He’s just little. He fits in the palm of my hand. And for more than a decade he hung near my bed in the cottage we rented each summer. Each morning his face was the first one I saw upon waking; at night when I reached out to switch off the lamp there he’d be again, steadily gazing with calm, thoughtful eyes at something just beyond my left shoulder.
We only had that cottage for a week each summer, but I grew attached to my young friend. I didn’t know whether he’d been an actual person or simply the created illustration of an artist, and apart from a faint stamp on the cardboard backing of his frame that let me know he had been framed in Germany, I didn’t know exactly where or when he had been painted.
This other friend is older. Wiser. In our family he has always been "The Fisherman".
From the time that I was born, he hung together with his wife halfway along the corridor of my grandparents’ house. They had been painted so no matter where you stood, they were still looking at you. Every time we visited my grandparents my sister and I would spend several minutes in that corridor attempting to find some spot where the fisherman and his wife wouldn’t see us, but we never did.
You couldn’t pull one over on the fisherman.
When I was in my twenties and my grandfather had gone and we were packing up the house and its belongings so my grandmother could move to a retirement home, she let us take the things we wanted most.
I chose a few pieces of furniture, and several smaller things. I very nearly chose the fisherman, together with his wife, but I decided that they wouldn’t be the same if they weren’t in that house and I already had so many things, so in the end I let them go to auction.
Several years went by.
I’d married, and I had my first son in the stroller, killing time together at our local shopping mall. And once or twice a year, at our mall, there’s an antique fair with dealers who come set up stalls from all across Ontario. My son and I were strolling past the tables when I had the feeling I was being watched.
In one stall, not too far away, my fisherman was hanging with his wife. The dealer selling them was from the same part of the province where my grandparents had lived, but even if he hadn’t been there could be no mistaking. They were the exact same paintings.
So I bought them, and I brought them home, and hung them where it seems that they were meant to be.
And every day now, in my quiet writing room, the young boy gazes just past my left shoulder at the fisherman, who smiling looks right back at him.
I love them both. Do you have any painted friends in your house? Or have you had any item that you thought you’d lost come back to you?