My Aunt Hanni was hugely interesting. She joined an American church in her twenties with her aunt without approval of her family, she survived World War II with her mother, traveled across the border more than once to help her sister get out of Eastern Germany, wrote letters to a German American who she later married, emigrated to the US alone, married an older man in her later thirties and together they joined a polygamist sect. She was the skeleton in my family's closet bur we loved her openheartedly because she loved us passionately.
She wore her waist length dark hair up in a bun, secured by combs and pins. A tendril frequently escaped and waved in the breeze. To hug her meant you were enveloped in her ample bosom which brought the lovely smell of soap and perspiration to your face. I liked that. She was real, with rock hard opinions yet soft responses.
On my summer trips to her farm as a child I often stayed for an entire week. Jumping out of my father's car I approached her front door with excitement. A screened in porch preceded the front door. There on the porch table she always had a puzzle, at least a thousand pieces. Off to the right of the doorway was a little couch where we sat to watch the trains go by. We played a game called Guess What Color The Caboose Is. We would give our guesses, red, black, yellow and shout with glee if we were right. Through the front door was a dining room with a beautiful table laid with a handcrafted tablecloth. I made a beeline to the closet under the stairs. There she stashed the toys. Lincoln logs seemed such a new and exotic toy to me. I was raised alone and did not have building toys.
Through a doorway we entered living room which had the comfortable couch and recliner and right above the couch, a painting.
As a child I looked at this painting often, especially when I was supped to be taking a nap. I yearned to know what was behind the trees along the path. I believe my aunt purchased this painting because it reminded her of her homeland and the Riesengebirge, (Huge mountain range).
Some weeks ago, while visiting with my aunt's friends they offered me this painting. Luckily, my daughter and I had taken a car on this road trip instead of a plane. We carefully managed to fit the painting in the backseat.
At home I started noticing how muted and faded the painting appeared. I decide to take a huge risk. I re-colorized the entire image with acrylic paint. It did change the style of art but I like what I did.
It made me fall in love with the details again. The red roofed huts, reflections in the lake, changing seasons of the trees, and especially the pathway around the lake. As I was painting I decided the pathway went around the whole lake, just like the pathway around my brother's cabin in Colorado.
This painting now hangs above my mantle where I look at it everyday. I feel close to Aunt Hanni in an intimate, connected way. She would be pleased. Her deepest desire was to see her family happy and connected. Her story is an important family narrative and this painting makes it easier for me to share it with my grandchildren.