the things we hang

I never understood the purpose of asking someone what her favorite color is. What does it tell us, after all? First off, no one ever says yellow. I don’t know why, but it’s true. People say blue or green, sometimes pink. That’s pretty much it. Who says orange? No one. Because orange is an inferior color, that’s why. I’m judgmental when it comes to things that call for no judgment at all. You only like orange, I’d argue, because of Hermes. Now, you’ll think twice about saying “blue” or “green” because you don’t want to be like everyone else, which is why you stopped saying “pink” to begin with, dear. But now that I’ve begun, I might as well continue. Favorite animal.

Why must we pigeonhole ourselves with favorites? Okay, we mustn’t. However. If, say, we’re going to answer a survey or create a “favorite things” wall, it would certainly help if we could narrow it down. If, say, I had a wall as my canvas…

What would I even want? You know, if I could have anything hanging on my walls? I’d likely want one large piece with lots of white space to let it breathe. It would be massive. Aside from that, if I was given a strip of wall with the intended purpose of filling it, bottom to top, with my favorite things, tell any story I’d like, in collage, photos, paintings, a shelf with a bottle of sand, a mitten attached with a crystal knob–anything goes, what would I do? What’s the story I’d tell? My gut instinct is that it would be filled with child-like pleasures (marbles, maybe a painting of a favorite childhood book cover, though would any of these things feel special to me on their own?). No. It’s the art of people and animals, or the specific objects I can attach to specific memories linked to exact emotions (the spinning ballerina in your first jewelry box, the very first time you felt sophisticated and wanted to treat your things with special care).

There are infinite possibilities. You can tell a story in white, all white on white, white drawings, white objects photographed on white backgrounds, white texture play, the mediums and the way they touch and flirt and coax the light.

Or I could tell a love story, the love of family, between a child and his grandmother, puppy love, food love, romantic love, unrequited love, love lost, love beyond the grave, love of nature, of convenience (an AppleTV remote). You can pick any theme that speaks to you then drive ahead, across mediums. Or stick to one medium across subjects. One subject, many styles. Same style, many subjects. Yes, but what would I do?

Toy Fox Terrier Drawing by Stephanie Klein
I’m pinning my way through it now. Creating a happy wall of things that bring me joy and calm, and I think I’m going to frame these things and hang them on a wall. First up is some part of Linus. I can’t decide if it’s Linus curled into a bean sleeping or if it’s his pink belly and the spots beneath his fur that look as if they’ve been hand-painted. Maybe it’s just the drawing I did of him with my #2 pencil. It’s time to take it out and enjoy it, even if his eye looks weird.

Parents Wedding Day Portrait, Prismacolor Pencil by Stephanie Klein
I guess it would be really kind of creepy and wrong to hang a drawing I made of my parents’ wedding day, considering they’re both happily remarried now, AND to people I love, at that. It’s just that it’s my parents, and part of my personal history. So, can’t I? I guess that’s just a justification, though, no? It’s still kind of creepy. Would I want Phil’s parents to keep a photo of Phil and his ex-wife up on their walls? What? It’s their ex-daughter-in-law, part of their history, they could argue. I’d argue: creepy. I guess there’s my answer. Or am I comparing apples and potatoes?

Abigail's Mmmmwwwaaa ha ha ha face
Another would be a drawing or watercolor of each of my children, but not their complete faces, nothing posed. Gestures or moments of joy. There’s a photo that comes to mind of Abigail when she was two years old, making a face of such delight, before we’re aware of what delight should look like to others. It’s a look that verges on cannibalistic intensity, as if she’s ready to devour happiness itself. It’s not a pretty picture, not a soft child catching bubbles or inspecting a ladybug. It’s rapture.

I might draw Lucas’s smile and chin using pastels. I’m not sure yet. I could eat him.

L.B. going to town on his favorite flavor ice cream cone: chocolate
Food. Oh, to make a decision. What food shall I paint or draw? Fries served in a newsprint cone served with a tub of mayo? Or a simple grilled piece of toast with butter, somewhat melty? A crock of French Onion soup? Which would I most want to see framed forever? Imagine a set of unusual flavor combinations by way of watercolor paintings? A lobster. Pads of butter. Vanilla bean pods and their bloom. The copper pot, looming. Scenes from a kitchen.

