The Colors in a Candlestick

My father was unusual amongst the other fathers of my day. For one thing, he was six feet tall, which for a child of Jewish immigrants was very tall. He towered over most of his peers.

Emanuel Luchinsky circa 1930s

He was an accidental deli man. His brother, who owned the business, was ill and my father stepped in to help out temporarily, which turned into forty years. My mother says they literally learned the business in one weekend. He had worked for the Aetna Shirt Company until my uncle’s illness.

Daddy was a natural mathematician and, before becoming a deli man, was a credit manager. When one of my brothers was working on high school a trig problem and expressing great frustration, my father took a look and gave an answer after a minute. My brother checked the book and sure enough, the answer was correct. “How did you do that?” My father looked puzzled, snapped, “It just stands to reason!” and walked away. He didn’t graduate from high school.

In spite of not graduating, he won a scholarship from the Evening Sun to attend the Maryland Institute of Art, a world famous school here in Baltimore. He was the first Jew to win this scholarship. He graduated from the Institute, as he always called it, in 1932, winning the bronze medal for his final project which hangs in my stairwell.

He was always sketching and creating, and he anxiously watched his four children, hoping for his talent to be passed along to them. His math skills appeared in my other brother, and I took up needlework as his mother had done, but none of us could draw or paint. He never quite understood how I could prefer words to images.

One evening, when I was eight or nine years old, he was bored and a little restless, and I was the only one home. Suddenly, he stood up, snapped off the TV, went over to the mantelpiece, and grabbed a pair of bronze candlesticks. He sat them down in front of me, interrupting Nancy Drew, and asked, “What color are these?” I was used to mildly eccentric behavior from him, so I didn’t bat an eyelash, and answered, “Gold,” preparing to return to Nancy’s adventures in her white roadster.

“No,” said he, “Put the book down, look at these, and tell me what colors they are.” I rolled my eyes, but I obeyed, hitched myself to the front of the Green Chair, and looked at them. “Gold and brown?” I ventured.

“And?”

I began to get interested. “I see a little green, because of the chair. And blue because of my dungarees.”

“And?”

And I wound up naming a dozen or more colors.

“Nothing,” he said, “is only one color. Everything has more colors than you can see.” And that was the end of the lesson.

That lesson has stayed with me. I am writing this in long hand at a table in Barnes and Noble. A round red table. In which I see white and brown and a darker red.

Daddy died in 1987. His ten year old great-grandson recently went to Chicago with my sister, and as they went places, he explained to her how to combine colors to make them “pop.” Sounds like my father might finally have an heir.

And the candlesticks are on my coffee table.

My father’s lesson



Categories: Art, Family

Tags: , , ,

2 replies

  1. Ellie, I just got around to reading this. This has to be my favorite post here. Your father was a true artist, I had always known he was an artist, just not how talented an artist! I am so glad you still have those candlesticks. Maybe his great grandson that “gets” how nothing is just one color will one day own them, but make sure he also knows the story that goes along with them! Thank you for sharing your dad with us, I feel like I know you better now that I know what a very special father you had. Now, how about writing about your mother I hear so much about? She seems a very strong woman, and I’m sure you have a few stories to share about her!

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