Two of my sisters have birthdays in July, on the 2nd and the 3rd, and my daughter Sarah was born almost on the 4th of July–she missed it by just a couple of hours–and my grand-daughter, Karalyn, has late July birthday. My July sisters shared the same bedroom and small double bed for many years, and my mom made them a light purple–some might call it lavender–gingham-checked bedspread, tied to its backing and batting with white yarn. You can see the white ties intersecting the checks in the painting. Several years ago, I wanted to celebrate with my sisters the life we all shared, with many memories, which resulted in this painting. Both sisters got a slightly different version of the painting, and I think this one for my sister, Monet, turned out the best. The lavender bedspread has Utah shaped into it, just below the polar bear, and the shape of the state of Nevada is formed by the upper edge, the top, right-hand part of the painting. The Ruby Mountains on the top left, flow into Nevada as day changes to night, and a star marks the location of the town of Elko, Nevada, where we lived for several years and where I most remember the lavender bedspread. 1705 4th Street, Elko, NV, was the first, brand-new home my parents bought, a 3 bedroom, 1 1/2 bath speculation home in a new subdivision near Northside elementary school. They had purchased an older home back in Vernal, UT, when I was 5 years old, but it needed lots of work, a real fixer-upper it was. We moved from Vernal to Uintah, UT, near Ogden, and then to Elko, NV, when I was 7. A stuffed polar bear sits in the casino of the old Commercial Hotel in Elko, Nevada, the world’s largest dead polar bear. It is the most famous thing about Elko. On Sundays when mom was trying to rest and dad was in charge of us kids, he would take us to places of interest, few that there were, in Elko, and the taxidermy polar bear was one of the places. The other common place he’d take us was the local museum, where I remember vividly the telephone exhibit. Old telegraphs, then telephones throughout their history, and then a futuristic version phone, depicting a device where you could both hear and see the person you were communicating with. It seemed like such a far-off dream, something from my favorite cartoon, The Jetsons, and yet here it is, these many years later, fulfilled, as I recently talked by Skype, actually Facebook messenger, camera with my July daughter who is living in New Zealand now.
At the bottom of the painting is Cove Mountain, as viewed from the spectacular vista of our family home’s living room at 701 Ogden Drive, Richfield, UT. Some bureaucratic idiot recently re-addressed the property. God only knows why, and my mom fought the change as well she should’ve, but she lost. I think it’s 669 West Ogden Drive now. My dad did his very best to design the home to capture the view of Cove Mountain, and he did quite well given the limitations of a panelized construction, pre-manufactured floor plan home that Uncle Bruce Pease helped us build, like an erector set, in 1977-1978. We all graduated from Richfield High School, all 7 kids, and the big “R” represents that high school, as well as the red cliffs and sandstone towers of nearby national parks, finish out the painting. I am looking forward to showing my husband, David, the red-rock country where I grew up, later this July, 2018, 40 years since our house was built.
During these years of Elko and Richfield, I was becoming a closeted gay young man. So, the memories are filled with lots of unprocessed emotions. After 29 years of Mormon marriage, the strictly heterosexual kind, I am taking my husband, gay as we are, and perhaps someone with lots of empathy who is reading my little blog post may be able to understand, even if just a little, how this trip may turn out. I topped off my birthday gifts to my sisters a couple of years ago in this poem to go along with their paintings.
The Lavender, Gingham Check
By Kevin K. Rex, July, 2015
Lavender’s purple, silly Billie,
Not green or blue, dilly dilly.
Lavender, we say, is purple lilac,
Stare at the gingham check, look back,
To see a bedroom full of play,
Boards of games, and bored Summer’s day,
Dolls and phone calls to teenage ears.
There, too soon, we’ll be counting age’s years,
And white yarn tying that purple deck,
Will fray; and wash will fade the fabric check.
Then, we’ll say, “Lavender’s only a scent,”
“And only hint’s a color, long now spent.”
When the white-haired mind can’t remember more,
We’ll say to our grandkids, some four,
Some five, now six, and seven years old,
How purple was really our Nanny’s bold
Idea of being a la mode!
The lavender will fade to Ruby’s view,
Cove Mountain’s green will turn to blue,
And yet we’ll sing, dilly, dilly, it’s green!
Lavender’s green, and my brother’s a queen.
And he wanted the dolls,
And the teenage boy’s calls,
Lavender has turned to rain’s colored bow,
But he got bear’s fur. Now, you know.