• Maggie Levine

ArtWrite 9/3: Dirk Ashly Knoedler

Updated: Dec 4, 2020

I was in high school when my mom began to talk about blasting out the brick wall of our ground floor den and install a bank of windows. The ceilings were low, and the room begged for natural light.

Before she moved forward with the demolition, my mother spent an entire night, dressed in her bathrobe and ski goggles, chipping away at a single brick with a hammer and screwdriver.

From my bedroom, I could hear my father periodically plead, “Ruth, go to bed!” but she was driven and didn’t stop until dawn when she had succeeded in creating a hole the size of a Saltine.

Her intention was never clear to me. Perhaps she needed to see the effect of the light coming through before committing to her plan. All I remember is that a kind of impenetrable force field surrounded her. When she was involved with a project, nothing else mattered.

There were other stories. Like the time she refused to allow a contractor to simply dump river gravel from the bag onto where he was laying the ground for a lanai. She insisted on taking over, and as if creating a mosaic, plucked and repositioned individual pebbles to avoid clusters of a particular shape or shade.

To say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree is an understatement. I’m still dangling from the branch. I, too, stopped a contractor in the middle of a job. He hadn’t noticed that the bathroom tile I’d chosen was handmade, that the color varied subtly from one batch to the next. By laying the pieces straight from the box to the wall, he’d inadvertently created undesirable stripes.

I spent the next two days on my hands and knees arranging tiles on the floor of the adjacent bedroom so the tile guy could replicate my pattern on the walls. It didn’t matter that the wood floors were hard on my knees, that there was no heat in the frigid room, or that my back ached. I was my mother’s daughter and wouldn’t be satisfied until the walls had the variegated effect I wanted.

--Maggie Levine


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