We are always looking downward at the ground and grass as we walk or drive along in this thing called life. I challenge each one of you to look upward instead to the blue sky and the unexpected things that you might miss. I warmly and cordially invite you to drive, walk or jog by our home on 501 Louisville Street and casually just look up toward the blue sky. Our home faces the west and slightly toward the south side of our front yard you shall suddenly spot a real living and breathing little girl. Her name is Miss Sissy, and she is definitely an extraordinary precious little happy girl just a swingin'.
Miss Sissy knows how much fun it is to live in the small town of Starkville. Here we move around a bit slower which gives us time to do a little swingin'. OK, I confess to you that I have a real love affair with swings and swingin' in each one of them. We have two swings inside our home, two outside in the backyard, two in the side yards, two swings on the front porch and two in the front yard. We have a total of 10 swings!
My favorite swing is probably the swing that my own great-granddaddy designed and made by hand in 1911 that I cherish and treasure very much. My own mama courted my daddy just swingin' in this very old white swing that hangs today where it always has hung for all these years where six generations or our family have loved, adored and enjoyed our big 'ole gray and blue wrap-around very Southern front porch that hugs our big white cedar wood family home.
My artistic creation is actually moving and swingin'. I snapped Miss Sissy with the lens of my own camera, and captured on film her portrait photo as a slight Mississippi breeze blew her gently moving upward and downward in her tiny swing. The split second of movement was saved forever as a memory. Let's share this fleeting moment together.
Miss Sissy has spontaneity in her body, heart and soul. She possess a fun, joyful spirit which is rare in our tightly planned, self-conscious time of 2012. She is definitely a free spirit and she lives a very unpremeditated voluntary life of her own accord. We envy her, don't we? Look at her as she is very gracefully, naturally unconstrained without any premeditation, uninhibited, and she is very naturally a darling little girl just a swingin' along in life with her feet pointing upwards, and she definitely has an imaginary grin and a turned up smile on her lips.
Think about swingin' as instinctive prompted by no motive, yet there is motion. To clap our hands we give an applause which is suddenly heartfelt and spontaneous.
Miss Sissy is our main character, and we'll start at the top left hand side and read left to right as we read her life in sentences. See the black roof and the top of our home, the white wood underneath the roof and the one huge tall white column. Next look for the four chain links of two swings which are connected. This big swing is the favorite swing of our grandchildren and all four swing chains are dangling from the pecan tree in our front yard.
Miss Sissy is a real piece of metal sculpture created and signed by Patrick Tranum. Her head is an old recycled horseshoe, her metal eyes are washers cut into as if to make them look like her eyes are smiling and one eye is winking back at you. Imagine that you see a cute pug nose and a tiny turned up mouth flirting with you.
Her body is an recycled old shovel about 70 years old painted yellow which became her pretty dress. One arm and hand is a wrench with her fingers clutching the tiny swing chain. The other arm and hand is an old table spoon cupped around the other tiny swing chain. Her two chains are stiff, and they are her pigtails. Patrick used an old canvas cot around her neck and painted it a turquoise blue. He used springs from an old mattress and painted them blue as if they were suspenders holding up her dress, and the canvas cot material at her neck area and shoulders.
Look at her legs and feet. He used bicycle pedals for both. One foot is pushing upward and the other is downward giving her rhythm as she swings along with one push up and one push down. See how the chain is holding the slim piece of bent metal as the seat of her swing? Her swing reminds me of the ledge of my artist easel that holds my canvas as I paint. Miss Sissy is up higher than the larger swing. Who is below her? Our grandchildren taking turns when they come over to visit Granny and Granddaddy. Miss Sissy is “high on life!”
Below her you'll find a replica of our home in the form of a real doll house. Buck Swain designed and built that doll house for us in 2006. It has real light fixtures inside and lights up at night. It is completed with real doll furniture, and a real family lives inside. Look for the tin shaped house with tin figure pieces of all our six grandchildren lined up in a row plus Granny Carole and Granddaddy Frank too! Find the child's rocking chair with Bulldogs written across the top in white lettering. See the three French tin buckets inside a English wooden flower stand filled with green ivy vines, one blue bucket is on an antique wicker table, a tiny clock on the wall and framed paintings on the porch wall.
