Do You Remember Your Small Triumphs as Norman Rockwell Paintings? by Travis Burchart
As newlyweds, my wife and I purchased a small house built in the 1940s. The house had a bay window that looked out to the south, and below the window, the dark, hard earth suggested the beginnings of a garden. We planted ivy where there was nothing, and as the ivy grew, we guided the long tendrils to the porch. Eventually, the ivy lifted itself and twisted into the iron works, where it curled upwards to the roof. Our entrance, when we finally moved, looked like an English garden.
At the time, training ivy how to climb felt ordinary and mundane, but I now remember it in bright, dare I say inventive, detail. The small acts and struggles that define the phases of our lives life can be captivating in retrospect. Though mundane at the time, I often remember these moments as overly tinted slices of Americana.
It’s truly difficult to describe how I see these small moments. I might describe them as having a painted quality, things I remember as truth, yet which are accented by colors too bright and illustrations too detailed. Apparently, Norman Rockwell has set up shop in my head.
Another small moment occurred during our first winter in the house. To celebrate Christmas, my wife dreamed of icicle lights, the kind that hangs down in various lengths, suggesting a freeze of electricity running jagged along the roof. The house pre-dated external outlets so I didn’t have a power source. The solution was a small plug-in attached to a light bulb base, which I screwed into our porch light’s socket. That Christmas (and all to follow), the porch remained dark, but strands of icicle lights illuminated the rooftop. It was a small struggle, but it helped define our first Christmas together.
While it might not be accurate, I remember planting the ivy backlit by downy sunshine. And I envision that first Christmas through the absence of porch light, the silver moon tinting my breath as I climbed the ladder to hang lights. Again, my recollection is doubtful, but I appreciate my memory for painting these minor moments in major colors.
Thank you Norman Rockwell.
photos by jojakeman & shinazy
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