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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Pretty As A Picture

Pretty As A Picture

Years ago, I had an artist friend, Ernie, who owed me a favor for something. I don’t remember what the favor was, and it really isn’t important so forget it. 

This friend was very talented and was trained in portraits by a Master (whatever that is, that was his claim).  He offered to do a portrait of my daughter who was probably 7 at the time. 

I had a favorite picture of my daughter, one taken on her first day of kindergarten, and I gave it to Ernie.  I planned to surprise my wife with a nice portrait of Mary Beth.

When it was done, I loved that portrait.  I thought it captured the five-year-old I knew, un-scrubbed, innocent and cheery, on a special day. 

When I surprised my wife with the portrait, she was not as happy.

Of course, wife number one was never happy with anything she did not pick out herself and even then, she generally would find a flaw and return her choice several times…suffice it to say she found fault with everything…always.  She was livid I used THAT picture.

My daughters first day of kindergarten was the day after my youngest (at the time) son’s birth.  Needless to say, Mom was not present for this momentous first day and Dad was not aware of the importance of the first-day-of school picture.  Mary Beth was clean, but her hair was not neatly brushed and she was sent off to school in a pull-over tee shirty-thing, not her fancy Sunday best. 

Too me she was the perfect little Kindergartner, not dressed to the nines, but natural and cute as a button.  Apparently my wife saw it differently.  She was angry that I didn’t know the importance of the first day picture.  I screwed up and sent Mary Beth off to school like a normal kid, not a Sears Catalog kid.

The portrait only served to renew her anger.  

Her unhappiness stole the joy I had with this portrait, but eventually she allowed it to be displayed in the house.

When we divorced, the picture was one of the items she demanded.  Because she knew I liked it?  Probably.  Anyway, I was forced to ship it to the UK, her new home at the time (long story), along with several other items.  

Some weeks later I received a call from the shipping destination in the UK asking when the items would be picked up.  There had been a huge fight over these items and I eventually shipped them at some expense and under protest.  There was a tax upon receipt in the UK, I may have overvalued the shipment out of spite. I told the caller, I had no idea and I didn’t care.

I don’t know if she ever picked up the items including the picture, and if she did I don’t know whatever happened to the portrait. 

Maybe my daughter has it?  Mary Beth?

Anyway, I loved that portrait.  It captured an un-scrubbed little five-year-old looking happy and natural, and thinking about it reminds me that losing a wife who never seemed to be satisfied with anything was not such a bad thing.


  1. Now it is "killing" me where that portrait could be. I'm glad you shared this experience with us. Son has the wee one for sometimes big chunks of time. He does things a bit different than me (like the wee one will wear the same outfit he wore the day before but its clean, according to son, so why change it, which I would be changing it "just because.") You got your daughter to school, clean, secure, albeit in different clothes your wife at the time might have wanted, but you fulfilled what needed to be done. Its a good reminder we all walk to the tune of a different drummer and its okay if one walks a different path than we would as long as the end result is the same (in this case a child prepared for her first day of kindergarten).


  2. Sigh, often the ex gets things we would just as soon keep ourselves, but the absence of the ex helps to soften the blow.

  3. I'm so sad at the thought of those things just sitting waiting for collection for, well maybe forever. I know that uncollected things are sometimes auctioned off, so who knows where that picture might be now? Hopefully your ex did eventually claim those things and your Mary Beth has her picture.

  4. So sad. I hope Mary Beth did get the picture. Maybe one day you will find out.

  5. That is a sad story and a good reminder to just let go.

  6. awww. i, too, would have appreciated the naturalness of 5 year old innocence.

  7. Sounds like you got the best part of the deal.

  8. But no one can ever take away the MEMORY you have of that perfect little natural looking kindergartner. Enjoy it. :)

  9. Replies
    1. A jerk to me, but she was a pretty good mom so...

  10. What Olga said. I was thinking the same thing, but not jerk. I think it started with a B.

    I wish you had that portrait.

    Have a fabulous day Joe. ☺

  11. Did you ever snap a photograph of that portrait? I'd love to see one.

  12. It's a sad situation, i hope your daughter does have it.

  13. Ooh ooh, Stephen read my mind. I hope you got that anyway. I too hope your daughter has it.

  14. Well, count me among those who hope that your daughter did end up with the portrait. Too bad your ex had to be such a jerk.

    Do you have contact with Mary Beth? Can you ask her?

    A friend of mine got divorced a few years ago and when it came to divvy up their stuff, her soon to be ex asked for the scrap booking stuff and the Kitchen Aid machine. Just out of spite.

  15. This made me teary eyed.. <3 I hope your daughter has the portrait. It sounds perfectly beautiful.


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