Shirley. Tucking her into her bed Jimmy went back into the living room and curled up on the couch to wait for his Mom to come home from work.

As he watched a Cockroach scurry across the floor he prayed that his Mom would remember to pick up some bug spray when she came home from work. The roaches had been bad for the past few days ever since they had ran out of the deadly aerosol the week before. Jimmy watched the little brown creature explore the floor and wondered what went through a roaches head as they scampered to and fro. He hated cock roaches and had no remorse as he picked up a shoe and smashing it flat upon the bare painted plywood floor. Ah, thought the boy, a heel goes through their head. He chuckled at his own small joke. Jimmy left the carcass lie and turned his attention back to the old TV where the Norelco Santa was sledding down the hill on an electric razor.

Jimmy had dozed and was dreaming of dancing mice and singing slugs when the sound of the front door opening jerked him awake. “Hi Mom”, he said rubbing sleep from his eyes, “what’s for dinner?” Normally Jimmy would not ask such a question as he was perfectly capable of fixing him and his sisters meals when his mom wasn’t there but there was no food left in the house and the two children had not ate that day. Shirley looked at he son with a forced smile and said, “Tonight we are going to do breakfast for dinner.” She held up a bag that contained a loaf of day old bread and a carton of a dozen eggs. Jimmy knew what that meant for he had to eat breakfast for dinner before. It meant mom had no money so she had scraped together some change to buy the quarter a loaf bread and the thirty five cent carton of eggs. It was the cheapest meal his mom could throw together outside of a box of Macaroni and Cheese which was also a staple in this home.

Jimmy took the brown paper bag from his mom and headed for the kitchen to drop bread in the toaster and heat up the skillet for eggs. Before he dropped the bread into the toaster he turned it upside down and gave it a shake. The cock roaches liked to hide inside the silver box to feast upon the bread crumbs on the bottom. Jimmy hated the smell of cooking roach so he always checked to make sure none were in the machine before inserting the bread.

Shirley sat down on the couch exhausted. She worked three jobs and still could not make ends meet. She would finish her shift as a proof reader then rush across the street to Pelletier’s Department store where she would assemble bicycles for rich children and wrap presents for even richer parents. On Saturday and Sunday she worked as a PBX switch board operator for answering service near Washburn University. If it wasn’t for the “Aid To Dependent Children” check she received from the state every month to pay her rent and the government commodity allotment she received she might have had to give up her children to Social Services to be placed in foster care. Sometimes she wondered if the children wouldn’t be better off.

Shirley felt fortunate to have her job at Pelletier’s especially since her and her mother had exchanged words three years previous which had led to the eviction of Shirley and her children from her mothers home. Her mother could have fired her from Pelletier’s but didn’t. Her mother was the manager of the large upscale department store. Maybe, Shirley would often think to herself, she keeps me on to alleviate her guilt for kicking me and the children to the curb. The truth of the matter was this however; Pearl, Shirley’s mother, did not feel guilty nor had she tossed her grandchildren out. She had told Shirley to leave but that the grandchildren could remain but Shirley choose, through stubborn pride, to take her children with her. Though Pearl refused to speak with her daughter until Shirley apologized for what she had said to her mother during that argument 3 years hence, Pearl kept Shirley working. Shirley was a phenomenal gift wrapper and a skilled assembly person and Pearl knew it would be bad business to fire such a person from the Pelletier’s team, daughter or no daughter.

Shirley could smell the eggs Jimmy was cooking and looked up as her daughter exited the bed room rubbing her eyes. “Mommy I’m hungry.” the little girl said rubbing her eyes. “I know dear,” Shirley said as she brushed the child’s hair from her face with her hand, “Your brother is fixing eggs.” Shirley looked at her daughter and hoped she would go back to sleep quickly after eating her eggs and toast. Shirley wanted to finish knitting a poncho that she was making for her daughter. She prayed that Patty would believe that Santa had brought it to her for Christmas. Shirley did not know what she would tell her son but she hoped that he would understand why he was getting no present this particular year.

Shirley sighed and laid her daughter on the couch. Covering her daughter with a knit blanket she had made and told her that she would call her when the food was ready. Well, thought Shirley, I better go back and let Jimmy know that there will be no Christmas presents for him this year. Shirley was standing in the kitchen at the back of the house explaining to Jimmy how it is not important to receive gifts on Christmas when the knock came at the front door.

