Prelude: Francesca, in the movie, "The Bridges of Madison County," tells her children in a letter they found in her hope chest after her death, that when one gets older, one simply wants to be known, known for who they really are. The following is an excerpt, written by Shirley Erickson at age 83, which tells her story from her own words. Now, suffering from advanced stages of emphysema, Shirley is very ill. She wants to be known for her work as an artist, and for who she really is.
Shirley Erickson writes:
Fast forward to late August 1930. I was three months shy of my fourth birthday. I didn't know why (until many years later)I felt abandoned. No one talked about my mother's having delivered a beautiful baby boy who looked at his mother, smiled, and then died. My mother's grief was profound. She was barely capable of functioning. Every morning she dressed me, fed me breakfast, and put me outside to play in the sand pile. No one ever checked on me. After a few weeks, I began walking to school to be with my sister, Anita, and brother, Norbert. I was barefoot and gritty from sand. The teacher of the one-room schoolhouse let me in and sent me home at recess, escorted. I met the teacher (who was my godmother) everyday, until the teacher visited my parents, suggesting that they allow me to enroll in first grade. I was the baby of the class. Everyone protected me. And, I loved being there.
One of our forth grade classes was "language;" we were learning about adverbs, pronouns, etc., but one day this teacher showed us a large full-color poster of "The Horse Fair," painted by Rosa Bonheur. I was astounded. Beautiful horses and painted by a woman! We were told that the painting was at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. hat day, I knew that I would definitely be a painter. And, I became a painter, a horse breeder, and a lifelong fan of Rosa Bonheur.
Many years later, my husband (Don) and I were in New York City. We went to the Metropolitan specifically to see "The Horse Fair." I sat on a bench and studied Rosa's work. She was a master!
About two weeks later, a newscaster announced that there had been a fire at the Metropolitan Museum, and that "The Horse Fair" had been destroyed. Now, years later, a report stated that efforts are being made to restore the painting. I hope that will happen.