Monday, March 10, 2014

Rockwell Hands

I was visiting a friend in the dining area of a local nursing home when I turned to the elderly woman sitting quietly to my left and commented on her lovely hands.  She was sporting a fresh manicure that had immediately drawn my attention to her long, elegant fingers. She smiled, obviously pleased.  My friend introduced me and then continued,  "She's related to Norman Rockwell."   I looked at my table companion.  "You're related to the Norman Rockwell?"  She nodded.  "He and my father were first cousins, their fathers were brothers.  They were very close, so he spent a lot of time at our home." I could hear the pride in her voice as she continued on and spoke of the cousin whose artwork had graced the covers of The Saturday Evening Post for four decades, the magazine that sat on my parents' coffee table when I was growing up.  We chatted for a few more minutes and then as I stood to leave she leaned forward, her eyes twinkling, eager to add one more thing.  "My only regret in getting married was that I had to change my name.  I liked being a Rockwell."

I could relate.  Though my name didn't carry near the recognition that hers did,  I liked it.  My father might not have been a world-renowned painter, but as a first-class meat cutter, he could wield a butcher knife with finesse and precision.  That was his craft and he practiced it well.  My mother was never able to attend college, but she exuded intelligence.  She was naturally curious so she was well-read and stayed informed about many things, most things.   Add to that her ability to articulate and it is no wonder that people knew who she was.  Yes,  I was proud of where I'd come from and the name I carried.  The day came, however, when I changed it.  I had fallen in love with a tall, dark-haired preacher boy who asked me if I'd like to change mine to his and I accepted the offer.  But even now, even though I've become quite accustomed to it, I never completely feel that it's my own.   

Before I left the nursing home that day, my friend Marianne told me that the woman I had met that afternoon  was also an artist.  I don't suppose I should have been surprised.  It was her exquisite hands that had prompted me to strike up a conversation with her in the first place.  It didn't matter what name she might go by.  Her hands said it all.  She would always be a Rockwell.