At first it was ever so soft and could have been just the wind shaking the door when the knock came again. A little louder and more urgent Mother and son both looked towards the front door as Patty cried out, “Mommy, someone’s at the door.” Shirley and son headed for the front of the small house. Shirley was concerned for it was almost 10:00pm and she couldn’t imagine who would be knocking on her door this late on a Christmas eve. Jimmy got to the door first and flung it wide letting a blast of cold air fill the house.

Jimmy stood slack jawed looking at the box upon box upon box that filled the front porch. Shirley was speechless and could not imagine that what she was looking at, dozens of brightly wrapped packages, was real. Patty put a name to it as she scurried towards the front porch and the gifts it bore. “SANTA” the little girl cried out, “SANTA” Jimmy, his mom and sister spent the next few minutes bringing packages into the house. As they got towards the bottom of the stack Shirley discovered several boxes filled with food including one box just full of wrapped meat from a butcher shop. One box had canned goods while another had things like pasta and cereal. But the box that fascinated Jimmy the most was the one that contained a turkey that was almost as big as his sister.

The children begged their mother to let them open the presents but she told them “NO, Santa wants you to open your presents on Christmas.” But the children weren’t listening all they knew was that there were presents to be opened so Shirley relented and let them pick one package each to open. Patty’s package contained a new “Malibu Barbi” doll while Jimmy’s package contained a Zorro Hand Puppet. How did Santa know that I like puppets? Jimmy wondered as he fell off to sleep later with a full stomach.

Christmas day the packages revealed a Cornucopia of presents for the children. Dolls, Games, Slot Car Race Tracks, Hot Wheels Cars, Doll Clothes just to mention a few of the children’s items. There was also clothes for the children from socks to shoes to sweaters to coats. New dresses, new pants and new shirts galore. Shirley watched as the children ripped open and revealed their presents and she knew that Santa had, in her hour of need, visited her children. She was a little sad, thinking that Santa had forgot about her when she saw the small Robin egg blue envelope at the bottom of one of the boxes with her name typewritten across it’s face. Shirley picked up the envelope and with trembling hands opened it. Inside was a note that read;

Josten’s American Year Book, Mass Ave. Topeka, KS 8:00am Monday December 29th. Shirley E. Stewart report to Proof Reading Department for orientation. Starting Salary”..

Shirley sat down hard on the couch and read the starting salary again. It was $50.00 per week more than she was making holding down 3 jobs. She swallowed hard and began to cry. “What’s wrong mommy?” Patty asked. Shirley looked at her children in their new clothes holding their new toys and she could smell the turkey cooking in the kitchen where the cupboards were full for the first time in a long time. “Nothing,” she said, “Not one damn thing.” She grabbed her daughter and pulled her close as Jimmy stepped on a cockroach. “I wish Santa had remembered the bug spray!” the boy said as he sent the pest to bug Heaven. They all laughed together, and each in their own way, would forever know that Santa Claus was real and had visited their small home on Christmas Eve of 1969.

******
In March 1981 during the last visit I had with my Grandmother before she passed away the subject of this visit from Santa Claus came up. I asked my Grandmother what she knew about it and if she had a hand in it. She smiled that smile that let the world know that she was up to some sort of mischief then sweetly and innocently said, “Now Jimmy as I recall I may have said something to Santa about Shirley needing some help but it’s been so long ago I hardly remember”. She then changed the subject and the matter was dropped and never brought up again until Christmas of that year.

Grandma sent a small package of presents to me, my wife and daughter for Christmas. For my wife she sent a antique silk hanky with a Parisian print on it. For my daughter, who is a Christmas miracle herself being born on Christmas eve, she sent an old fashioned small plastic doll with a knit outfit. My Christmas package from my Grandmother contained a Zorro hand puppet and a card that merely read “Ho, Ho, Ho”. I held that puppet close to my chest two months later when news came of her passing.

Is Santa real? Yes he is and I will never think otherwise for he once saved Christmas for my family.

-The GYPSY-

“Art must evoke an emotion in order to be art. If it only creates indifference then it is not art, it is garbage!”

This story is included in my Book “Blogging Kansas: Musings From The Land of Oz” Available on www.Amazon.Com

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