During my short time as an expert framer at Hell’s art store there were many negatives. One of the positives that I never mentioned was the perks – the perks being that I could take home whatever was to be thrown away. I picked up a nifty shot glass display case that was to be trashed because it was missing the glass on the front. Hey, that’s ok with me – it makes them easier to access! I also snagged two shadow boxes that are currently residing in the back of our closet. Whatever was damaged out what fair game.
One day I was in the frame shop when my manager (the one I actually liked) walked in carrying an envelope that is sent out after a piece of art has been left at the store for more than 90 days. The letter informs the customer that if they don’t pick up their framed piece, it will be destroyed.
“Well, we know now why Mr. So-and-so didn’t come pick up his picture.”
I looked up as she held out the envelope. In big letters scrawled in pen on the side it read, “DECEASED”.
“Damn,” I said, “That’s depressing.”
The picture was pulled from the rack and put on a table to be thrown out. I looked at the receipt. He had payed over 300 dollars for this piece to be framed.
“Is there someway we can contact the next-of-kin or something?” I asked.
“Do you know how many (common surname here)’s there are in Baltimore county?”
She was right. We had called and sent letters. There wasn’t much else we could do. curiosity getting the better of us, we unwrapped the brown paper to see what the piece was before its date with the compactor. It was an original watercolor of a woman holding her baby.
I looked a little closer under the signature and noticed a date.
1914. This thing was almost 100 years old. Who knows how long this piece had been in the customer’s family. I was informed that any of us were more than welcome to take it, otherwise it would be chucked in the bin. Despite the offer, we all declined because of how morbid it seemed. It’s like robbing a grave or something.
A few days went by and the picture stayed on that table. It seemed no one wanted to escort it to the execution chamber. It was the elephant in the room. Everyone saw it, but just ignored it in hopes that it would just go away. Late one night I strangely found myself thinking about it without even realizing it.
This was one of the last things an old man did before passing into the aether. He had brought the painting down to the shop, picked out the frame, had it double matted and picked out the very best glass. It was important to him… and as soon as someone got the balls enough to do it, it was going to be lost forever. I refused to let that happen.
I took it home the next day.
I often find myself staring at it, wondering who the mother and child is. I also wonder who the old man was and what significance the picture had to him. It’s strange that I think so much about someone I never even met, but it seems… I don’t know, important somehow. It’s a legacy. It’s a small part of what he left behind – a part that his family can’t enjoy. I felt obligated to share it here.
In the off-chance that anyone reading this recognizes the art and can give me the name of the gentleman, I will gladly send the piece to you for free. Until then, the mystery fascinates me.