Wednesday, April 8, 2015

365 Project - Day 98 - "A bit of my brother... A bit of me..."

April 08, 2015 - "A bit of my brother... A bit of me..."

It was because of my brother Peter that I became a picture framer. He had started the trade in the 1980s and always told me how cool it was and how I should do it too because I, like him, was an artist.

The problem was that Peter lived in Norwalk and I lived in Danbury. So, shortly after Peter and Angel's wedding Peter got me in touch with a good friend of his, a fellow picture framer named Michael Israel. Michael had connections with a picture framing shop in Danbury called "Artworks, Inc." and helped me to get an interview there. I ended up working there for several years before having a falling out with the owners and leaving. I was struggling to find another job in the field, and Peter knew that.

Peter was working as the Framing Manager at a picture framing shop and art gallery called "Barney's Place" on Greenwich Avenue in Greenwich, CT. He offered to have me come down and help him out with some jobs, just until I was able to find something back in the Danbury area. So I began commuting by train every day... working with my brother for what was supposed to be a very temporary thing.

But it wasn't temporary. Not too long after I had started there, the owners of the shop - Mr. & Mrs. Hunt - offered to hire me full-time and to start paying for my commute between Danbury and Greenwich every day. I accepted... and was now officially working side-by-side with my brother.

We had our ups and downs. It's tough working with family... but we truly became best friends at the time. We were "forced" to be together for at least eight hours a day, five days a week. We shared a lot. We talked constantly. We ate lunch together. We worked on projects together - everything from multi-million-dollar paintings to someone's child's pre-school finger-painting. From Olympic Medals to very beat-up old baseball caps. From documents signed by the likes of Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln to High School Diplomas and College Degrees. We had celebrity clients like Gene Wilder, Ron Howard, Stephanie Seymour, and Diana Ross. We had it all. We'd blast James Brown and Motown music in the framing room and danced while we worked. It was heaven!

We would go to Picture Framing Trade Shows together in New York City, and drool over the latest frame samples, mat cutters, saws and other framing tools and gadgets.

We would go out for some soft-serve ice cream at Dairy Queen or Carvel after work at least a couple of times a week, before I'd have to catch the train home.

During those years that he and I worked together we celebrated extreme highs - like the birth of his daughter Frannie... our brother Kenny's daughter Madison... and my own daughter Caitlynn. And then there were the extreme lows - like the death of our Grandmother, our Father's Mother.

About six months after the birth of my daughter I became quite ill and had to leave my job at Barney's Place. Peter and I had a falling-out as a result, partly because this happened just at the start of the holiday season... the absolute busiest time of the year for picture framers, and my leaving had put him in a very tight place. We didn't speak that Thanksgiving... We didn't call each other that Christmas or New Year's. In fact, it took several months for the rift to heal... and even longer before we actually saw each other in person.

That meeting took place at our brother Kenny's house for my niece Madison's first birthday party. I was sitting on the couch in Kenny's living room... and all of a sudden Peter entered the room. I immediately got up and walked towards him... he held open his arms... we hugged a good long hug... and he whispered in my ear "This is what I was waiting for". After that all was right with the world again.

Years passed. Barney's Place closed and Peter moved on to another Picture Framing shop, where he remained for many years. I became a stay-at-home dad for my daughter and, a few years later, for my son as well. Life went on.

Peter and I would often talk about opening a Picture Framing Shop and Gallery together... it was his dream. But he couldn't do it financially... and I couldn't do it financially or commit to it health-wise... so we would talk about it and dream about it, but it wasn't meant to be.

Last year his dream became a reality when he opened "Peter's Art of Framing" in Stamford. I was so incredibly proud of him for finally achieving the dream. I visited him at the shop and he was positively glowing with pride as he showed me around... and we discussed how we were going to work together to start selling my photography in his shop.

I looked over at his work-bench and saw his tape measure with the blue and red star on it. I recognized it immediately. He had been using that very tape measure since he first started picture framing all of those years ago. I jokingly said to him "You've still got that damn thing!?! Can't you afford to buy a new tape measure by now!?!". He laughed... and said it had been with him since the beginning and that it still did it's job, so why replace it?

And now the tape measure has been passed along to me. It sits on my desk. It's just a few inches away from my hand as I type this. It's my little bit of my brother.

As for the rest of today's photo... there are three picture framing mat corner samples that I created for Peter when I worked for him at Barney's Place all of those years ago. That's the "bit of me" in the photo. The prayer card is from Peter's Wake and is of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and image that meant so much to Peter that he literally had it tattooed on his chest, and had an image of it hanging on the workroom wall of his shop.

I love my brother Peter. I always have... I always will. Those years we spent working together were some of the happiest of my life. I'd give anything to experience that again.

I miss you bro! I really, truly miss you!

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