I want to tell you about the identity photo that I selected for gmabrown. This site calls it a gravatar and maybe everyone does, I just never heard that term before. It’s an 11″ painted clay sculpture that sits on the shelf in my office here at home. I hand-built it in the old hobby room at the other house. It emerged from a half-block of clay during another time that I was struggling with hard changes. I didn’t even know you then. I wasn’t grandma, I was your daddy’s mommy, AJ’s mommy, Robin and Ariel’s step-mom and Grandpa’s new wife.
Hands in clay helped relieve my sadness, confusion and worry; gave me something in my hands I could control, shape, and mold. I could look at it after I was done. The clay was never confused, it stayed put. Most of the time, anyway. I rolled long snakes (just like you and I do when we play with clay) and laid the fatter ones on the bottom and kept stacking them up, welding each one to the previous snake below with mushy clay called slip and a teaspoon to push it around. When it got about half as tall as it is now, I covered it and stopped to wait for it to set a bit. Otherwise the whole thing would collapse.
But I couldn’t wait, I had an idea and wanted my hands to make it. I was thinking about being strong, mighty and capable. And I wanted to see that woman hiding in the clay. But it was too soft, damp and began to sink down. I was all of the sudden sadder thinking about the burden of the weight I felt and now here it was in the clay. Slumping, folding and misshapen. I sought an image of strong women I known in my life and landed on my grandma. All of the grandmas. Whether it was true or not didn’t matter, I liked the idea of grandmothers holding the weight of the lives of generations in their hearts and minds. The burden of it all made them so much more capable, I thought, fuller. And I worked the thin coils above the slumpy form, added thickened slabs, pressed balls into the walls of her dress, added an old face on top and stood back. “Grandma’s Burden”, I called it. I rubbed her with acrylic paints. And I saw strength.