It hangs on my living room wall because I am the only one in the family who couldn’t say no. It hangs there and it mocks me, and I hate it.
“It” is a Charles Russell painting. Or to be more accurate, among my family members it is the Charles Russell original.
According to family legend, it was my Grandmother’s prized possession. I don’t remember Grandma Hyde, but I remember the stories of that painting. How Grandma fell in love with it on a visit to the Charles Russell Museum, how the family all chipped in together to “invest” in it for her, how it would someday be a great inheritance for my sisters and me. Every time we heard the story again, we nodded and promised to cherish it forever.
We gave our word.
Later, our inheritance was expanded to include figurines from Gorham, Grossman and others. The aunts’ house became crowded with curio cabinets stuffed to overflowing with Norman Rockwells, Hummels, Lladros, Andreas, and Swarovskis. Chubby pink-cheeked children in lederhosen peered out from behind graceful nuns in soft pastels; a cheerful cardinal sat on a porcelain tree branch beside a scene of small-town Americana.
There are Hallmark stores with fewer figurines than my aunts had in their home. Aunt Marian also dabbled in Precious Moments, Fannie-kins, Snowbabies, and Royal Doultons. She hung collectable plates from the Danbury Mint and Bradford Exchange and spoke of every new addition in a hushed voice, reminding us that these treasures would all be ours someday.
Someday came, and my sisters and I were left with a collection of useless tshotskes for which there is no resale market.
I sold some on Ebay. Traded some on Listia. We set up a display in the back of the church at Aunt Marian’s memorial service and invited her friends to take one with them to help remember her. And still, I have hundreds of figurines boxed up in the back of my closets. Thousands of dollars’ worth of useless figurines that mean nothing to me.
And then there’s the painting.
It’s called “The Wagon Boss.” My sister and her husband put on white gloves, wrapped it in a sheet, and took it to an expert to find out just how much it is worth, only to discover that the cherished Charles Russell “original” is a poster. A beautiful poster, carefully mounted and framed, but a poster.
The fifty year-old frame has more value as an antique.
And there it hangs.
On my living room wall.
I hate it.
It is dark and dreary and it makes me sad. I don’t want it, but I can’t seem to let it go. When I think of dropping it off at the GoodWill, my heart aches. I get teary-eyed at the thought of it ending up in a Dumpster somewhere. It has value. It must have value to someone, somewhere.
I can’t just let go of something that I promised to love forever . . . can I?
I gave my word.
A promise is supposed to be forever. I made a promise, gave my word, made a vow. Going back on my word means I was wrong. Gullible. That I was fooled into seeing value in something utterly worthless. That I believed in a lie told by someone I shouldn’t have trusted.
Kind of like when I said my wedding vows.
I am fool. A gullible, divorced fool surrounded by boxes of Norman Rockwell figurines and a dusty old Charles Russell poster, and nothing else.