When I was growing up, a charming print of a little girl sitting on a bench below a bluebird in a tree hung on my bedroom wall. As a youngster, I innocently believed this was a picture of my mother, because the little girl's face held a sweet expression so like my mom's, and her hair was the same shade of brown: she looked just like my mom in the photos I’d seen of her as a child. I’d often gaze at the picture before I fell asleep, comforted by the vision of my mother as a little girl.
My mom died almost ten years ago, and when I joined my siblings to divide her belongings, this picture was the only item that caused a bit of discussion, as we all wanted it, and we all confessed to thinking as children that it was a picture of our mother. Eventually, my sister and I decided the print should go to our brother. Still, we both yearned for it, and wouldn’t let go of our fantasy that it was not a picture of some nameless child, but a portrait of our mom.
Enter, the Universe. About five years ago, on a trip to a quaint bed and breakfast in Cape May, New Jersey (a good six hours from my upstate New York childhood home), I happened upon the very same picture—which I later learned is a copy of a painting called “Spring Song” by the German artist Simon Glucklich--in the ladies room. I approached the bed and breakfast owner and told her my sentimental story. “If it means so much to you,” she offered, “You can have it for fifty dollars.”
Needless to say, I went home with the print, which I later discovered sold for 98 cents in the l927 Sears Roebuck catalogue, but now goes for anywhere from $25 to $50 on eBay. I also learned that the little girl was the artist’s daughter, and that she was blind.
I was thrilled that I’d stumbled upon the print, but this was not the end of the story. Recently another print was offered up when my brother happened upon one more copy in a local shop. He bought the slightly larger print for $25 and decided to give my sister the original, so now we all have "Spring Song" hanging in our homes.
I recount this tale because I’m forever amazed by the gifts we receive every day, and by the unexpected ways in which our heart’s desires are answered. Call it “coincidence” if you want, but I like to think that there’s a deeper reason why—without searching the Internet or actually seeking the picture—all three of us ended up with the very print we’d so highly valued as children.
The tale is a reminder to me, too, of the fact that some of the most treasured gifts in life come without hefty price tags—the seashells collected at the beach one breezy spring day with my children, the checkered wool vest my dad wore when he went fishing, the scent of my grandmother’s favorite perfume. And though it’s not a stunning Van Gogh or a gorgeous Monet, this sweet, old-fashioned picture is a priceless reminder of at least three childhoods, as well as one mother’s abiding love.