It was a gorgeous cool early morning on Oct. 13, 1999 when I packed up all of my art supplies, slammed the back screen door and headed to 204 East Main Street to paint for the entire day ahead. The day before I had spotted in a front store window of our old Weir’s Drug Store which is now Sullivan’s Office Supply something as cute as a bug. Her real name is little Miss Brandy, a stuffed figure of a doll without facial features. She did not even have visible eyes, nose or mouth. She was sporting a pair of neat sunglasses where her eyes should be. She had on her Mississippi State University cheer leading outfit. On her top of her little one piece dress was an MSU megaphone right in the middle of it, and I loved her maroon and white pleated skirt at the bottom of her dress. This same little outfit is usually worn by future little bulldog girls whose parents, grandparents and great grandparents are usually alumni of our greatest university in the state. She was absolutely darling looking just sitting in the front store window. She was literally begging me to come on downtown and paint her portrait.
I pulled into a vacant parking spot for the day. I spotted a policeman walking by and asked permission to stay parked all day so I could get all of my art supplies in and out. He agreed, and I just knew I was going to have such a very happy and fun day ahead of me. When I woke up that day I just had a great feeling that when I set up my outdoor art studio I had a real creative mission ahead for me to accomplish. You would not believe how much art stuff I carry along with me because I can’t run back and forth home to get something I might have left behind in my inside art studios. I have to set up my very own outside art studio instead. I will be there all day mixing into my paint all the sounds, smells and noises that I will experience all day long being in our outside world! I could feel excitement in my bones and way down to my finger tips and toes.
The day was beginning, and the time was nearly 8 a..m. when I began to unpack my art supplies. Oct. 13 is almost in the middle of the autumn season, and it was beginning to get slightly cooler as the days began feel crispy and delightful. I had brought along a light jacket and of course my big, wild and sometimes funny hat to plop on my head. If you know me, you know I have quite a love affair with hats. I seldom leave our home without a hat on top of my head.
I suppose we can all say way down here in our deep south October is the most colorful and prettiest months of the year. I felt very much at home underneath my colorful umbrella, all my tubes of paint surrounding me on a big old table, tall red director’s chair, and my heart and soul were filled with anticipation mixed with excitement to take my pencil in my right hand and put my first pencil mark on my canvas. I always calm down by closing my eyes and whispering a tiny prayer to a higher being above me, “Dearest God, use my hands as your instruments to share and show others Your wonderful, colorful and fantastic world. Amen.”
They told me her name was Brandy. I decided to add the word, “Miss” in front of her. Suddenly I could just hear the song we used to hear for our “Miss America.” As well as I remember it was always in the autumn of the year when we used to gather around our old halo lite TV screen that Daddy bought for us down at Winfield’s Furniture Store on Highway 82 and watch to see who would be crowned Miss America. Mama would pop us a huge bowl of popcorn, and we would all huddle around the TV to see which girl would win. Mississippi has had three Miss Americas, or is it four? We have the most beautiful, talented girls who have represented our great state well. Without a doubt in my mind we have some of the most beautiful girls in the whole USA inheriting Scotch-Irish facial and body features. As I looked into the front window I saw “Miss Brandy” as “Miss America!”
I suddenly changed the words of “Miss America” and sang to myself, “Here she sits, Miss MSU Cheerleader; Miss Brandy!” Let’s pretend together that we are glancing into this very attractive window right now with a definite theme for this time of the year when football season is in full swing. Here sits this very adorable and lovable stuffed “wo-mannequin.” She is pretty as you please modeling her perfect outfit for a football game! The top game of the year is our last game called the Egg Bowl. We play our biggest rival, Ole Miss, here or in Oxford. I suddenly thought to myself, “Now, Miss Brandy, as cute as you are looking early this morning just sitting here in this front window I have a feeling deep within my bones that you alone will help us bring home that golden egg and maybe also a slice of bacon this season.” Then this is sort of a cheer of my own, “You Go Girl! Win, Win, Win for us!”
Let’s look at this painting that will hopefully make you smile as I once again repaint. She is sitting in a window so look at all the reflections of the outside drifting and coming inside the glass window itself. We’ll start at the top of the painting and read it like a sentence in a book from left to right. We are looking through glass so find the white, blue and gray at the top. Something inside is barely visible. It is dark and we spot a type of box-looking square shape. There are white maroon, pink and brown things inside the box. She is leaning on the edge of the box. This box is holding Miss Brandy up. Let your eyes keeping moving and going to a maroon, white and pink bow. These colors are reflecting from her own bow into the shadows of the light coming and going from the outside of the pretty day coming from the blue sky above. The reflections into the big show window are hitting the store window glass. Find the floor of the window which looks almost like wooden planks, doesn’t it? I think so. I just loved all the colors of the outside coming hitting and entering the glass itself. It is exciting to discover all the reflections that you can find looking inside a window.
Let’s look directly at Miss Brandy. See her slightly cocked head that indicates her determination to win as many football games this season. Look at her great big and fluffy bow pinned right on the tip top of her head. This big bow is, in a way, her hat. See how snazzy those sunglasses are where her eyes are supposed to be. Her slightly turned head to the right adds her cute little extra special look of her unique personality. Let’s imagine she has a pug nose and a determined winning smile on her lips. She has a good looking slim figure. See her arms and legs. She is a petite in size. Her left leg extends downward into the window sill and the other is folded up with a tiny bit of her foot showing. In her invisible hand she is waving her fluffy plastic shredded maroon and white pom pom. In fact it looks like she has one white and one maroon pom pom holding them both together. There is a cheer that we yell sometimes at our football games when the cheerleaders go from one side of the stadium seats and yell, “Maroon” and turning say to the other side of the stadium seats and yell, “White.” I bet she is ready to do this cheer right now, don’t you?
As I look at her again in 2012 I think of my own memories of being a MSU co-ed back in 1960-64. There were very few female co-eds back then, and all of us Starkville girls lived at home and headed toward MSU each morning early to attend classes and back home again when our classes were over. In a way, we had four more years to stay at home to be with our parents before we graduated from college. Now females maybe outnumber males on our campus today. Times have changed so much. Women have come a long way, baby! Where have all the years gone? All day long that day I enjoyed chatting and talking to folks on Main Street as they passed by this window that I was in a way perched like a bird on a limb, but instead on a busy sidewalk of down town Starkville. This was such a fun and delightful painting to paint as well as such a pleasant October day to be outside enjoying the autumn morning.
When I finished I signed and dated this painting, I looked back at the finished portrait of Miss Brandy and I thought if we could all just be as free spirited, whimsical and happy-go-lucky every day we roll out of bed, get dressed up in our maroon and white outfit, tie our maroon and white tennis shoes and plop on a silly hat on our head or tie a big maroon and white bow in our hair, then we would each be the luckiest people in this old world.
I glanced back at her and saw a twinkle and a wink in her eyes through her dark sunglasses. I spotted her sweet smile on her imaginary lips, one maroon and white pom pom waving back at me, saying, “Go Dawgs, and for goodness sake, beat Ole Miss!” You were a young girl in 1999 and you are now an old lady today, but you still have a little bit of spunk left in you.
Carole McReynolds Davis is a local artist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org .