Wyeth, A. (1948). Christina’s world [Painting]. Retrieved from http://www.moma.org/explore/collection/index
Ellen and a friend
In my last post before my weekend pause for this blog, I wrote that this picture of Ellen with a friend is one of my all-time favorite photos of my daughter.
Because I drive many people bonkers, including myself, by analyzing and, for good measure, analyzing some more, I asked myself after I posted why I so love this photo of Ellen.
A day later, it dawned on me.
For years in my parents’ home, my sister, whose name is Christine, had a reproduction of Andrew Wyeth’s painting Christina’s World in her bedroom. I saw it nearly every day.
My sister has been blessed with general good physical health. She is one of the most sensitive writers I have ever known. Her writing flows from her heart, she has been a voracious reader all her life, and she teaches languages. Christina’s World was the perfect painting for my sister’s gentle soul as she was growing up.
As my own daughter grows up, I see much she shares with her aunt: a heart that is strong and tender at the same time, a love of and facility with languages, a natural desire to write, toughness, tenacity, and vulnerability. Both Ellen and my sister drive me crazy at times, but I love them to bits.
The subject of Wyeth’s painting, Anna Christina Olson, actually lived with a degenerative muscular disorder. In spite of my daughter’s extra chromosome, she can run and climb with the best of them!
Wyeth was inspired by Olson’s “extraordinary conquest of life.”
Before my daughter was born and a few months thereafter, a few well-meaning people said to me, “Oh, she will be such a joy! People with Down Syndrome who pack my groceries always bring a smile to my face.”
I would breathe hard but try not to show it. I would also try hard to smile and say, evenly, “Well, let’s get to know Ellen before we already assign her place in life. Maybe she’ll manage a grocery store some day. Maybe she’ll bring a smile to your face in other ways.”
I would cut myself off before I became too preachy. Sometimes I had to kick myself hard.
Like Olson, my daughter has traveled many a field. She runs through them, sometimes at school in the company of friends where she has more than held her own in first grade and is reading perhaps a grade level above that.
Something tells me years from now I will still consider Ellen’s world to be limitless.