Letters To Timmy


I’ve produced several pieces of art in the last few weeks, but again none that you would ever see hanging in a museum, or even a local gallery. Despite many promises to myself to return to the oil painting I love so much, I find myself drawn back to creating for those I love in my life, particularly my grandson Timmy. Life throws us all some curve-balls, unexpected losses and gains (though it seems most of the time its losses!), we learn to cope the best we can and to adjust to life as it is. For me it is that careers have taken my daughter, her husband, her son, and her soon to be born daughter to the other side of the country. Life has also moved my son to Los Angeles, roughly 85 miles from me, although if you are familiar with LA traffic you might understand when I say sometimes a flight to NY would be quicker. I am grateful for the modern conveniences of social media. Thanks to cell phones, iPad, and my desktop computer, I am able to talk, text, Face Time, Skype, and email to my heart’s content. Despite all of that I miss the face to face time, the hugs and kisses, and the pleasure of holding my grandson on my lap.

When my kids were growing up I made it a daily habit to include notes in their school lunches, creating characters just for them so that they knew I was always thinking about them. Several months ago I decided to connect with Timmy in much the same way through snail mail. I began to write him short notes, always asking Grandpa to add his own thoughts as well, and then illustrating not just the card but the envelope as well. I decided after my last visit to NY to make Timmy a box to keep his letters in. We visited one of the local antique stores looking for the perfect box, but instead found a little brown suitcase that had seen better days. It couldn’t have been more perfect. I repainted the suitcase a bright and cheery red, searched for images of vintage travel stickers of places that Timmy has been, has family living in, and a couple just for fun. I made one of one of my “Timmy” cards to personalize it. I refurbished the inside as well, using Mod Podge and tissue paper, which looks like lacquer when dry. I also added a little cork board for when he is old enough to safely pin a few things to. Of course me being me I have to go a step further, I bought him a mailbox at the craft store. Personalizing once again to make it special for Timmy (There is also a pink one waiting anxiously for his sister). One of these days I will actually pick up that palette and brush again, but for now I’m happy to send a little love across country.


Since I began writing the blog above I have begun the long overdue task of sorting through the boxes of my dad’s papers and photographs. It has been more than two years since he passed, and Saturday was the tenth anniversary of my Mom’s passing. While I am still grateful for what modern technology can do to keep me in touch with family, I found myself moved by looking through the papers and letters that were in dad’s boxes. My grandparents were in Ireland, they didn’t have the connections that I have. They had to wait for a cherished letter or photograph to know how their son, their daughter, and their four granddaughters were doing. Phone calls were possible but expensive. Those words written on paper were the connection of a family that was far apart. Loving words preserved, glimpses of a life since past, gifts for me, my sisters, our children and theirs. The memory of phone calls fade, Face Time is in the moment, and although an email is I guess the modern letter, and I suppose you could save the file, I wouldn’t trade these faded papers with my grandmother’s signature, my dad’s life story written by his own hand, or my mother’s profession of love to our dad in an old anniversary card for anything. I am hoping that someday long after I’m gone that Timmy and his sister will be able to look back and their grandmother’s funny little drawings, to read my words, and know just how much I love them.

Timmy plane

copyright symbolTimmy Mail, and all images created by Jacqueline Zuckerman contained in this post.



One Last Move

A small watercolor tonight of the “auld sod”, otherwise known as Ireland. My Dad left Ireland in July of 1956, my Mother followed that October, after accepting my Dad’s invitation to move to Canada and marry him. Fifty seven years later Mom is gone, and my Dad is ready to move from the home they had together. It was a difficult decision for him, leaving the last place that he lived with her, but it is time for him to move somewhere more manageable. Fifty seven years later my Dad still sounds like he just arrived from Dublin last week. We grew up in Chicago, but I often joke that we might as well have grown up in Ireland, all of our parents friends were from there, any events we attended were with Irish people, music in our home was Irish…you get the idea. Dad has found a place to move to, there is a large Irish contingent living in this particular retirement home. He seems happy which is what is important, but he said something to me a few months ago that really stuck with me. He said that when he moved out his house he would be leaving his last home. The finality of that statement made me sad. I thought about what it must feel like to choose the last place you will live. In his heart he never left Ireland, and I am sure that there is a part of him that would love to move back there now, but the bigger part of his heart belongs to my Mom, and her grave is near his new place. He is certain about this move except for leaving her house, and in some way leaving her behind. We are all doing our part to reassure him that he is making the right decision. My contribution to that will be a painting for his new apartment. The painting tonight is the beautiful Irish coast, I will give him this one, but once I am back at home it will have to be an oil of Dublin. It will be hard on all of us to sell their home. Just as I am on this journey of discovery for myself, Dad will be starting the last leg of his own journey, and I want him to be happy.



Still Hanging In

Today is my Dad’s birthday. My mother used to say about him, “A creaking door never dies.” Not quite sure what that means, but at eighty-one he has outlived most of his family. My mother, his brothers and sister, his parents, and quite a few of his friends. The doctors said that his recent head injury should have killed him. That head? He’s a former pro soccer player and his head was one of his best weapons. I’ve actually seen him use it more than once during the endless games of my childhood. My mother would dress my sisters and I alike, the four little dolls that she grew up without, and we would have to sit in a row and watch “Daddy” play. I’ve also seen him use that head off the field, fortunately for me only once, unfortunately for the guy who received it in the jaw. Dad saw a guy in a bar slap a woman. I don’t remember any more about it than that, I was only around eleven or twelve, (Yes, I was in a tavern, not unheard of in the Irish crowd of my youth. Your parents friends were all there, and you just went along). He went outside with the guy, words were exchanged, the guy raised his hands, and then the head, right to the jaw. It burst like a fountain, and the argument was over. He was also a track star, and now he can barely walk. Age and a really bad knee cap replacement have taken their toll. The last few days have been enlightening in a number of ways. To begin with I feel saddened by seeing him in the forgetful condition he is in now. The head injury may not have killed him but it definitely had an effect. It also troubles me to see how he has given up. He is lonely, and bored, but no matter how many suggestions we make the answer is always, “I can’t”. That is disappointing for me because I know the man he used to be. And finally, the most enlightening of all was a glimpse of my parent’s life as a couple. I told my sisters that while I was here I would begin the enormous job of cleaning out some of the stuff that has accumulated in both the basement and the garage. My Dad had EVERY greeting card he and my mother had ever received or given each other. They were married for fifty years. Boxes and boxes of cards. I decided to sort them by daughter, a box for each of us, cards we gave them or our children gave them, and then two boxes for my Dad, one for cards from my Mom, one for cards that he gave her. As I sorted through them I found little terms of endearment, expressions of love, gratitude, and even a little humor. I’m sure you might not find that to be unusual, but if you had been around my parents the last few years you would have to wonder. They were always fighting,at least it seemed that way to me. When Mom died I overheard my Dad saying that they never had an argument. I remember thinking, “What? All they did was fight, where was he?”, but no one knows what goes on inside a marriage. It was a very pleasant surprise to read those cards. I learned something else in the last few days, I’m throwing crap out when I get home. When I look at the overwhelming task that awaits my sisters and I, I refuse to do that to my kids. You’re welcome Jessica and Brian.

I’ve been hanging on by a thread to my project this week. Tonight isn’t much better. We took Dad to an Irish Pub for dinner. You may know the type, prefabricated Irish pubs are opening all over the place, complete with Irish knick-knacks and artwork. I saw photo on the wall that caught my eye. As always a sketch pad and pen. A little bit of the old sod as my Dad would say, reflected in the water.image