A Thank you to Andrea Harrington
I remember vividly the first time I entered the Harrington’s home on Morris Island. Wendy and I had recently met. We were on an island in a coastal town with few other homes, so a quick jaunt through a wooded trail took me to the street in front of her home. Even from the outside, before I rang the bell, I knew there was something different about this house that looked so Swedish and modern to my 8-year-old eyes.
In my life to date, I had been in many homes. My Dad built houses and had the opportunity to see a lot of different styles. But I’d never seen anything like this. It was perched high up on a bluff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, and every single home in the near vicinity was a Cape Cod (I mean, we were on Cape Cod) gray shingle or white clapboard home.
I stood before the extra-wide door and rang the bell. Wendy’s Mom, Andrea, opened the door with the biggest, brightest smile and welcomed me in. Her blond hair and carefree attitude were contagious. I was transported. Walking into the central area of this little gem of a home, I found plate glass windows with glazed corners and a surround of window seats. It was designed to make the most of the nearly 270 degrees of water views. The walls and bookshelves were full of art—and binoculars on hooks to watch birds. It only had a tiny little breezeway of a kitchen that would never cut it in 2022. When I first entered it in the mid-’70s, it was one of the most creative and incredible places I’d ever seen.
This is a blurry screenshot of Andrea at an art opening. I wanted to share that contagious smile!
The TV den in the back of the house always had Andrea's easel and paints. She’d shooe us out of the room when she needed to focus. Back in the 70s, if you wanted to call a boy or be called, you had to have the phone nearby. The TV room was the only phone in the house, so it’s fair to say we spent extensive time there.
Every once in a while, Andrea would distractedly start dinner and suddenly put everything down to run back to her painting. Sometimes she would tweak it a bit, and other times she would bring it to the living area where she could see it from the kitchen. This way, she could study it while she cooked.
You would find sketches and little creative bursts everywhere. It was so inspiring that someone could live so creatively. I had never seen the world of an artist before.
It was enchanting and magical, and it was my best friend’s house!
It was because of Andrea that I took a watercolor class in town. It was because of Andrea that I wandered thoughtfully through the art supply store and studied all of the supplies. Before the internet, we only had what the local shop stocked. We had no Instagram or YouTube to teach us. It was books and small local classes. And, of course, the inspiration of Andrea’s creativity. It was naturally woven into her life. She was an artist.
In my mind, world-renown artists with museum shows didn’t have as much influence on me as Andrea did. She wasn’t my teacher or mentor in any way; she was just my best friend's Mom doing things that I’d never seen anyone do before— not outside of art class in school. As the years have passed, I’ve come to appreciate this gift more and more.
It’s easy to put an art practice aside when life intervenes. But what if you don’t? What if you find a way to work it in? What if it folds into kids, dogs, and life? What if it’s inherent in the way you live? What if creativity is a thread through your life that ties it all together? Andrea did it, and so can we!
What if creativity is a thread through your life that ties it all together?
As I would come to discover over the following years, the beautiful souls that occupied those walls made it magical. Andrea was a painter. Winty was a dentist by day, but more fittingly, a bird watcher. Wendy & Heidi have always had those generous and creative spirits about them. Even when I was in Wendy's own home for a last-minute visit a few years ago, it felt warm and lovely. It had that same creative vibe of her parent's home from our childhood, only up-to-date.
Wendy and I still say that the other was our first, oldest Chatham friend, and we were best friends for many years. When we connect today, time flies away, and it’s as if we haven’t spent years apart.
This morning I got a text from Wendy. She had a vivid dream about me and realized she needed to tell me that her mom had passed away. The world lost a genuinely bright spirit when Andrea left us. She had dementia in her later years, but even still, she was the happiest and most cheerful woman. For me, she was an inspiration. Her world was magical and different from any that I had seen before. I feel blessed to have had her influence and can only hope to build a world half as magical as the one she occupied.