Once upon a time when Marlaena was small…

…the most fantastic occupations she could imagine were creators of art and writers of stories about people who could sculpt and paint, and people who could invent places and adventures that wielded magic.

When her grandfather asked what she would be when she grew up, she said she would be an artist or a writer. Oh, no, you don’t want to be that, he warned. 

“Artists and writers starve until they find a real job that pays. Be a teacher or a nurse.”

And then he sat Marlaena on his knee and told her all the stories he had written just for her.

He wrote about the dobbies, who made mischief in Scottish homes long before Harry Potter met them. 

Marlaena wished the stories would go on forever.

But always, the stories ended.

And always, when someone asked her what she would be when she grew up, she tried to want to be something practical, like a brain surgeon maybe. 

But that didn’t happen.

Years passed as they do…

Grandfather traveled to where all grandfathers eventually go. One day, Marlaena sat visiting with her grandmother, who asked about her paintings and what she worked on then.

Grandmother asked her to fetch a box from the hall closet and to unwrap what lay inside. Yellowed newspaper cracked apart in Marlaena’s fingers, revealing a framed India ink drawing of an elephant in his whimsical jungle.

Grandmother told of art courses.

Courses she had taken and of her interest in becoming an artist. She showed Marlaena the little greenish dot on the side of her thumb that had come from a slip of her India ink pen. 

She told about giving up her pursuit of art when she went to college during the Great Depression. Her father had advised her to choose a practical career that would be useful and steady.

“Do you wish you hadn’t given it up?” Marlaena asked.

“No,” Grandmother shook her head.

“I got a good education, and I have enjoyed my life, but we shouldn’t have discouraged you from wanting to be an artist when you were young. It was wrong.”

“It’s a good thing you didn’t listen.” Grandmother smiled. “You belong doing it and writing too. How’s your writing coming along?”

It’s coming along fine, Grandma, I wish I could show you. Hey, do you remember your elephant?  He hangs in my studio above my drafting table, so I can see him every day. Thanks for the encouragement. I’ll pass it on.

And so it is.