Sunday, June 15, 2008

Napoleon Dad

I've been fixin' to write a post all day but I'm just getting around to it. By the way, "fixin'" is southern for "having something to do but delaying getting it done while you distract yourself with doing other things." You can see why we use "fixin'," it's a lot shorter to say. I feel down right multilingual. I speak passable French, a modicum of Spanish, and fluent Southern, Ebonics, and standard English.

A few months ago, my sister and I commissioned Marc Olmsted to create a special picture for our father's birthday. Regular readers are familiar with Marc's Hy-Art in which he combines one or more classic works of art into an original interpretive work of art. Check the Hy-Art logo in my sidebar for a link to Marc's Etsy site where he sells his art. However, the birthday present for my dad is another of Marc's original creations, aptly named "Thou Art," or "you in art" in which Marc inserts you into a classic work of art. I've been the subject of a Thou Art by Marc on more than one occasion. Each time, I loved the results, so I asked him to create a Thou Art of my father.

My mother is the big talker in our family. She is one of the most entertaining gossips that I know, mainly because when she's telling us about the shenanigans of one of her many siblings, she does spot on imitations of not only their voices but their mannerisms. She doesn't just tell me about Aunt Dorothy's worries that her old boyfriend may think that she is still lusting after him if she moves from New York back to North Carolina, she becomes my slightly daft aunt, caught up in worries about a man that she dated some fifty years ago and hasn't seen since.

In comparison, my dad is a quiet man, although he rouses himself if the discussion is about politics or world affairs, subjects that don't interest my mother nearly as much as the continual doings of her siblings. Years ago a good friend told me that my father resembled the actor, Richard Roundtree. I reported her comment to my father and he literally beamed. My dad is still a handsome man, proud of the fact that he is as trim as he was as a 17 year old when he lied about his age to enlist in the military. In addition to being a vet, my dad is also a retired police officer; he served as a police officer on the Wilson police force for 25 years, retiring with the rank of captain. I'm proud of him. He was one of four black men who integrated the Wilson police department. He is featured in a local museum, the Oliver Nestus Freeman Round House Museum, covering the history of African-Americans in Wilson County; when he was asked to provide materials for the museum, including a biographical sketch, he asked me to write it for him. I was proud to do so and I confess that I take delight in visiting the museum and seeing my words about my father on its walls.

I sent Marc a photograph of my father taken 20 years ago. In the picture, he is beaming as he holds his grandson, my nephew, in his arms. I love the smile on his face. Marc selected a setting for dad that delighted me and my sister, and her husband Bob. (Bob likes it when I mention his name in my blog.) He appropriately named it Napoleon Dad.
I framed the image and my sister, Bob, and I presented it to my dad for his birthday on May 27. He was totally delighted, immediately recognizing that the original image was of Napoleon Bonaparte and thrilled with seeing himself sitting astride Napoleon's magnificent steed. He immediately announced his plan to carry the picture (a framed 8 by 10) with him on his walk the next day to show to his buddies. Both of my parents are avid walkers, however my mother walks with a group of mall walkers at the local shopping mall; my dad prefers walking the sidewalks of Wilson that used to be his beat when he was a foot patrolmen, new to the police force. The picture now graces a shelf on the built in bookcases in my parents' living room.

My thanks to Marc for helping us provide my father with such a unique present and one that brought that same wonderful smile to his face.

If you are interested in commissioning Marc to create a one-of-a-kind picture of you or a loved one, click here to see more of his "you in art" creations or email him ( directly.

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