Things have been pretty busy, and time has gotten away from me here in this still unnamed studio. I’ve made a good stack of new work, and spent the weekend in East Texas doing some research and getting some more photos and other items to use.
It was nice to be home in East Texas, and my work on the Pine Curtain project made it a little more interesting to be there. The nature of it being a community history means that it gave me a lot of new things to talk about with my family, which was fun. Both my mom’s side and my dad’s side are from and still live there, a mile or two apart, and their extended families came from other parts of the piney woods. So, with those two perspectives there is a wealth of information and lots to learn. Also, as time is doing its thing with my parents and older relatives (and me!) it is important and valuable to get these stories as close to firsthand as I can, while I can.
During a break in activity, I went to the older of the two community cemeteries and walked around looking for names that matched my research. Many of the headstones from that era (late 1800s) were pretty weathered, but I identified a few who I had been reading about. It was cool to see, and to connect what I am doing to real people.
So, now I am back to the more usual routine, and that always feels good. Now that my Etsy store is stocked and up, I can look toward 2021 and work toward some of those goals!
This print was taken from a 1960s baby shower at the Homer United Methodist Church. These were the hostesses, family friends who could always be counted on to spray their hair, polish up their cat-eye glasses and punch bowls, and run the show.
Many, many years after this, I hosted my first shower for my own expectant friend, in the same church fellowship hall where these ladies stand. I remember standing in the church breezeway, cutting gladiola stems, wondering if we had enough tablecloths and feeling a connection to the community of “aunties” who I had seen do the same things over the years. I’m proud to come from a community where it is second nature to show up and celebrate people.
In rural East Texas, your first best friends are your cousins and your neighbors. And often, your cousin IS your neighbor! In my case, my cousin spent lots of time visiting my grandmother, who lived just one stop sign and few houses away. So, almost a neighbor. I’m an only child, and people often ask “Weren’t you lonely growing up?” Because of my cousin and my neighbor, I really can’t relate to that question. How could I be lonely when one bestie lived at the far end of my driveway and the other was conveniently at all family functions? Plus, they’re older than me by a few years, so I don’t know what it’s like not to have friends like them. An upside to being related to and living next door to your best friends is that they’re stuck with you for life. Lucky them! And lucky, lucky me.
For generations of my family in East Texas, life centered around Homer United Methodist Church. It functioned (and still does) as part house of worship, part community hub. Sunday services were of equal importance to potluck suppers, holiday events, and youth group get-togethers as well as volleyball games, dances and other non-religious activities. Regardless of how religious you were or weren’t, whether you were a member or a prospective member, or just there to fellowship – ours was a church that just got everyone together for a good time. It was all part of God’s work.
Those good times bound our community through generations. This print is taken from a photo taken outside the first church building in 1961. In the source photo is my mom and a few of her best friends. She still sees many of them every few weeks at least, and not necessarily at church. Many of my friends and I have the same kind of relationships, which were also cultivated through the church but exist outside its walls. We genuinely liked, and still like each other.
The church sits where the Homer “town square” used to be. So, it has a legacy in East Texas history as a place of excitement and energy. The church seen here was replaced with a more modern building in the later 60s, which is still there. My family lived a few doors down from the church, within walking distance. Or, when I was learning to drive, within driving the riding lawnmower distance!
My corner of the ‘curtain is Homer, Texas, an unincorporated community about twelve miles outside of Lufkin, Texas off of Highway 69-S, on the edge of the Big Thicket National Preserve. Homer is an interesting place. It was once the Angelina County seat, and was thriving and poised for growth until a major railway chose Lufkin for its main route in the 1800s.
Its history includes brawls and bloody feuds, at least one of which is said to have left haunted energy on the land my family still lives on. Even further back in history, there were “panther tales” and “wampus cat” stories of wild animals that roamed the thickets, hollers and ponds. Homer, at least my part of it, is still wild and on our land alone, there are still wailing big cats, sly foxes and an army of feral pigs. (And yes, all of our pets are indoor pets!) There are woods on our land that no one goes too far into.
This print is based on a photo of my grandmother, probably in the 1940s, and probably when Homer was a little more energetic than it was when I was growing up. But even in my time, it had a busy little shop strip offering candy/soda/BBQ, a hair salon and other sundries. It was torn down in the last decade or so, and the operating family replaced it with a big space to sell their handmade woodcarvings, stained glass and other beautiful art. The matriarch passed, and then the eldest grandson, and now all of that is gone, too.
It’s a place the contains multitudes in ghost stories and love stories, church hymns and redemption songs. When I write or create art about my home, no matter where I am, this is home to me. And while it’s not perfect, neither am I.