Friday, March 25, 2011

Busy busy

working on this..... only bigger and in color. Plus many more pages.....

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Today Everbody's Irish - even me

That is a family picture. That is my Great, Great Grandmother, Mary Elizabeth McNamara - Maher . Next to her is my Grandmother, "Dottie".  That imposing woman - (can't you just feel her?) - came from Ireland in 1892 with every penny she possessed sewn into the hem of that voluminous skirt of hers. Dottie, her granddaughter, was the daughter of an Irish woman who was the widow of Irishman James O'Farrell with one child, who became a governess to an English man, William Hunter, who was a widower with, I think, 8 kids of his own. So Dottie was half Irish, half English.

That's about as far as it goes for the pure Irish Family history. Dottie married a Polish man - Leo Rosenski, had my Mom who married my Dad, half Italian, half Brazilian..... and produced me - a mutt. I am the sum of the Immigration Experience.  And what did I go and do? I married a Jewish boy! - Ain't that America?

So in my family- the looks range from olive skinned, dark haired lovelies to pale- pale-
This is why I identify so strongly as being Irish. It's the only thing that showed up on the outside. I have an Italian stomach- Brazilian rhythm and a Polish sense of direction(I kid). My face - has been smacked with a shillelagh.

Countless times in my life- I have had strangers look at me- stare and say "OH.... She has the map of Ireland on her face." - which is kinda nice to hear to a kid who had such a mixed up background. I'm not well grounded in Irish traditions- I know much more about my Brazilain heritage and the Italian food. I went to Brazil @ 17. It was a life changing experience to stand on ground that you know your people came from. - But everyone (and everyone there is gorgeous) called me "linda gringo" and I spontaneously combusted from all of the sun. This is me - in front of Jesus' gigantic toe in Rio- contemplating how grateful I am for the clouds that day.

I ate my way thru Italy on a highschool tour - gazed at the stylish beautiful people and spontaneously combusted from all of the sun.

I have put off my dream trip to the Emerald Isle for 10 years. I am close to making it a reality, I can feel it in my bones. I want to stand on that ground and see the green hills and the rocky coast. I want to breathe the air- and have my skin feel at home. I want to see where Mary Elizabeth McNamara had her farm that she sold to have the money she sewed into the hem of her skirt.
I suppose it's a longing to belong to something. Some tangible proof that it's not just my face - but maybe something deeper will connect.

I can't rattle on in Gaelic or sing IRA protest songs. I didn't have a Aran sweater  til my husband bought me one, which I had a violent allergic reaction to the wool - and can't wear. It's nice to look at tho. I'm the human equivalent of a bottle of O'douls to all of you  Guinness pint people.

But I offer you this as proof of Irishness......

I danced the jig in 3rd grade with my dance school. I got in the front row. Cause I was so freakin' Irish looking.

It's the freckles. My Grandmother had them. She had more freckles than there are stars in the sky. As She got older that freckled skin turned translucent- and it looked like the freckles danced on top of a pool of water. Now that I'm getting older - I see it happening to me.

I shall freckle til the day I leave this earth- maybe they'll merge and I'll finally look tan instead of spontaneously combusting - from the sun.

Happy St Pat's Everyone! Happy Day to be Irish! No matter how much or how little! 

 We're doing the Green Thing Over @ The Sketchables too this week!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The places we go... to find out where we came from

Keeping my ear to the ground of the goings on in the world of children's book illustration, I am always listening for any sounds of "The Yaccarino".

I jokingly call Dan Yaccarino that- meaning, something like "The Wizard".  I think his work is just, well, magic. His choices for books- seem to hit me square in the face. "Go Go America" tackled roadside interesting quirky landmarks- living down the shore as a kid, giant bottles of champagne and pink life sized concrete dinosaurs were everywhere and my Dad used to take us to see crazy stuff like that in our station wagon. His "Jacques Cousteau" book- is my favorite, I watched Jacques' show in awe as a kid lying on the brown shag rug. And "Lawn to Lawn"- well, it's the Jersey in me- that feels the Jersey in him- I just wish there was a lighted Madonna statue somewhere in there too.
So- I knew he was coming out with a new book and I knew it was gonna be great.
It combines the story of his family -with his story telling and art- what's not to love?

He was going to do a talk at "The Tenement Museum" in Manhattan- somewhere I have wanted to go for years. This was the excuse to go tour the building and then we could stay for the talk. This was also an great opportunity to give my 11 year old daughter an insight into the lives of her own ancestors, all immigrants from all around the globe. I took her out of school early yesterday- and we trained it in to NYC, hoofed to the Lower East Side.... and 
walked into history.

The stories of the lives of the families who inhabited 97 Orchard Street through it's 70 odd years of being home to new Americans - touched our hearts deeply. I personally believe homes; houses or buildings, have lives of their own-given to them by the families who live and love in them.
The families who struggled within these walls were strong, resourceful and resilient. We heard the tales of two; one German family and one Italian. Both families went on to live in nicer places through their hard work- giving the next generation- and the ones after that- opportunities to prosper.

This kitchen belonged to the Italian Baldizzi Family. It felt like the family was coming home any second. We listened to a recording of a woman who spent her childhood there. Her voice bringing the space to life even more.

I do love old things. Old buildings. I run my hand on old bannisters, trying to feel what it felt like to walk the staircases many many years ago. I like to walk on old floor boards and know that I am really walking in the footsteps of people that did amazing things great and small. The act of leaving behind all that you know half way around the world- to start again in this building in New York City- is truly a courageous thing. I was so glad to do this tour with my daughter. We had dinner afterwards and had a very deep conversation. She asked and I explained what prostitution is. I told her about the many deaths of children in my family's past and we talked about 9/11.

We ended the evening sitting in front of Dan Yaccarino and his Great Grandfather's shovel. I highly recommend his book and his talk. He will be up at The Eric Carle Museum on April 9th. You'll laugh and tear up and you'll recognize bits of your own family's story in it. I did.

I had an Italian grandmother too. Dan said "Looking in to a pot of sauce is like looking at the sky"

- Yes. It. Is.

What a gift the Tenement Museum is and what a gift Dan Yaccarino's book is too.

 My Italian Playlist was too good to go just 'cause of the Irish:

Sunday, March 6, 2011

doodle of the day

Warming up - doodling for the new Spring banner- over @ THE SKETCHABLES!