Who Is Anastasia?

My photo
New Castle, Indiana Zone 5, United States
When I was 55, I decided to embrace the things I love and hold precious and dear - regardless of anyone else's thoughts and opinion. I am a folk artist who loves flowers - my own flowers, grown by me. I love good, hearty, exotic foods, and I love to prepare them myself. I love the secret garden situated in my backyard, regardless of how junky it gets. No longer able to afford a vacation, this will have to be it for the time being. In the winter months, I still enjoy it. Anyway, here I am sharing my art, favorite recipes, cocktails, gardening tips, and just my usual vents and bantering. After all, I'm old enough to say whatever the heck I want to now ... Oh, the two pictures below are NOT of my garden, although the one with the pink French doors looks very much like the backyard I grew up with. I am searching for pictures of that wonderful place and will post soon.

JEWELS OF MY SOUL

JEWELS OF MY SOUL
My Book Available on AMAZON

Stacey Torres ART Prints

Stacey Torres ART Prints
A very limited selection of reproductions from my paintings can be found here

February 2, 2016

For Love of Family - And a Grand Old House


Aunt Car, circa 1920
It took me a few minutes to get past the return address label that read, "738 Macon Street." The last piece of mail I received from that address was a Christmas card from my most beloved great aunt and uncle, Caroline (“Aunt Car”) and Henry Gill, who was also my godfather, in 1967. I had just moved to New Castle, Indiana, and my grandmother's sister had sent me a card signed in her elegant penmanship. She had been a "schoolmarm" in Barbados, West Indies in the early part of the 20th Century and the written hand was not an art, but a requirement -- to her. Eight months later, on a visit home to New York, I watched her die after an agonizing fight with stomach cancer at 73.

This aunt was so important to me. But I never realized how much until the last few months. She has been constantly on my mind. In the summer of 1967, she and I accompanied my grandparents on a pilgrimage to their homeland, Barbados to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Aunt Car and I were roommates, and shared a double bed under a white mosquito net. We visited Bathsheba, St. Joseph Parish, the town where Aunt Car and Nana were born and raised. Children and adults came running out of their tiny houses and closed their businesses for a chance to see "Teacher" one more time. Realize that these people were all ages. Certainly most of them had never seen her before, but they had all heard of her - from their parents and grandparents, and held her in reverence. Teacher had come home from America. Young and old, they embraced her and gave her flowers, which she accepted with humble grace – that was her way. I was not quite 14, and did not understand how important this afternoon was to her; and now me.

Last month, I thought of her again, and cried as I finally realized that the Summer of '67 was a gift from God. To have the honor to have spent one last summer with this woman who also helped raise me, who guided me, who slapped me when I sucked my teeth or rolled my eyes; and then embraced me in tears of her own; who loved me unconditionally. She taught me to make curried chicken (Trinidad and Barbadian style). She was strict, she was grand, and she was elegant. Above all, she was always a lady! She was the most beautiful woman I had ever known. But, I was 14, with poor, undeveloped communication skills, and had no idea how to tell her how much I loved and appreciate the things she did for me. Aunt Car grew heavy on my mind for weeks. I felt her with me those lonely days in the hospital, and I can still smell her soft fragrance, 
Arp├Ęge.


One day in December, I received a package in the mail from 738 Macon Street. I knew who it was from, but a lump began to grow in my throat. Seeing the reality of that return address gave me a chill. A few years ago, I received an email from a gentleman who had found one of my posts on a genealogy site where I sought information about my grandmother's family. He had purchased Aunt Car and Uncle Henry's wonderful old brownstone in Brooklyn, and found me via my post while doing some research. Together, we put a lot of pieces together, and through countless emails and photos, he brought my aunt and her wonderful house where I spent my childhood summers back to life. I don't think he knows what a void he has filled in my life. Brian Hartig is a geographical historian extraordinaire of the Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn ! He wrote a fabulous book about the history of 738 Macon Street, with chapters about all the owners from 1892 until today, including my family, the Gills.

It is fitting that 48 years later, the next piece of mail I received from that address would be at Christmas – it was my very own copy of The Story of a House; 738 Macon Street, written by Brian Hartig - a gift I will always cherish.

But, it gets even better! Recently, I was commissioned to paint a portrait of Aunt Car in her Brooklyn brownstone – the way I remember her and the home from my childhood. I had not seen her or the homestead since 1968 when she passed away; Uncle Henry died in the 70's. I accepted the commission, but took it in a totally different direction by portraying both her and Henry in their rose garden behind the house, along with their dog Trixie, and Waldo, a ground tortoise who was/is ancient and lived on the property. I painted their yard bigger than all of the other typical shotgun backyards in the neighborhood; even though it wasn't. But as a little girl, that's how magical it was to me.

Hopefully, I will be able to visit the home for the first time in decades very soon – in time for Aunt Car's 122nd Birthday! I'm excited and humbled to be able to see my artwork hanging on my her parlor wall … Keeping a piece of me back home again.




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I would love to hear from you regarding this post. Please feel free to leave your comments. All the best, Anastasia a/k/a Stacey

The Backyard --Today's Vacation Spot

The Backyard --Today's Vacation Spot
A simple garden meal in the shade. No, it's not my backyard, but it looks identical to the one I grew up with at our home in Queens. Looking for an original pic of it to post soon!

Old Fashioned Tips