“Adoption stories—my mother’s oil paintings”

The Richest Man in Babylon is a book by George Samuel Clason which dispenses financial advice through a collection of parables set in ancient Babylon. Through their experiences in business and managing household finance, the characters in the parables learn simple lessons in financial wisdom. This painting by my mother is titled, “Seven Cures for a Lean Purse”.

My adoptive mother Rosella put a tremendous amount of time and energy into her paintings. She was a prolific artist with a collection of over 500 oil paintings. In her mind, each painting was a valuable heirloom painted for a specific wall in our house. Every holiday, birthday and personal visit was highlighted by the receiving of several more of her paintings. We hung each one exactly where she wanted but many were glaringly the wrong size, color, shape or subject matter that clashed with our decorating theme and personal taste; but she was so proud of her work that I could never refuse any of them. We eventually accumulated so many of her oil paintings that we filled an entire storage room in the basement with them. Twice each year when she came for a visit I would pull her paintings out of the storage room, dust them off, rearrange all the furniture in the house and rehang her pictures. Our house resembled a cluttered art gallery filled with an eclectic collection of oil paintings of all shapes and sizes. My mother’s health declined rapidly. She had cancer and she eventually became too sick to travel.

Each painting and antique frame had been officially appraised by a credible art dealer. My husband was looking for tax deductions at the end of the year and came up with the brilliant idea of donating some of her paintings to the local church. He rationalized, “This is a win-win situation. We receive a tax deduction. The walls of the new church are decorated for free and your mother’s paintings will be on public display for everyone to admire.” Several months passed before my mother called to inform me that she would like to make one more trip to Colorado before she died. The idea of another visit struck me like a thunder bolt from the sky knowing that she possessively viewed her oil paintings from a narcissistic point of view. I was petrified. I couldn’t sleep at night. I had dutifully always been respectful and never done anything to discredit or dishonor her or hurt her feelings. How could I ever explain to her that we had given her priceless heirlooms away? “How much would it cost me to buy them back?” I anxiously wondered aloud.

On the day she arrived I was fidgety and nauseous. The look on her face when she walked into our living room disturbed me. Her lower jaw was protruding in a way I had never seen before. She looked angry. I was chicken. I panicked. “I’ll bring you a glass of tea and some cookies, I’ll be right back.” I executed an awkward about face and sprinted out of the room before she could speak. I felt guilty as sin. My palms were sweating. My knees were weak. I felt like a teenage girl in big trouble. I couldn’t look my mother in the eye with an honest expression. Fearing the worst. I made lots of noise in the kitchen before suspiciously peaking around the corner. My husband’s face was pale gray. His eyes were blinking abnormally. He blew his nose before gathering his composure. He was accustomed to public speaking before large groups, conducting interviews with the news media, and meeting with wealthy influential people. Yet, I had never seen him look so nervous. A false smile crossed his face. “We have some exciting news for you. I think you will be very happy.” The words rolled sweetly off his tongue. “Some of your paintings are currently hanging in our local church. Everyone has been greatly admiring your work.” She was flattered by his words. He extended his arm and shook her hand vigorously. “Congratulations! You are a real celebrity artist around here.” He sounded credible. Rosella was pleased. Indeed, she was flattered that others were expressing appreciation of her work. The pandemonium I had expected never occurred. I was overcome by the lingering effects of post traumatic stress, including a rapid heart beat, sweaty palms and weak knees. I gulped my tea instead of sipping it. Rosella was exceptional happy to be with us again. This really was her last visit.

Has anyone else ever been as foolish as me?


Judith Land | Adoption Detective | FAQ’s | Adoption Blogs


Una verdadera historia de la adopción | Una storia vera di adozione | 一个真实的故事通过


About Judith Land

Judith Land lives in Colorado and Arizona with husband and coauthor Martin Land. Judith is a former nurse, retail shop owner, college instructor and avid outdoor person. Her book "Adoption Detective: Memoir of an Adopted Child" is a true story detailing the journey of Judith Romano, foster child and adoptee, as she discovers fragments of her background, and then sets out to solve the mystery as an adult. She has reached readers in 192 countries. "Mothers and fathers everywhere in the world need to understand that children are forever and always." --Judith Land
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