In the 5th grade at Gaskin’s Middle School I joined several school activities. I was in the drama club, on the gymnastics team and I wanted to learn to play the violin and piano; so I joined the school’s music program. I was ok; but no genius. I did like that we traveled and gave recitals though.
During one of our violin recitals as we performed on stage, this man kept staring at me from the front row. All of the grown-ups were looking at us, but he didn’t seem to look anywhere else, he made me nervous; so I stopped looking at him.
After the recital, grandma Bertha gave me a hug, “You did a good job” and I was happy! We were leaving the auditorium and headed out to the car when from behind we heard, “Excuse me, can I speak to you for a moment?” I looked back and it was the man from the front row!
“My name is Arthello Beck, I am an artist and I would love to talk to you about doing a painting of this little lady”, he looked at me and smiled. Momma’s eyebrows went up in the air, grandma Bertha grinned and Sand frowned and folded her arms.
“Really?” Momma said in her best proper accent? Yes, he said. “How old is she” he asked? “She just turned 11 years old” Momma said. He talked to Momma and Corn briefly; then gave her his contact information and wrote down our phone number.
Momma was excited, it turned out that Arthello Beck was a known artist in the Dallas area; and he was coming to our house the next weekend! Momma was telling everyone about the famous painter who was coming to our house to paint me. We went shopping for a new dress at Sears.
Mr. Beck requested that I be dressed in a long sleeve dress, blue if possible, with ruffles. He wanted me in folded down bobby socks and my Sunday shoes. He also wanted my hair in two pony-tales, parted down the middle with ribbons on the ends. Momma fussed over me all week long; I loved it! She treated me like she liked me; I was in heaven. Sand on the other hand was not happy, so I tried my best not to show my excitement.
Saturday morning was finally here! Momma, Sand and I had cleaned the house even more spotless than usual; Momma baked a cake so the house would smell good and he could have a snack if he wanted.
Corn cleared most of the furniture from the living room so Mr. Beck could set up; which consisted of a blue velvet back drop and a stool. Momma fussed over and fretted with my clothes and hair.
I almost died when she licked her finger and cleaned my eye! Mr. Beck asked me to stand over in front of the blue velvet back drop that he hung on the wall over the curtains; he handed me my violin and bow.
I felt self-conscious as I stood there with everyone looking at me, especially Momma; I did not want to mess up and make her mad. “Just look at your instrument, play it, relax and have fun”, he said as he snapped pictures of me with his Polaroid camera. He placed the shots on the dining room table as he took them.
Sand, Kooky and Michelle a neighbor, stood by the table looking at the pictures; Sand was sad, she had such a sad look on her face. When Mr. Beck finished taking Polaroid’s of me, he went over to Sand, and grabbed her hand. “Can you please help me with my painting and be one of my models”? Sand’s face beamed as she shook her head yes!
He posed me in front of the backdrop, with my violin over my shoulder playing it with my bow; and Sand, Kooky and Michelle sat watching me play, on the floor in front of me. Mr. Beck sat quietly with his sketch pad and pencils and worked and worked and worked.
He had to draw at least six different pictures of us. After what seemed like forever, he finally had what he needed to create the painting.
He called me over to where he sat and showed me the pictures he had sketched of us and told me I could pick one to keep! I picked the one with me Sand and Kooky in it. Momma came over and took the picture from me.
“Go change your clothes and go outside to play. She rolled the sketch up, went into her bedroom and came back out without it. She helped Mr. Beck clean up and served him a slice of cake; he soon left.
That evening as Momma watched The Lawrence Welk Show, I sneaked into her room and looked in her closet inside the box where she kept important papers; I saw the rolled end of the drawing sticking out of the box. I grabbed it and ran to the living room on the other side of the coffee table to hide.
I unrolled the picture and spread it on the floor. I looked and looked at the drawing… “I did not look like a bip bop bitch… I did not look stupid… I was not ugly from ugly insides… I didn’t look like I could never get anything right… I did not look like a whore.”
I was so deep in thought that I did not hear Momma leave the den or hear her come into the living room, until I heard the small section of the shellacked wooden floor, that was not covered with carpet, creak as she moved across it to stand in front of me! She stood over me staring with her hand on her hip and her leg and foot stuck out to the side.
She raised her hand, swung and smacked me across the face! And just as fast she snatched the drawing from me. She looked at it, looked at me and ripped it up into what looked like a thousand pieces as they fell to the floor.
My heart shrank as she looked at me and said, “Clean it up”.