Coffee and Tea (and Roger and Me)

Recently I set myself a challenge: three 16” x 20” Mother Goose paintings. The first was a re-do of a piece I’d done years ago for “Cock-A-Doodle-Doo!” Then I tackled a brand new “Hey-Diddle-Diddle” painting, finishing it on New Year’s Day.

Okay, what next?

I got out The Real Mother Goose and opened it at random to this:

COFFEE AND TEA

 Molly, my sister and I fell out,

And what do you think it was all about?

She loved coffee and I loved tea,

And that was the reason we couldn’t agree.

Such silly sisters, so polarized by their brews!  I thought and thought… and came up with… politicians.

But I hate to back down (just ask JR, my “best enemy” from third grade).

I was in the tub, buzzed on Calgon, reaching for a book of Roger Ebert’s movie reviews, when the image arrived: the sisters from their necklines up, back to back, looking askance at each other with the rhyme lettered across a white cake in the foreground.  I dropped the book, and eight hundred pages of Roger’s matchless prose soaked up ten pounds of hot water and some bubbles.

I laid soggy Roger on the rug to drain and thought about the difference between coffee pots and teapots. Molly’s face stretched up long and thin, with a beaky nose placed high like a spout. Her sister’s features shrank short and stout, like the little teapot in the song.

I spent the next morning collecting images of coffee mills and tea balls and scrumptious vanilla cakes. I looked up coffee-flowers and tea-flowers to “embroider” into the sisters’ layered scarves. I collected all the card-deck Queens—Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs, and Spades, just to see how their heads are dressed. I’ve drawn a thumbnail and some studies. Coffee and Tea is coming right along.

And I know what to ask for when my birthday rolls around. Poor Roger is sitting next to the dumpster, ten pounds of witty criticism, frozen solid.

I can’t wait for the movie.

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