My New Old House Has the Spirit of Andrew Wyeth’s Paintings and It Also Feels Like My Grandma’s House

Before I left the East, I saw a wonderful Wyeth exhibit at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. That experience is imprinted on my mind. No doubt, that is one of the reasons that I chose my new, old house. It feels to me like Andrew Wyeth. It especially feels like his paintings from Maine–from the Olson house.  

Jacki Kellum House – Above

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The Olson House in Maine – Above

My house is an Arts and Crafts house, and it is about 125 years old. The Olson house is at least that old. After a fresh coat of paint, my house looks better now than when I first chose the place, but there is still a sense of age and of white windows from the past that reminds me of Wyeth.

The dining room window in my house – Above

Spring Fed – Andrew Wyeth – Above

My old house also feels like the house where my grandparents lived. I was a child in a rural, cotton-growing community during the 1950s, and my grandparents lived almost directly in front of the house where I grew up. Their house was like them–aged, warm, and soft.

My grandmother was an avid gardener, and in order to reach my grandmother’s house, I would wind my way through her flower-filled backyard and up to my grandparents’ back door that opened into the sunny back porch, where my grandmother’s wringer washer and tubs rested. Except on wash day, the tubs were hidden underneath a skirt of calico cotton that had been washed and starched and ironed so many times that they themselves smelled like fresh, summer clotheslines.

Calico Cotton
by Jacki Kellum

I’ve reached the shore
Of my grandmother’s door–
The one from the garden, inside.

Oh, sunny, sweet back room
Of my grandmother’s loom–

The place in the dirt
Of my grandmother’s skirt.

In your soft-summer lap,
Hold me tight, I will nap,

On my grandmother’s porch,
Let me hide.

Immediately past the porch and through the door into my grandparents’ kitchen, there was a closet, where my grandmother hung her sunbonnet and her duster [that is what she called her denim jacket that she wore while she was gardening]. She also dried garden seeds in that closet.

Grandma’s Closet
by Jacki Kellum

The bonnet’s at the very top
The duster’s down below.
Fancy flowers are drying still
They’re hanging in a row.

Breathe the sunshine, weeds, and dirt,
Catch the seeds from Grandma’s skirt,
Save them in your summer shirt.

Plant them–let them grow.

My grandparents also had a tiny guestroom that was equipped with an old feather bed mattress. I tossed and rolled through many nights on that old feather bed.

Ode to Grandma’s Feather Bed
by Jacki Kellum

Like Great Aunt Edith’s too-long grip-
Too soft, too close, too tight,
You took me on a feather trip,
That lasted through the night.

Rollercoaster up and down,
Hot and sweaty through the down,
Carried me to slumber town,
And rocked me there,
Til dawn.

The window in that guestroom had a soft and silky lace curtain draped across it. That window was not more than 2 feet away from the bed where I slept. There was no air conditioner at my grandparents’ home and when I was a child, I would lie alone and quiet and still at night, and I would listen to the whippoorwills calling me. When the wind rustled, I would feel the soft and silver breeze blowing across my bed.

Butterfly Breeze
by Jacki Kellum

Soft and silver, the delicate, gossamer-like lace
Swept into my room,
Whispering a butterfly breeze.

Whiff of a lily followed along,
Crickets and whippoorwills sang me a song,

And moon dust cradled my head.

Andrew Wyeth – Wind from the Sea, 1947

At the very end of the Andrew Wyeth exhibit at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., the painting Wind from the Sea was displayed. As soon as my eyes caught sight of that painting, I gasped and then, I wept. Andrew Wyeth had captured my grandmother, and he had shared her with the world.

No doubt, when I discovered my new, old house, I felt that I had discovered my grandmother again.

For many years, I have collected primitive antiques, and the odd thing is that I realize that I am trying to surround myself with my grandparents again. I realize that I am trying to stop time, but I continue to do that anyway.

In my grandparents’ guestroom, a print of an Indian Maiden hung above the dresser. That was the only art in my grandparents’ home, and for hours, I would sit and stare at that maiden.


The Call of the Indian Maiden
by Jacki Kellum

Just a piece of brittle, colored cardboard behind glass
In an old, thin, rusty metal frame,
The Indian Maiden was mounted on Grandma’s wall.

Misty moon and mountain sapphires behind her,
An azure river meandered along,
Carrying my childhood with it.

Somewhere along the way, the maiden and I had become one.

Years after her passing, I still sit.

High and dry and all alone now, I sit and watch and wait–

The browns and oranges and reds of autumn surround me.
And I am perched on the autumn of my life.