by Clyde Sanger
Open House. It sounds friendly like “Walk right in.” Well, not quite. It usually means that a house is up for sale and hasn’t been snapped up in the first week of May. Our fine old house at 299 First Avenue, with its rose-bush and intriguing tower, had to dangle that board near the sidewalk for weeks while the charming Andrew Carter showed some 30 people round its spruced-up rooms.
Well, that was October and the new owners, Brad and Rachel and their three young daughters, take over in June. My darling Penny lies in a Wakefield grave alongside a wood that gazes down on the Gatineau River and the hills beyond, while Asante has found new life barking to keep bears and fishers at bay beside a forest not far from Parry Sound.
The signboard “Open House” follows me over the canal to Old Ottawa South. The Revera chieftains, pleased with the improvements made to their Colonel By retirement residence – new paint along corridor walls, new fire-alarm system, new chairs and a new set of pictures – decide to show the palace off to possible newcomers.
Evelyn, the friendliest of greeters, wants something more to delight the visitors: a modest art show. I suggest the names of three renowned Glebe artists and lo! Bhat Boy arrives with three of his most exciting canvases, one of homes around London’s Regent’s Park and two of the Glebe’s Central Park with a pair of Canada Geese cruising above. In the activity room a dozen paintings by residents are propped along a wall.
Bhat Boy’s three paintings gleam on their easels in the corridor. To complement and not to rival them I bring from my room my precious painting of Three Rhinos. I bought it years ago from Chris Griffin as soon as I saw it in his Pretoria Avenue studio window. It measures five feet in height, as the three rhinos are standing on each other.
Evelyn enlists me as a greeter and I am stationed in the sun room to inform and entice visitors. A neat-shirted attendant guards the drinks, a mimosa (rather more orange than champagne). At 1 p.m. doors swing wide. Open House!
My first pair sit down and chat as they drink, to each other, not with me. They are too young anyhow. Then, in come three middle-aged women ready for conversation. “What’s the food like?” I am honest, “The soup is good. All the soups.” I prattle on about my room, “I’m on the ground floor with a door to the garden – and to the daffodils.” I work hard: if some visitor signs up to stay, I may be able to claim the “introduction fee.”
The crowd dwindles with the champagne, so I move to stand by my three rhinos who look lonely some feet apart from Bhat Boy’s dazzling works. I field two questions: “Are those your elephants?” “Hmm, why have they climbed on each other?” Well, I come from the Sanger Circus family but that’s not the answer.
Bhat Boy is having fun, as usual. We’ve known each other for 20 years, since traffic soared along Bronson and he provided paintings of children to hang on poles from Fifth to the Queensway in hopes that drivers would slow down to look at them. And he had also started that fine springtime occasion, Art in the Park.
On Sunday he’s explaining why he painted Regent’s Park adorned with horse-drawn carriages near a Subway sign: “My grandmother was born there on November 17, 1917.” I am pointing to details in the next canvas: “It’s of Central Park in the Glebe. That line in the middle is Bank Street. There’s the Museum of Nature and there in the corner is number 1 Renfrew where Diane McIntyre lived. So did Charlotte Whitton, Ottawa’s first woman mayor.”
I am falling in love with the painting, Canada Geese and all. “Yes, it’s the park where we walked our Jack Russells. At least, Penny walked them.” Lots of good memories of Moto and Asante.
Before the Open House party is over, I have decided that I am going to buy this painting. When Bhat Boy comes back on the Monday to collect his canvases, we discuss the studio price and he is generous with a discount. For me the painting will be in memory of Penny and the thousand times she walked our two dogs through Central Park.
But where should it hang? My first idea was at the Colonel By residence to brighten the reception area. But my four sons who grew up in the Glebe all speak up for offering it to the Community Centre, a short step from Central Park and the home of the Glebe Report of which Penny was the founding editor. So please enjoy it there.
Clyde Sanger, journalist, author and poet, is a longtime Glebe resident and Glebe Report contributor who now lives at the Colonel By just over the bridge. Penny Sanger was the founding editor of the Glebe Report. Bhat Boy is a prominent Glebe artist and art educator.