This is Chloe, age nine, with me in front of my new house, the American Gothic House. Chloe is my new pal, and also a kindred spirit. She is tough and feminine. She climbs trees and wants to be a fashion model. She catches frogs and has Justin Bieber posters hanging next to her all-pink bed. Chloe is also an artist. While her mom, Carrie, was helping me scrub the last of the cobwebs from the corners of the house, Chloe sat outside making a sketch for me to hang on my refrigerator. In spite of her wild, tomboy ways, she also possesses the ability to sit still and pay attention to detail. She got the roof lines right, the scalloped border of the lace curtain in the Gothic window, the spindled columns on the front porch, and even the cracks in the sidewalk. And as if she were channeling Grant Wood, she even had me appear to be posed in front of the house, even though I was inside, down in the basement, mopping the cement floor. (I say channeling Grant Wood as the couple in his American Gothic painting never posed in front of the house and were painted separately from each other.) Chloe drew the bibs and buttons of my overalls and even got my hairstyle right — a messy bun piled on top of my head, a result of rolling out of bed that morning not expecting company. And she depicted the dogs perfectly. I have two (pictured bottom right corner), but she made a point to include the stray Jack Russell terrier who I had fostered for the two previous nights.
It’s a dangerous thing for me that the City Dog Pound is immediately across the parking lot from my house. I can’t stand to see these lost (or, more often, intentionally abandoned) dogs outside in a cage. In the rain. And thus, I freed the little Jack Russell by breaking into the kennel, pulling back a corner of the chain link fence, and bringing her into my house. And into my bed. Fleas and all. Including the stray dog in the picture was Chloe’s way of telling me that I was supposed to keep this dog, that my house was its new home. Period. Bossy, insistent, clever. Kindred spirit indeed.
The pie magnet in the upper right corner of Chloe’s art was a gift from Carleen, one of the volunteers at the American Gothic House Center. I met her the day I came by as a tourist — fateful day that it was, and only a few short weeks ago! — and she remembered I was a pie baker. She bought the magnet thinking I must already have a zillion pie magnets. In fact, I have zero. And now I have one, an adorable pie-surrounded-by-ants magnet to secure Chloe’s masterpiece onto the (very clean) refrigerator in my charming, historic, famous home. Life can be so good.
As for the stray Jack Russell, Chloe convinced her mom to take the dog to their house. But she still needs a permanent home. She is house broken, affectionate, smart, and funny. Please help us find a healthy, loving place for her. Otherwise I’m afraid Chloe’s artwork could be prophetic. In which case I may never let her draw for me again!