The Return of John Brown
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The Return of John Brown
Mouldering no more, John Brown is back to watch you from the refrigerator.


At the start of her second marriage, my great grandmother had rescued a portrait of the abolitionist John Brown from a burn pile of old paintings. The artist was her new husband’s dead uncle and his family decided that his many paintings were taking up too much space.


My grandmother snatched John Brown out of the bonfire and hung him up in the living room.


This particular portrait was said to be special because it had been one of the doomed man’s few live-sittings. Apparently. I haven’t confirmed the history of John Brown portraits. Also, there are a lot of fancy untrue stories in my family that I used to take as truth and now realize were unhelpful fables. But I digress.


The painting hung out in the living room over the stereo that smelled like burning wires when it was turned on. Wherever a person went in the room, John Brown’s eyes followed. He creeped everyone out.


My great grandmother ended up donating the piece to one museum or another. She received a thank you letter and some cash. Valued most, was the reprieve from John Brown judgey gaze.


Until now.


V’s school photo this year is creepy. John Brown creepy.


I have two ways of going with this:


I can nonchalantly send the (many and expensive) photos out to friends and family. The photos, after an obligatory period on the refrigerator where they will haunt the kitchen, will inevitably be stashed in a drawer for future startling moments.


Or, I can find some really nice frames for the photos to hang out in – foisting them onto a side table or a wall.


Torn. Really, really torn.

IMG_1201
Like this, only scarier.