Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – Happy Mother’s Day!

Mother’s Day has always provided supreme opportunities for kitsch. Be it flower arrangements, stuffed animal displays in front of gas stations for last minute pick-ups, or greeting cards – store bought and handmade equally qualifying –  Mother’s Day is a kitsch karousel that never ceases to go round.

Almost everything I owned growing up was thrown out when my mom passed away suddenly when I was 16 and my father remarried. Aside from a rubber doll I got for my first birthday whose head was tied on with a string and a Ben Casey bobble head with a hole in his heart, the result of me shoving a pencil through it after an unrequited love incident at 12, I had almost nothing to remind me of the sweeter life that preceded all of this. (Which is why it meant so much to me to get back into the house I grew up in a few weeks ago.)

About 20 years ago, after years of thinking these two medically deficient dolls were the only artifacts of Little Allee that remained, my brother shipped me my old steamer trunk that had been hogging a corner of his garage since I graduated college. I had always assumed it was empty but inside was a small cigar box that contained letters, post cards, hamburger recipes, and this Mother’s Day card I had made for my mom when I was God knows how old. I hope it wasn’t too old as my interpretation of the world was slightly naïve.

I have no idea what country Mekoila is right above the S. Pole and I’m happy to see that I thought California was important enough to hog the entire West side of the United States. I have no idea if I actually thought that Michigan, where I drew my happy little self in, was really the east-most state or if I forgot to leave room for it when I drew this map that looks more like a cross-section of a cow with different meat cuts in it. I hope you can see the little thumb I gave Michigan for accuracy right above my left hand. And I’m happy that I took the time to draw myself in my favorite type of pleated dress in grades 2-6:

I’m the tall one. And if memory serves, that’s actually a giant Mother’s Day rose tucked into my belt that I made out of  a toilet paper roll and tissue paper to give to my mom a couple of years after I made this card. My mother’s name was Rose so that flower had a lot of significance in our family.

I definitely misspelled ‘You’re’ but I’m happy to see that I gave the rose much petal definition and that the  leaves look like jubilant uplifted arms. It was a very happy rose and a very happy Rose that celebrated Mother’s Day that year. I did, however, completely cheese out on the poetry I included inside. I have no idea where I copied this from but I’m happy to see that I knew enough as a budding designer to carry over the rose logo.

Thankfully in my later years I progressed to the point where I didn’t need someone else’s words to express how I was feeling.

Never one to leave space empty for long, I ended the card with a picture of a present. Of course, my mom’s only present from me was this card but as a first grade teacher she  always appreciated the effort I put into art.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there.  And happy Mother’s Day, Rose, wherever you may be.


Categories: Art, Crafts, Detroit, Dolls, Families, Holidays, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, People

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3 Comments

  • Gayle says:

    Allee, I’m reading this through tears. So beautiful! What a perfect Mother’s Day tribute to your mother. And your childhood map is brilliantly reminiscent of New Yorker covers by Saul Steinberg and Maira Kalman! Questions: Who are the two young girls holding your hand? And could I please have the hamburger recipe?

    • Allee says:

      The girls are Marjorie and Susan Singer, my Aunt Blanch’s grandkids who lived in Plattsburgh, New York. I will dig out the hamburger recipe/s. My favorite had Campbell’s soup in it. I was trying to learn how to cook for my dad.

  • marcia felix goldman says:

    as the tears are gently falling on my cheeks, I an touched to see your discovery of such a meaningful time in your childhood~~~ In addition to my own cards, I have the love letters that my parents sent to each other prior to their marriage~ they are filled with young love and promise. Thank you for sharing!

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