Saturday, December 21, 2013

A gift from the heart

"Sisters," by Monique Pride, has a poignant story behind it.
A woman we know found a gift so special this year that she gave it last week so that the recipient would not cry on Christmas. The woman is Tammy Cloutier, who many years ago looked after our middle son in a nursery school at the YMCA in Concord, N.H. She is now the hairdresser of my wife Monique.

Monique continues to tell people she is a dabbler in painting, but I think she has become an artist. One day when she went to have her hair done, she showed Tammy her painting of one of our grandchildren, the son of the son Tammy had once taught.

Before Monique knew it, she had her first commission, which was at once scary and thrilling. Tammy asked her to make a painting from a photograph of a moment in the lives of two sisters, one of whom is Tammy’s son’s fiancée. She wanted to give the painting to the fiancée – her daughter-in-law-to-be – for Christmas.

The commission was daunting because so much was going on in the photograph. It was a scenic picture, with the two sisters holding hands with their backs to the camera. Just beyond them, a stretch of blue ocean thrashed, and on the island beyond, the Cape Neddick Lighthouse, known popularly as the Nubble Light, loomed above a rocky cliff. The top half of the lighthouse was missing from the photograph.

The sisters, the water, the rocks, the grass, the lighthouse and its surrounding buildings – what a challenge!

But there was more, and it was in the poignancy of the story behind the picture. Tammy’s son’s fiancée and her sister lost the third sister in the family last year. This spot in York, Maine, with its view of the ocean and the lighthouse was a favorite of the sister who died. The two surviving sisters and their family went there to celebrate her life. When the picture was taken, they had just scattered her ashes in a place she loved, and the sisters were holding hands as they bade her goodbye.

I watched Monique make this painting over a period of six weeks. She used techniques she learned from painting classes – even one from Vincent Van Gogh – but the reason I say she has crossed a threshold and become an artist has only a little to do with technique. What I see in her paintings now is vision. She has gained the confidence to paint what she sees rather than be a slave to what is there.

Monique and I have spoken about the painting often as it progressed and as she tried to get each element right without losing sight of the whole.The painting, which she titled “Sisters,” is thus a Christmas gift to Tammy and the sisters and their family and also to Monique and to me.

The gift has been given and tears were indeed shed. Now the painting is in the hands of one for whom on this Christmas and henceforth, it will commemorate not a death too soon but a lovely and loving farewell.


  1. I am blown away - just so lovely and moving - who knew we had such an artist in our family - really cool, Marilyn E. Rossetti - also Happy Holidays to you all!

  2. The painting is beautiful! How nice for Monique to find something that she enjoys and then for her to realize that she is very talented. Merry Christmas!

  3. Brian and Janice BurrisDecember 22, 2013 at 9:29 PM

    The three sisters described in this painting are our daughters. Monique did a wonderful job capturing the spirit of that day on her canvas. She is indeed a true artist. Tammy and Monique's generosity in presenting this most special gift to our family, is most appreciated. We continue to be amazed at the support of our family, friends, and from those we have never met.

  4. This is such a wonderful gesture and tribute.