My Mother-in-Law’s Legacy, Part III

What I didn’t realize until after my MIL passed away was that she had painted my first school–McKinley Elementary–where I attended kindergarten. My grandparents lived across the street, and I stayed with them during the day while my parents were at work. Grandma walked me across Emerson Street every morning for school. In this painting you can see my grandparents’ house on the other corner. Sorry that the image below looks a little crooked. There is glass over the painting and I had to angle the camera in order to avoid the glare.

The school is long gone, but the house my grandfather built is still standing. When I was a kid it was white, but then it was gold. Now it’s white again. The gray house on the other side of theirs is also gone. Here is the house today as I saw it in October.

Here’s a little tangent away from my mother-in-law. Although the house looks modest, it was a wonderland to me. I loved every minute I spent there–from the 2nd floor with the 3 bedrooms still preserved as my mother and her siblings had lived in them (complete with books and toys) to the kitchen where my grandmother made homemade doughnuts and delicious farm suppers to the money plants and strawberries growing out back.

My gigantic classroom at McKinley was at the opposite side of the first floor from my grandparents’ house. It had a huge window which opened out to a grassy field. We could walk out through that field and sit under an old thick-trunked tree while the teacher read to us or we played post office. I do wonder sometimes what it is that makes us tear down public buildings that well served generations. Why do we need new?

My MIL’s paintings captured many buildings in Kalamazoo that had new facades put on or were destined to be destroyed. How sweet of her to paint my first school.

P.S. We discovered the painting after Diana passed away, and my husband and I gave it to my mother because it was her school, too!


Filed under Art and Music, Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Memoir, Nonfiction, Photographs, Research and prep for writing

46 responses to “My Mother-in-Law’s Legacy, Part III

  1. What wonderful memories you have of the time you spent in your grandparents’ house and the school across the street, and how wonderful, too, to find the surprise painting. Did your mother-in-law know you had attended that school?

    • Merril, she did know I went to McKinley. I’m not sure why she didn’t show me the painting, but then I was very young and selfish when she painted it and maybe I didn’t pay enough attention!

  2. What a sweet gift and wonderful legacy. Great post.

  3. I love old schools and the memories they contain and the stories they could tell. When one thinks of the many young minds that were developing and learning and imagining within those lovely walls, a whole exciting avenue of remembering what our early years meant opens up. I think often of my first school, a stately old structure that is no more. Thanks for sharing yours! 🙂

    • I agree with you, Mark! It’s so exciting! I have fond memories of schools I attended that were newer buildings, but there is nothing like the older buildings. I went to one in 5th and 6th, too.

  4. Wonderful! I always wanted to go to a school I could walk to. I never did. My Mom’s house (where I grew up) is on the market. The last owner’s did a complete remake (it was built in the 1890s so it was OLD!). I went on line to go though the pictures and I got all smaltzy and homesick for those days and my Mom. They did some great things, like get rid of the radiators and put in baseboard heat but it still looked enough like my old home to make me nostalgic.

    • It was so wonderful walking to school! I did many of my elementary school years, at various schools. In fact, the only one I didn’t walk was one I was bullied on the bus (I blogged about it once–good venting LOL). Walking meant you were free to explore with friends and chat and so little stress! What a cool thing to see the old house, even without the radiators!!

  5. What a lovely painting, Luanne. I’m happy your MIL was able to capture the image before it was destroyed. It makes me sad when schools are torn down, but hopefully the memories will remain.

    • Eventually those who remember will die out and the school will be forgotten unless somebody unearths an old photograph or this old painting! it’s very sad that we are so quick to tear down and so quick to build new. And often times shoddier construction!

  6. What a beautiful house! It looks so pristine to this day. That painting truly looks like a bygone era.

    • The current owner is taking very good care of the house, especially in comparison with some others in the area. I don’t like that porch added on the front, but I understand why they did it.

  7. Such beautiful memories she left for you to enjoy and pass down. Thanks fo sharing this.

  8. What a lovely story about the buildings and women in your life who’ve given you a sense of home or a way to keep considering that through their art! Love how the painting keeps moving through the family!

  9. Thank you for sharing these memories, Luanne 🙂 It is funny how huge houses can seem when we’re little 😉

    • Marie, isn’t it true, though?! My goodness, my parents’ first house that I lived in until I was 8 (the house photo in a recent post here) seemed huge to me as a kid, but really it’s about 900 square feet, which to me seems like a small bungalow. And I don’t know the square footage of my grandparents’ house here, but it’s not large; however, it had all the rooms their family needed: living room, kitchen, bathroom, 2 bedrooms downstairs and all that space upstairs that was divided into 2 rooms and a hall that served as a bedroom.

