The family that illustrates together stays together

Brian Smith | Staff Photographer
Mary Khosh poses with her grandchildren who illustrated a book of poems written by her mother, Mattie Paul Sivert. Standing, from left to right: Khosh, Claudia Morse, Nathan Phillips, Ben Granger, Dan Charles, Will Morse, Caroline Granger. Seated: Charlotte Morse, Jonathan Phillips, Natalie Charles, Henry Morse.

Last summer, Chautauquan Mary Khosh planned the annual group art project for her 10 visiting grandchildren. They would illustrate the poems, rhymes and limericks that their great-grandmother Mattie Paul Sivert — Khosh’s mother — wrote many years ago. Their illustrations would be incorporated into a publication, a sort of conversation across generations and a way of preserving family history. The 10 children, ranging in age from 3 to 20, would meet their great-grandmother’s wit and humor for the first time; their illustrations would be their understanding of those traits.

The result is What Does a Truck Driver Do?, a slender paperback volume. The book of poems, rhymes and limericks and its illustrations will appeal to the young — and to the young at heart. Khosh writes in the book that her mother “was a dedicated schoolteacher who used her considerable poetic skills to inform, entertain and challenge her children and her students.”

Khosh, a consulting psychologist, chose the most representative samples of her mother’s work. She arranged the text into seven sections: occupations, jobs, professions and careers; teachers and school; family; miscellaneous limericks and poems; animals; riddles; and haiku.

In the book, the illustrators share their thoughts about the work. Twenty-one-year-old Dan Charles’ remarks are perceptive.

“[The poems] remind me of the poems I read while growing up — the kind that helped me learn to read,” he writes.

Sheila Khosh Phillips remembers her grandmother making up poems on the spot. She and her sisters, Deanna Charles, Lisa Granger and Lora Morse — the mothers of the 10 illustrators  — are featured in many poems in the “family” section of the book.

What Does a Truck Driver Do? began in a manila envelope, which Khosh rediscovered when she and her husband, John, were moving from their home in St. Petersburg, Fla.

“I opened the envelope, and there in my mother’s spidery handwriting were her poems,”  she said.

The thought of organizing 10 grandchildren to read and illustrate poems during their annual summer visit may seem daunting, but Khosh is the woman for the job. She has a buoyant personality, an artist’s sensitivity and experience working as a consulting psychologist in industrial organizational psychology, career development and leadership. Among other positions, she was a career coach for the Cleveland Browns.

The children are accustomed to their grandmother’s art projects. Their painted picnic tables, benches, Chautauqua scenes and ceramic pots adorn the Khosh home on the grounds. Khosh, an accomplished painter and a former president of VACI Partners, will exhibit at the Partners’ show at Fowler-Kellogg Art Center during Week Seven. She is a model for her grandchildren. She lives the joy and satisfaction that art — whether written, visual or tactile — brings to life.

As the grandchildren gathered at the picnic table for lunch, their mothers and fathers dropped by; Grandpa John took pictures. It was a family hullabaloo of laughter, of talking, of sharing the morning activities. Or, as Khosh said, “This is a blessing.”

What Does a Truck Driver Do? is available at the Chautauqua Bookstore. Khosh also donated a copy to the Smith Memorial Library children’s collection.