Acrylic on archival quality masonite, 12 x 12”

When I was a child of six till nine years old, myself and my four sisters lived at Sacred Heart Convent boarding School in Hitchen Hertfordshire and my brothers, Peter and Paul went to St. Michael’s Boarding school not too far away.

On summer Sundays the nuns would take us out for walks down the lovely back roads that were so abundant with English gardens and sun dappled trees over the laneways. We would don our tunics, oxfords, blazers and Panama hats and off we would go, marching two by two, in a long procession with a nun at the front and a nun at the rear.

On some of these days we would see our brothers Peter and Paul out walking in procession as well but we were never allowed to stop and chat with them. When I think of it now, it seems so odd and actually quite cruel, to keep us from each other.

One day, while on one of these walks, I saw something that I had never seen before and could not take my eyes off it! It was a band of gypsies, in a meadow, with their families. Children were playing, running free. There was laughter,  animated conversations, horses were grazing and the colorful caravans were parked. There was a ffire stoking with a large iron pot on it getting ready to cook a meal.

I was so taken aback, I just stood there enraptured by this happy band of people! 

I began to walk towards them. My only thought was “I want to be with these people!”Our life was so regimented, so controlled, so clinical, with so much longing for a semblance of ‘family’, while their lives appeared to be absolutely fluid, relaxed, and nomadic and represented the antithesis of my world.

 I got to take only a few steps out of the group, before Sister grabbed me by the hand, pulling me back in, saying “Come along, Come along, before they steal you!!” 

I wondered if she was telling me the truth or simply trying to frighten me. Back I went in line, never to see them again, but their very presence made a big impact on me, which is why I honor them today. Painting this was cathartic. Drawing this memory in a folk art style gave me the freedom to paint the cows or horses any color I chose such as a cheery blue with white spots!  It reflects the joy of my childlike encounter and the freedom of their spirits.


© 2024 Christine Oskirko. All rights reserved.