I came across this sketch yesterday by William Ely Hill.
Originally published as a cartoon in a 1915 publication of Punch, the clever man titled this ‘My Wife and My Mother in Law’ with the caption “They are both in this picture — Find them”
Who do you see at first glance?
For me it was the mother in law… and apologies to Annie, God rest her soul, who was nothing like the grumpy old lady depicted here. Karyn’s mother was a woman of love, grace, country hospitality with a wonderful ‘pull your leg’ sense of humor.
There was an occasion when I first met Annie. Karyn and I had just started to date and thus, I was on my very best behavior, trying to be polite and well mannered among the potential ‘in-laws.’ We had just finished a fine home cooked meal when Annie asked what I’d like on my ice-cream.
“Oh anything you like Mrs Frankland” I said, trying ever so hard to be deferential and genteel.
“Really,” she replied… with that mischievous smile of hers.
She returned a few minutes later with a bowl of ice-cream, it’s topping, a mixture of peanut butter, Vegemite, tomatoes sauce and hundreds of thousands. I thanked her, took a mouthful and told her how yummy it was. I ate the rest without another word. We had both met a kindred soul… and there would be many more moments like this down the long and windy road of our relationship… when we could put our respective sense of humor’s to the test.
But I am off track. Forgive me.
For there is more to this sketch than the mother in law and, if you tilt your head to the left, you might well notice the profile of a pretty young woman.
My Wife and My Mother-in-Law is a famous ambiguous optical illusion in which a woman appears to be both young and old as our brain flips back and forth between two conflicting perceptions.
It is this ability to tell more than one side of the story that I’d like to become better at myself, in my songs, my stories, my teaching.
I hope too that I can learn to see a story, an incident, a news item, a scandal and so on… from many perspectives… not rushing to judge as quickly as I am prone to do.
I continue to be… a work in progress.