OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. — My holiday visitor, Emma, 6, wanted a Girls’ Day Out, as they are called. You shop, you lunch leisurely, you do things for which most men have little patience, and you return home with secrets and sweet-smelling packages.
It was only fair to indulge Emma because her brother, Jordan, 9, was on a speedboat near Delacroix, La., with the Fisher-Man Guide Service battling a 30-mph wind to catch speckled trout, his idea of real fun.
Jordan didn’t bait a hook or remove a fish from one; he simply stood on the bow and pulled in his catch with the regularity of a metronome. The trout he brought home were already cleaned. The guide service prepared a YouTube video showing part of the excursion, and aptly matched video with sound — the Bob Seger classic “Against the Wind.”
I may go with the boys next time.
I thought carefully about what might interest both Emma and her mother. I finally decided on the Walter Anderson Museum of Art in lovely little Ocean Springs, which never grows old to me.
Anderson’s art, in fact, has an unadulterated style that appeals to all ages. It might have been painted by a child, if that child was a genius about color and perspective.
Before we left home, I read Emma a children’s book about Walter Anderson so she’d understand the mystery and madness of a man some call America’s Van Gogh.
Emma liked the idea of the secret room in Walter’s little cottage at Shearwater Compound, a space he painted from stem to stern and that nobody but the artist saw till he died. When his widow unlocked the door to that room, she entered a kaleidoscope of color and creatures with a zinnia for the ceiling.
The entire room was moved to the museum — a good thing, since otherwise it probably would have floated away during Katrina.
I loved seeing, for the hundredth time, the sea-green skiff that Walter used to row to Horn Island to commune with nature and fuel his art. That remarkable artifact, too, would have been lost in the storm if not for the museum.
After our art fix, we had lunch at a cafe that has what young mommies call “PeeBee and Jays,” otherwise known as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Then we progressed to an old-fashioned soda fountain on Ocean Spring’s main drag for a strawberry ice-cream cone.
I was pushing my luck a little and knew it, but I insisted on showing Emma the shop where Walter’s relatives still sell the pottery that for decades has been the family business. She chose a Trojan horse to take home to Virginia and made friends with the resident dog.
I wondered on the ride home if Emma, decades hence, will run across a reference to the painter Walter Anderson and think, “I have seen his hideaway.” Or if Jordan, when he’s an old man too tired to fish, will think about the day his father paid for a guide and a boat to get him to the action.
We inflict upon children our own passions and prejudices, so it’s wise to be careful what we choose as rewards for children whose innocence earn them.
To find out more about Rheta Grimsley Johnson and her books, visit www.rhetagrimsleyjohnsonbooks.com.