“You bought WHAT!?”

It was 1980; we had an itsy one-room apartment in married-student housing at MIT. I was an editor and Jeff was a grad-student. The only place we ate out was at Ken’s Pub and only when we liked the half-price specials.

We were saving up a to buy a house and I had spent $200—one-month’s rent—on a piece of art, a lithograph from the Cape Dorset collection.

Jeff wasn’t so much angry as shocked. Under the influence of a more-worldly arty couple we liked, I had decided impromptu that it would be nice to have something special for the house we didn’t yet have.

I didn’t know it at the time, but that was a bit of foreshadowing, of risk-taking and independent decision-making.

A few months later I took a house-hunting trip to Dallas, where we would be moving. It was strictly a reconnaissance trip, but the iron was hot, very hot indeed. At that moment the mortgage interest rate was 11%. On Monday it was going to 15%. The house was sweet, if a bit old, with a big yard and a bunch of pecan trees. I tried to call Jeff before pulling the trigger, but in those pre-cell-phone days spontaneous communication was difficult. My hand shook as I signed the offer on the way to the airport.

Jeff only saw the house only after closing. But it was a good decision, and so was buying that piece of art. Together we bought another, larger, print the next year. Over time we bought other houses and more art.

But many things have changed. My mortgage interest rate is now 3 ½%. And it is my home. Jeff and I were married for 35 years. We aren’t any longer.

A few weeks ago I took my father to PhotoFair exhibit at Fort Mason in San Francisco. Always have my eye out for fun things to do with him. I expected it to be interesting, but I didn’t expect to fall in love. I didn’t buy the piece on the spot, but it also cost more than $200. I have been wanting something special for a wall in my dining room and now I have it.

And at the very same time artist Gale Antokal contacted me asking to borrow a painting for an exhibition next month.

The new piece arrived and Gale picked up hers within an hour of each other.

So many things I never expected to be, back when I made that daring $200 purchase:


60 years old.

And loaning a piece of art for an exhibition, with my name on a little plaque and everything.

(“End Shot”, by Gale Antokal, which I’ve loaned for her exhibition in March.)

About Karen Ray

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