Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Buffalo Penis, Oil on Canvas

Inspired by a brief twitter exchange with Randy Perry last night, I decided to share a family story: The Legend of The Buffalo. Children, gather round. 

Huge. Buffalo.
My paternal grandmother, Velma, was what some people would call "a character". She was crazy like a fox, but I loved her with my whole heart, in that way grandchildren do. Grandma Velma was a creative type - a prolific writer before the Internet was a household word (my gaaawd would she have loved having a blog) she left behind two or three novels when she died, had had articles published in various magazines, and if I had to guess, I would say she more than likely penned numerous letters to editors in her time. She sang, she made stained glass, she crocheted, she played piano.

Sidebar: Her favorites song to play was The Entertainer. If I close my eyes I can remember how I felt as a small child, arriving at her house with my Dad. I'd hop out of the car, dodge the juniper bushes, hopscotch up the brick stepping stones toward the house, all the while hearing The Entertainer from her piano, growing louder and louder as I approached. When I got to the door, the music would stop, the door would open, I could smell grandma's house, and there she would be, giving me hugs and telling me how she was so, so happy to see me. My grandma has been gone 18 years now, as of the end of this month, and I miss her a lot.

Anyway, as I was saying, she was a nut - really loony - in a lot of ways, but also super creative. The best example is The Buffalo, which is the specific area of overlap in her Venn diagram of crazy, crafty, and cunning. You see, my grandmother painted The Buffalo with her own hands. She painted and painted and painted it, for approximately ever. She painted the everloving shit out of The Buffalo, right down to the boy-parts.

The earliest example of The Buffalo in my own personal archives is seen here in this photo of (L-R) my teenage mother, my Dad's father, and my Dad's sister. Context clues date this circa 1966.
Mom, Grandpa, Aunt Carol
Okay, ready? NOBODY SMILE.

My parents went on to marry in the late spring of 1970, and, according to lore, The Buffalo was given to my parents as a gift with much reverence and sincerity. Now, The Buffalo is basically the exact opposite of my mother's taste in decor, and my grandmother? Totally knew it. TOTALLY KNEW IT.

But given that being a very young newlywed automatically makes one a very young new daughter-in-law, and my mother found herself in a sincerely uncomfortable spot. Hang The Buffalo? In her first home? The first place where SHE would be the lady of the house? Or... don't hang the The Buffalo. Risk offending and upsetting your new husband's mother.

The quandary. It burned.

Luckily, my parents are a couple of rather smart individuals, and ultimately they arrived at a solution which would more or less satisfy everybody involved, without causing any unnecessary drama. Invoking the law of the instrument, this particular problem began to look like nothing more than a nail. A nail which my father dutifully hammered into the wall of their new apartment. A nail which protruded from the wall yet hung no decoration, no painting, no macrame (the seventies, you know). A nail which waited ever-so-patiently for the planned visits from my grandparents, or the unannounced drop-ins by my grandmother on her own.

The nail waited.

When the times came, the nail was ready, and before answering the door, The Buffalo came out of the coat closet and sat proudly upon the wall in full view of my grandmother to her very great delight.

When she died, The Buffalo was one of only a small handful of possessions for which my grandmother specified a directive in her will. She loved that Buffalo, and was incredibly proud of it. Between you and me, she was also incredibly proud of driving my mom a tiny bit insane, but more than anything... boy, was she ever proud of that nail.

Buffalo stance
I call him Chewbaccahead.