January was cold and harsh

I think that being a little frightened of Betty Boop cartoons when I was little is partially what made me an artist.

I thought so the first time I showed this to Eli. He ran and hid behind the rocking chair in the other room, and peaked through the bars in its back to watch it.

"Do you want me to turn it off?" I asked.

"No, just let me watch it from here."

And when it was done, "can we watch it again?" came a little voice from behind the rocking chair in the other room.

I told all this to my (step)dad the next day. This is the man who, wherever we lived, always had two drawing tables in the basement sided by side, so we could work together. I told him my theory about fear, betty, and art, while we were all outside one crisp fall day. He was playing Pickle in the Middle with my brother and Eli..Eli being the pickle. "Most definitely" he said to me without hesitation, followed quickly by a "throw it lower so Eli has a chance" to my brother.

This all took place about a year or two ago. The connection came to me the other day when I was thinking about how fear drove me to finish all those paintings.

About a week ago, a childhood friend, Rachel, passed away...this happened a week before her baby girl's first birthday. She was 27 years old, and found out she had pancreatic cancer two months after her daughter was born.

To break it down, Rachel was the daughter of my Aunt's best friend. My Aunt was one of my main caretakers throughout my childhood. I stayed with her a good portion of the weekends my dad was supposed to have me during the school year(he had to work most weekends, and she is his only sister), and I stayed with her in the summers because my mom and stepdad worked, they couldn't afford full time childcare, and she was too far to simply drop me off and pick me up in the evenings. I'd see both sets of parents, alternating, every other weekend. I came to consider her home, my home. I thought about that often when I was little...but I digress. Point being, I played with her friends kids a lot... I always felt a part of her community.

About a week before she died, I was over at Aunt Sue's house when she told me the news...Rachel was going downhill fast. We sat at the table, talked and cried. On the ride home I cried, I cried myself to sleep, had bizarre fever dreams, and woke up a disaster. I took it really hard, I just couldn't separate my reality from hers. I was filled with more fear and sadness than I have ever felt.

I don't know how to put it into words, but it threw me into some strange sort of production mode. I couldn't make excuses to not do anything, or feel sorry for myself for "not having space" (which I want to punch myself in the face for EVER complaining about, now that I know better)when I knew Rachel was dying. She couldn't talk, she couldn't move, she couldn't feed or hold, really hold, her baby girl. I sat there and held Ruza, or shuffled a deck of cards over and over for the first day after finding out, thanking God I had the dexterity to do something as simple as that...but the next day I got to work. I drew, I inked, I painted, I thought of Rachel. She is infused in those braids, and I will always think of her when I look at them.

So... Fear. We're old friends. Fear is usually behind most I do, and thinking about it, it always was. But so is Love.