See the large concrete pot of colorful red, green and white plants in full bloom. See the big red glazing ball on a black iron stand. Look at the colorful peacock, a large tin real USA Navy bathtub filled with green flowing ivy. At the bottom you'll see the old brick stoop leading you into the porch itself. There are red bottles on the bottle metal tree branches and the sturdy metal bottle tree trunk. The white deacon's bench is in the front and side of our yard. Go back to that one single blue French bucket on the antique wicker table and let your eyes return to the reflection of the wavy 101-year-old glass window. Do you not see maybe, just maybe, Miss Sissy's shadow inside this window? I think so!
Look upward at our main character, Miss Sissy, and see the two big red wide mesh bows added tied on each of her chain pig tails and one big bow around her neck like a bow tie. Count the reds with me now: her pigtails tied with red bows, red around her neck, red flowers, red gazing ball, red peacock's body, red bottles and red painting on the wall. The odd number seven of reds.
Miss Sissy came into my life in August 2012, and now she is a very important, fun and happy member of our family. I look outside the wavy window that is in this artistic creation every morning when I wake up and every night right before I go to sleep to see if Miss Sissy is swingin'! I love her, and she returns her love back to me every day.
I want to share a touching story with you that Patrick told me. He is a metal sculptor in the Mississippi State University Art Department and is the head of the MSU Shop there. He is working toward his master's degree, and his sculpture designs are fantastic. I recently attended on Labor Day the Prairie Art's Festival in West Point. He had his display there sharing his booth with his sweet wife, Glenda and her twin sister, Brenda from Texas. The sisters had a section of their own unique hand-made jewelry too. Glenda and Patrick are the parents of daughter, Jessica and son, Tyler, and Brenda has several younger children back in Texas. It was their father, Davis Hartness' 82rd birthday.
Patrick said, “A few weeks ago I was in Oxford at the big Double Decker Art Festival, and I had my sculpture booth set up here. I noticed a little boy gazing and looking very intently at my work. He stayed for 30 or 40 minutes and he would carefully pick up piece after piece, and just as carefully place them back where they belonged. He would leave and return several times enjoying every minute of just looking and examining my work. He finally returned with his mother. She said, 'My son loves your work very much, and he wants to spend his own money and purchase a piece of your sculpture that you have created.'
"I then said, 'Which piece do you want and love best?' The little boy looked carefully around all of my booth and with a twinkle in his eye said, 'I really want that metal mask up there pointing right at it, but I only have $75.'"
Patrick knew that that metal mask was worth a lot more money than $75. He looked down at the little boy, and he gazed into his eyes. Suddenly he thought to himself, "Here is a little boy who has enjoyed looking, touching, feeling something that I have created with my own hands and heart. He represents our future, and maybe one day he will become a sculptor too. Much of my work and the things I use to make Miss Sissy are recycled like the 70 year old shovel, material from an old army cot, worn out mattress wires, bicycle petals, wrench and old spoon, antique horse shoe and a cut up old washer. I might have inspired him today to become an artist one day.”
Patrick said, “I'll take $20 for that mask you love and want so much.” The little boys eyes just sparkled, and they each shared moments together of appreciation and love for each other and for that one piece of sculpture. He watched the mama and the little boy with his mask tucked underneath his arms holding it oh so carefully as they disappeared into the large crowds of the Double Decker Art Festival down into the middle of the streets of Oxford that Saturday.
Look upward instead of downward as you pass by our home where over 12,000 cars, trucks, buses, bikers and motorcycles pass by daily. Find the large swing, and you might see our 7-year-old grand daughter, Mallory Ann Williams and her baby sister, Elle Williams 1-year-old grand daughter who live here in Starkville just swingin', and then look upward at Miss Sissy cause she is right up above them. She is looking downward at our granddaughters, and all three girls are observing our fascinating, colorful and artistic world all around them. Miss Sissy is like a tiny bird flying high upwards in the blue sky above, and she does not have a care in this world as she whispers, hums, and sings the words a little song as she swings, “Swing low, sweet chariot ... coming for to carry me home.”
You know the words and the meaning of the old gospel spiritual hymn. Some day I suppose God will carry you, me and all of us to our real home in Heaven. Little Miss Sissy teaches us all a lesson in how to live each day to its fullest on this place called Earth.