The year before we left our homeland Finland to travel to the other side of the world and a new life, was 1959. I was seven years old. The youngest of three. Memories and images float in my mind of a family trip to an art gallery. A big room with filtered light. Quietness. Walking around looking at pictures hanging on the walls. Mum and Dad talking and pointing. Me getting restless and bored. Finally they seemed to have come to a decision.
I know in hindsight that this was a trip to purchase two original works of art to take with us when we moved to the other side of the world. Looking at those paintings now, I can understand the choices. They would have served to remind my parents of elements of their home country that they held dear. One was a snow scene. Almost a monochrome with trees in shades of white. A snow scene. That one graces the wall in my sister’s home now. The other a painting of a young girl leading cows home across a paddock.
Memories fast track now to 2004. The year my mother died. On the last night before we flew back home to Adelaide, we gathered together as an extended family for dinner at a local restaurant. At the end of the meal, Dad stood up. With tears in his eyes, he looked at me and said he had something special for me to take home as a birthday gift. He handed me a largish, flat parcel wrapped in brown paper. It was the painting of the shepherd girl. I remember being overwhelmed. Bringing that painting home in one piece presented a few logistical problems. Tne only option was to take it as carry on luggage, carefully wrapped. The frame was ornate, but fragile, being made of soft plaster of paris. We managed to bring it home in one piece.
On the back of the painting Dad had attached a written message –
Raili’s birthday 16.07.04
Thank you for the moments we shared with you Raili, Markku, Marc and Christopher here in Goomboorian.
For you, Raili, our youngest, this painting we bought when leaving Finland – “Shepherd girl leading cows to shelter from the rain”
On this birthday may it bring you our greetings from those fields of home. May God bless you and your family today and every day.
I remember mum touching up that frame several times over the years as the colour faded. Carefully, she used a moist cloth to wipe it clean before dry brushing on some gold paint. Over the years, I found myself doing the same. But in doing so, the high relief detail of the plaster of paris frame was slightly reduced every time. As we had lived many years in the desert heat of Mt Isa in the 1960’s, the frame had dried. And cracked. It was fragile. I knew my attempts to preserve it were just a stop gap. I didn’t want to think about what to do when it was totally beyond repair. Finding something similar would probably be impossible.
Each Advent season I remove the painting and place it in storage to make room for our Advent calendar, the size of a poster with 24 chocolate filled pockets. A must have tradition that has to be adhered to in order to preserve our very own family Christmas tradition. Or else. One year I was a day late. It led to a panicked meltdown by our youngest son. Aren’t we having Christmas this year?! This Christmas just gone , when I put the painting in storage, several large chunks of frame fell off.
I guess I knew this would eventually happen. But knowing that did not make it any easier to see.
After Christmas had been packed away for another year, I looked again at the painting. It was beyond repair. But I knew all was not lost. You see I have a master craftsman living with me. So I took the problem to him and asked if he could make a new frame. As is his way, he let the problem percolate for some months. Then one day he asked me if I minded him making a frame himself from timber he had at home. He has a LOT of it. Of course I did not mind.
Last week he showed me what he had come up with. What did I think, he asked.
Wow! It was so good. The scalloping is done free hand. We looked at the old frame and its detailing. I wanted to feature some gold on the new frame. The logical placement seemed to be in the scalloped section. Painting it on fell to me. We hunted the shelves of Bunnings for gold paint. None to be had. Except for spray paint. I was thinking to use craft paint and dry brush it on.
In the end I resorted to using a Sharpie permanent marker. It worked so well I even impressed myself. Once I had finished my bit, he finished off the frame and inserted the painting into its new home
It has made this painting even more special. Interestingly, the new frame actually makes the painting pop. The colours of the inner frame pick up and emphasise the colours within the painting. I’m sure Mum and Dad would approve.
Better still, the frame was completed just in time for our 47th wedding anniversary.