  10. Luanne,
    I finally got around to adding you to my I Will Call it site – I am the worst possible blogger friend in the world, but I hope you will receive clicks – and what a great one to start with for other readers!!
    I absolutely love this story of your grandmother’s house and your school – I’m not sure why the old buildings are torn down, but I find it a loss for everyone. The painting is lovely, and how increidble that your MIL captured so many memories. Bless her heart, as Granny Selma would say.

    • Sheila, that’s so nice of you!!! I will check it out! Bless her heart, for sure. She did feel heart-broken when they were going to tear down old buildings, which is why she so often tried to capture them in painting even if she didn’t have a commission. This was one of those.

  11. What a sweet remembrance, Luanne. Every time I hear one of these, I pray that my granddaughter will one day be reminiscing about these times right now she and I spend together. Not only do grandchildren keep me living in the moment, but they make me very aware of wanting to build a lifetime of memories for them.

    • Sammy, I have no doubt that your granddaughter will have many many fond memories of you and the times you spend together. I can tell by your caring heart and fun spirit and good mind.

  12. Wonderful interconnections. What a nice legacy, Luanne!

  13. What a very sweet memory, Luanne. How lucky you are to have a painting and photos of your grandparents house and your school. So cool! 🙂

  14. What a treasure.

  15. Wow – your mom’s school, too? What a meaningful gift that must have been for her!

    • I think she was pretty tickled when we gave it to her! She grew up seeing that school outside her front door every day until she got married and moved away!

  16. Wonderful family memories and threads running through the painting of the school house and connecting your family and your MIL. What a gift to you. I love the photos.

  17. What a great keepsake and such lovely memories. It looks like a house full of character and that’s just the way you describe it. I suspect the reason they pull these buildings down is that they don’t invest in maintaining them.

    • Andrea, it really is a house of character and at one time full of characters, too ;)! I used to love to be in the kitchen when the whole family was hanging out on the picnic table style benches, joking and chatting.
      You are surely right about the cost for maintenance, but you have to wonder who creates those cost analyses and the bids . . . .

  18. I love the photos Luanne, such wonderful memories!

  19. I enjoyed this painting very much, Luanne. I have mentioned i like to make watercolors and I have drawn about 80 buildings, churches and houses. Never have painted a school, this gives me an idea. Your school is so pretty though and my grandkids’ schools aren’t so exciting or ‘have such character.’
    I love how you were so enchanted with your grandmother’s home. The way you described it as a ‘wonderland’ encompasses more than the things but the heart of the house, your grandparents. I also enjoyed hearing a little bit more about the block you lived on, too.
    I studied this painting. I was wishing the buildings were crooked, Luanne. I understand why you slanted the painting to prevent glare. You will laugh at me, but I was going to explain why. My brother says I need a course on perspective since he says my ‘porches look like they are going to fall off the houses!’ (He is a great artist and I call myself the ‘dinky’ artist in the family! My Dad was like Van Gogh, broad strokes and a lot of emotion, Randy is fantastic in every kind of medium.) Smiles!

    • Robin, I didn’t realize you had so many paintings! Yes, definitely paint schools! Maybe you could paint your grandchildren’s schools so they have them when they are grown up and remembering you! So funny about the crooked buildings. My MIL did not paint with perfect perspective in her buildings; she gave them much more character than that. And I guess that is what you do, too! I love that description of your dad’s art!!!

  20. What a great story. It’s so much fun when life’s details link together that way!

  21. What a beautiful story Luanne and I love your memories of your grandparent’s house and your school. What an amazing discovery that your MiL painted the same school that you and your Mom attended! I loved my time at my grandparent’s house too. They had a summerhouse at the back of the garden, which is where my love for them began as a child. Oh such lovely memories to cherish. And I’m with you, it is such a shame for these glorious old buildings to be torn down. Lovely post xoxox

    • Sherri, I love hearing about the summerhouse at the back of their garden! How apropos for you! It is so short sighted on the part of “us” as a culture to tear down old buildings rather than “revive” them. It’s like how they build stores and malls and strip centers and when they become a little tattered, they just build a new one down the street and abandon the other one. It makes me crazy! xo

  22. First of all, when I came over to your post, I am not sure if I did this accidentally but I had to press “Follow” again. It is strange, this hasn’t happened on your post before, I have always seen it say, “Following” at the top. Sorry, I have been for a long time but you will see the notice I am ‘again.’
    Luanne, I have your father in my prayers tonight and from now on. I was sorry to hear he is in the hospital. I came over to see if you were letting others know here, since I may have missed it in my blurry eyed state of mind. (If you prefer for this not to be common knowledge feel free to edit this message out.) xoxo
    I really enjoyed the artwork ,so glad your Mom and you both went to school here. This is a really beautiful painting and has ‘character’ in it.

    • Thanks so much, Robin. I will post about my father in the morning. I am glad you will keep him in your prayers. I really appreciate that. xoxo

  23. Pingback: Perry Como and My Mother-in-Law | Luanne Castle's Writer Site

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