Saturday, July 19, 2014

TToT35: Arnold Böcklin

Those of you who are my friends on facebook know I had a bit of fun in the treasure trove of memories that is my parents' photo collection. There are approximately 10 billion thankfuls in the half bookcase that houses seven decades of photos of family and friends so I'm going to center in on one nearly perfect photo.


If you will lend me your eyes, I'd love to explain this photo to you. It was taken in 1996 in Vienna, Austria. It was our third and final European vacation as a family of five, and we'd been go-go-going all day as we were wont to do. My brother quit his temp job to take this trip with us; I was a rising college junior, about a spend a semester in jolly old England, and my sister was a rising high school junior and likely a contestant for most astonishing femur-to-height ratio.

I think we were all ready for a break at this point in the day, and the grass of that spot under Franz Joseph's watchful eye was just too inviting. We ignored the "stay off the grass" sign and immediately pulled out our deck of cards to play another round of Böcklin, a card game we'd invented (well, mostly my brother invented) a few days before in Switzlerland.  

I don't remember exactly how to play Böcklin, but I know each person was dealt seven cards, four facing in and three facing out, and we had named various plays after well-loved family characters. For instance, one could Gina Baldo (a name that caught our fancy when we once found it carved in a Texas Hill Country rest stop table), or one could Al Urbina (the mildly talented artist who painted the enormous works that decorated the walls of our favorite Mexican restaurant). But the highest honor was given to Arnold Böcklin, a Swiss man of limited but sufficient fame to have been memorialized with a bust in the hotel we stayed outside of Florence in 1990. See here:


Whatever he once held in his right hand was long gone in 1990, but it being the pre-easy-Internet-access days, we were allowed free use of our imaginations. A cigar? A stalk of asparagus? A fountain pen?

Skip forward to 1996 again (date of the card game photo), and we were driving our unairconditioned Opel Vectra into Basel, Switzlerland and reading about the attractions we might like to visit in the guidebook (remember what it was like to not have a smartphone?). Arnold Böcklin had been a family name for six years, though we still didn't know the source of his international fame.

Until, until...we read that the art museum in Basel was exhibiting the symbolist paintings of its native son, Arnold Böcklin (must've been a paintbrush)! Well, we pressed on the gas to make it into the city before the museum closed that day, and I think made it with about 15 minutes to spare. We sprinted through the museum and managed to snap this photo before we had to leave.


And the card game was named. If I had to pick one story that illustrates my family of origin, this would be an excellent one to do it. And it contains way more than ten things, doesn't it?

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28 comments :

  1. What a fun story - I love that you remember all of that and love the little details in the telling that make it so particular to your family. Sounds like grand fun - the trip, the game, the excursion - all of it!
    Hope you are feeling well relaxed and rejuvenated!

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    1. One of my favorite things to do at my parents' is relive old memories through the picture albums. That top photo has always been a favorite for us all.

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  2. I no longer trust these empty comment boxes. They *appear* empty and then I write 'FRIST!' and discover I'm waaaay down the line. SO I will just write, and if I truly am frist, then I shall be pleased.

    It's a great story to illustrate your family - they sound like such a fun, bonkers bunch, and it looks as though they made sure you had some incredible experiences growing up.

    Why didn't I know (or, have I forgotten?) that you spent time studying here?

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    1. I think I'm out of the woods, and I'm going to change it back to immediate publication. It's boring to have to approve every comment. But Lisa beat you this week.
      I don't know if you ever knew. Fall of 1996. I loved London with all my heart and soul and touristed the hell out of it.

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    2. GOOD! Cos this moderation thing drives me NUTS. Pffft.

      No, perhaps I didn't know. Well hey, come back and study again, any time, and we can hang out :)

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    3. You'd better believe I'd call you if I did!

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  3. What a memory you have and you are well traveled, aren't you? I love this story. However, I rather liked the idea that the bust may have held a stalk of asparagus!

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    1. I was lucky. Luckier than my kids are, poor things. We did NOT live a privileged life (hard to take my word for that after this post, I know), but my parents saved and saved and took us to Europe. The stalk of asparagus was my dad's idea. He still insists on it.

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  4. Your family is close knit and warm!! And thanks for sharing these lovely experiences. BTW, checked, and we are friends on FB already!

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  5. great story, fun post(who's the clark standing to your left in the photo?)

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    1. I think it's a great story, too. In the bottom photo I'm standing next to my (little) sister. But, I have to tell you, that girl has got a whole lot of Scott in her. An entertainer from the beginning. (Not that she's not Clarky, too.)

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  6. WOW. What a glorious memory and journey your family had- and I love love love that pic that no one could ever guess the story behind it!! I believe that dude is holding the key to world peace in the other hand... lets use our imagination on that one!! And what on earth is that painting? I can't see any image... is it just nothing? Or maybe it's my eyes!!

    Such a wonderful story, Sarah!!!

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    1. No, the content of the painting didn't come through. It's more that we know it was a painting by Arnold Böcklin. I can't even remember what was in it!
      I think you have the best idea of what he was holding!

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  7. Never heard of ...not gonna try and spelll it for memory... but take my word for it I never heard of that card game... cool story...now Im gonna go google the game and see how to play... three up four down??? shoot....okay gotta reread first!!!

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    1. No, I don't believe anyone outside my family has ever heard of that game. Until now. Someday if I can recall the rules, I'll let you know.
      And there's actually more to this story about the time my parents actually met Arnold Böcklin's grandson and had him leave a message on my brother's phone.

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  8. You know whats funny? I totally caught and laughed at the "femur"comment but missed that your brother invented the card game... I dont usually read that fast.... I did get up in the middle to drink tea... who knew tea could be so lethal to ones comprehension?

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    1. Thank you so much for noticing the femur comment. No one else did, and I actually thought I was kind of funny. And, seriously, those legs!

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  9. Excellent story! I think it's wonderful to write down memories like this one.

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  10. What wonderful memories...its great when siblings have these stories to share; come up with card games. I loved the femur comment and probably will use it for my daughter at one point... great thankfuls! :)

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    1. I thought I was being kind of funny with that one. Thanks for noticing.

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  11. What a fabulous story! And a fabulous memory to share with your family - and now with us!

    If you can remember them all you should post the rules from the card game. Perhaps it can become an internet sensation :).

    Louise

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    1. I'm sure it would be! Now if I could only remember.

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  12. I saw this on FB earlier and I had no idea what it was. But now, you've REALLY memorialized old Arnold. Haha.
    You should TOTALLY share how to play that game. Card sharks everywhere would love it. ;)
    So good to see you. Sending hugs and glad tidings. Cheers! xo

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  13. What a delightful story! It takes a smart person to invent an intricate game like your brother's card game. And you're right about your sister - what a set of gams!

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