Blog / 2020 / The Gift of Memories

December 26, 2020

Because pandemic, this year I didn’t visit my parents for Christmas, so instead I made them an advent calendar. My thinking was that a present that gets opened over the course of 25 days might help make up for me not being there in person. Each day was packed with candy and other goodies, including a tiny painting representing a memory from my childhood.

broken egg artwork, tiny painting by woman artist Gwenn Seemel
Gwenn Seemel
Broken Egg
2020
acrylic, colored pencil, and marker on paper
3 x 3 inches

In this case, the image marks the way my Maman encouraged me in the kitchen. By the time I was four years old, it was my job to break eggs when we were making brownies, and, looking back, I’m amazed at her patience picking out all the shell I doubtless got into the batter.

illustration of Indian food, tiny artwork by American artist Gwenn Seemel
Gwenn Seemel
India Palace
2020
acrylic, colored pencil, and marker on paper
3 x 3 inches

Food features prominently among my memories, especially with my mom. When I first went away to college an hour’s drive from my childhood home, my Maman would make the trek every week to take me out to an Indian restaurant. This was our favorite food and had for years been our special outing since my dad and brother don’t love Indian spices.

little blond girl on stilts, tiny illustration by independent artist Gwenn Seemel
Gwenn Seemel
Stilts
2020
acrylic, colored pencil, and marker on paper
3 x 3 inches

That’s me on stilts! I was obsessed with the circus and my father noticed, making me the stilts himself one Christmas.

pegboard wall of tools, tiny illustration by queer artist Gwenn Seemel
Gwenn Seemel
Tool Wall
2020
acrylic, colored pencil, and marker on paper
3 x 3 inches
(Prints and pretty things available here.)

His woodworking was a source of fascination for me, and the pegboard wall of tools in our garage was always weirdly iconic to me. It mashes up the idea of utility and décor in a way that makes so much sense. Tools are stunningly beautiful, if not in appearance then certainly by virtue of what they allow us to do.

blue elephant design, tiny painting by independent artist Gwenn Seemel
Gwenn Seemel
Elephant Skirt
2020
acrylic, colored pencil, and marker on paper
3 x 3 inches

My Papa isn’t the only one who made me things. The elephant design honors all the ways my mom has made me clothing over the years. It’s fabric from a pregnancy dress she wore when I was in her belly. Originally it was blue animals on a white background, so we over-dyed it together like we do with so many of our clothes, and then she sewed a skirt for me.

two kids dressed up for Halloween, tiny painting by independent artist Gwenn Seemel
Gwenn Seemel
Barbie and Pirate Halloween
2020
acrylic, colored pencil, and marker on paper
3 x 3 inches

The focus on customization and DIY carried into Halloween—a holiday that, for the Seemels anyway, was always a celebration self-expression as well as chocolate. Both my Barbie costume and my brother’s pirate one are made almost entirely by our Maman. Plus, the saber my brother is wielding is the product of my Papa’s woodshop.

Twin Peaks San Francisco painting, small artwork by Californian artist Gwenn Seemel
Gwenn Seemel
Twin Peaks
2020
acrylic, colored pencil, and marker on paper
3 x 3 inches

Of all the gifts my parents bestowed on me, a love of nature is perhaps the one I am most grateful for, especially considering that I grew up mostly in San Francisco. We’d hike Twin Peaks on the regular, and though that hardly qualifies as rewilding it did give the city girl in me perspective.

illustration of Brittany spaniel running, small artwork by pet artist Gwenn Seemel
Gwenn Seemel
Roo Running
2020
acrylic, colored pencil, and marker on paper
3 x 3 inches
(Prints and pretty things available here.)

My Maman informed me that she’s holding onto the calendar itself—the 25 boxy envelopes I made as well as the decorated canvas that I’d tied the packages to. When I asked her why she’d save the wrapping like that, she told me it was so that next year I’d only have to make new paintings! I think that makes her the most adorable mom in the world.


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