In most families the ghosts are dead but in my family, somewhere out there, our ghost was still alive. Her name was Prim, and she had left us on an autumn day in 1937, when she was only 20. Prim was the empty chair at Sunday lunch. She was the unseen aunt at the christenings of her nephews and niece. She was the cousin who hadn’t turned up, yet again, at the latest family funeral. And, just occasionally, she was the misty-eyed, faraway look on the face of Great-Aunt Maurie, who was her mother.
Prim was alive. The problem, you see, was that she yearned to become an artist, but she was born to a distinctly non-artistic family. Then one day, she acted on her innermost desire. She fled the safety of home and went to Paris. There she fell in love with an artist who introduced her to this new world. The artist was Max Ernst, and his world was surrealistic.
Many years went by. That relationship was long over. War intervened. Flight again. And Prim ended up in Mexico, the most surreal country in the world. And there her artistic side flourished.
She is famous now. No longer the young girl, aching to escape. Instead, we escape with her, into her paintings.