Perfume. Bottles or a single bottle? It must be there, see. As must some type of makeup. Though, I don’t want a Chanel compact or lipstick hanging on my wall, so perhaps not. I’ll need to think this through. Though more appropriate might be a Starbucks Caramel latte watercolor. So much for logos.

Sound. There’d need to be something to capture a favorite sound. Silver Bells by Stevie Wonder. What might we see? A lamp-lit snow scene with brown paper packages tied up with string, shoppers hurry home with their treasures, a cropped silver bell clipped off the side of the painting. Somewhere in London.

No melting ice cream cone. No bubbles. Oh, but marbles. I just love marbles.

A library or bookshop. It is decidedly so. My most favorite places in the world by far, with new discoveries and “meant to be” finds in every nook and cranny.

Given that we live still in a rental, we hang nearly nothing on our walls. It’s a shame. And, it’s depressing. Yesterday, I spent the day reorganizing all our art supplies. I’m still at it today, as Abigail is requesting formal art lessons, after witnessing a seven year old art prodigy, she now feels competitive it seems. Motivated, let’s say. This morning, she was up and dressed, in the dark, downstairs at the kitchen table, drawing in the cold, before I’d had a chance to turn on the heat. I’m very surprised there aren’t parent & child art lessons offered anywhere! I’d sign up in a quick second. In fact, that’s exactly what I’m on the hunt to do today. If it’s cost-prohibitive, it looks like Camp Stephanie is going to be open again this summer.

What’s hanging on your walls? What do you wish were hanging on your walls?



  1. My favorite color is yellow. I answer the question with: My favorite color is yellow but I can’t wear it because it washes me out.

    Why mom and me art lessons? Maybe it would be good for her to expand her talent on her own?

    1. It’s been my experience that kids of a certain age often love to have their parents participate in or observe their activities. The learning experience is further compounded when a parent has knowledge of the subject they are studying, and they can discuss it at home, outside of the lesson, and apply it to other areas of life. I’ve been looking for mom-and-me piano lessons for the same reason. The look of sheer joy that a child has when they know they share common interests with a parent, is priceless.

  2. My favorite color is purple, and I’m going through this very thing as we speak. The darlings have all moved out, and I’m slowly sorting through the detritus of life that they left here…figuring out what is important, what is comfortable, what they liked and what I like.

    I came across a big box in a downstairs closet the other day, a box that I’d put in there 15 years ago when first divorced and we moved into this house. It hasn’t seen the light of day since. I started sorting through it, found photos, love letters from the kids, earnest drawings, first stories, program booklets, music scores…and I shut it and put it back in the closet.

    Yes, I could easily line my entire house with memories of the darlings…but is that me? Is that the only thing I can identify myself as? Mother?

    In the divorce, I got one piece of fine art – a painting by a famous painter that has my name inscribed in his writing on it, and a quaint phrase. The artist has since died and the piece increases in value daily. It has hung above my upstairs fireplace for years, and yesterday I was staring at it and realized that I don’t actually care for it. It’s not my colors, it’s not my style…it’s just mine. So, I carefully took it down, wrapped it in bubble wrap and stored it in yet another downstairs closet. In its place, I inherited a fabulous round giraffe print mirror that is PERFECT! So – there it is. Out with the then, in with what I like. Quite a process.

    1. The artist wrote “3 teens’ mom”?

      I kid, I kid.

      But I kid for a reason: to encourage you to put that username in bubble wrap and set it away, too.

      For one, as you just said, your teens are all moved out now, and do you really want to define yourself solely by your children?

      But also because you’ve written on here for so many years and so gloriously that it seems odd not to know what name the artist wrote.

      Such personal, intimate moments and memories you’ve shared… but never a name.

      Just think about it.


      1. Sallie – I appreciate your sweet words more than you know. I think the reason I’ve been able to share so much is because of the veil of anonymity Stephanie has provided me.

        Youngest baby turns 20 this April, and I’m officially out of teenagers. Maybe that is the moment I will bubble wrap the moniker and file it away in the lovely memories of the past. Maybe, but maybe not.

        Thank you for your kind thoughts – I’m honored to be part of Stephanie’s fan club and community. Hugs all around!

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