Wanda with Freckles

Growing up in a middle-class home in the St. Louis suburbs, one would not assume that one of my best childhood friends was a plucky octogenarian with a thick German accent who raised bunnies for stew in a hutch against the fence our yards shared. But it’s true.

Wanda was a married woman with a rotten husband (who she spoiled, anyway) and no kids…and she loved me.  She let me adopt two of her bunnies, saving them from the stewpot, who I named Tootsie and Toby.  She often sat me down in her kitchen, which reeked of stewed cabbage (and only God knows what else,) where we played board games and told semi-dirty jokes.  Her hands were always covered in dirt because she grew almost all of her food in the yard.

Her teeth were giant, ill-fitting dentures that clacked loudly as she spoke. She always complimented me on my beauty, even when I was going through an “awkward phase” that lasted most of my childhood and well into my adult years.

Wanda was a great friend to me and, even though she’s passed away now, I came across this photo I took of her in 1994, the Summer before I started art school, and I felt compelled to stop what I was doing and share her with you.

I think she’d be proud of the dirt that’s currently under my nails from tending my own garden and I have a feeling she’d like it that I’m still making portraits of people.


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