The (Un)Remarkable Painting

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The (Un)Remarkable Painting

The spring season has begun, officially, but birds and humans are yet to feel its blast of gifts in their midst.

Wintry temperatures, spring sunshine: summer is not afar.

The septuagenarian sister woke up to the reality that no one would buy the painting for which she had set a premium price. A year away from touching her 80s, Petronella wants to dispose all her household stuff of life. She is a realist. The Swedish realism occurred to her that she is not far from the penultimate winter of life: old age home. She is succeeding in selling her things one by one but one bothered her – the more than hundred year old painting.

From a perspective, the painting is unremarkable and remarkable: a stream cutting through a Scandinavian scrubland dotted by temperate trees in spring and an invisible sun glimmered on the river. The river is ridged in gold creating the illusion of motion when seen from a distance.  The painting assumed remarkable status in the mind of Petronella: the age of the painting and the association of growing up with it in two homes.

Petronella believed the painting belongs to the times of Catherine the Great of Russia. It was her papa’s princely possession. He was torn during his last days as to whom to give the painting. But Petronella asserted the right of first choice as a result of being the eldest child, and it went to her though her younger sister Signild wished for it while their brothers hardly cared for it.

The painting was displayed in almost all the noticeable and unnoticeable flea markets of Gothenburg. None purchased it but everyone evinced interest. Apart from estimating its price from the approachable and affordable antique dealers no one validated its origins. On one thing Petronella was clear that the painting is not to be sold for cheap price but should be pricey.

Petronella sent a message to her sister Signild via Facebook: Do you want that painting?

After marriage and raising her family in the Norrland town of Uppsala, Signild felt at home here but nowhere else. She marked out a world of her own. She saw beauty and plenty in and around her in her territories of mind and physical space.

The sexagenarian Signild read her septuagenarian sister’s message with amusement. She is not wishing for any more stuff that may add delight to her eyes. What is not granted to you, when you wished for it, should always be treated with pleasant contempt. She responded to her widowed sister by thanking her, and she had no need for that painting.

Signild received another message from Petronella: Why don’t you ask your children? Signild is blessed with five children with two different husbands. They are successfully scattered all over Sweden. Signild called her middle child, a daughter, living in Stockholm. At length the mother narrated the history of the painting and its current status to Godiva.

Godiva is a restless explorer. She recently shifted to buying and selling antiques in Stockholm. She remembered seeing the painting when she had visited Gothenburg as a child: ‘a ripple of the stream with a glint of light’ is etched in her mind.

Signild communicated Godiva’s interest in the painting to Petronella.

Is it for free?

Petronella called her sister. After the customary greetings, they touched upon the core issue. She asked Signild, “How is Godiva’s business?”

“I usually do not know ask, you know, why. She has done many businesses,” Signild said.

“Will she be able to pay, something?”

“I thought you want to give it to us as a goodwill gesture.”

“You know…”

Signild paused fleetingly and wondered what for Petronella hankering for at this age, at this time. She expressed, “Godiva is a considerate person. She will pay your postal costs. Possibly more, if.”

“That’s it?”

“What do you expect?” Signild asked, wishing to grant her a wish, at least at this age, at this time. “Tell me, how much do you want, and I will pay.”

“You know…” Petronella mumbled. Actually, she is not aware of what exactly should be the price of the painting except to set a premium price. Realization occured to her that something familiar and familial should not be traded within the family, near or far. “You know, Godiva can have the painting for free, I will send it to her.”

Signild felt something that she never felt for her sister and from her sister. Is it a farewell call, a farewell gesture of life? “Can I visit you… ”

The sisters’ eyes moistened: tears for sibling, trickled and tumbled.

—Lucinda Palme