Art History

Last night, the sun stopped by on her way to tomorrow, waving yellow ribboned fingers in friendly goodbye. They reached through the panes and over Dani's quilt, landing at last on the old wall with the newish paint and the freshly hung oil-on-canvas. We pulled this painting from a box just an hour earlier; and I was so relieved to see it, this eye-level beauty, the kind that makes even the most foreign places feel familiar.

So I took this picture of a painting of a picture.

Let me explain.

When Dani was 18 months, I took this picture of her at the beach.

Then I used it a year later in a post I wrote for Raising Maine. Mary Bullock, a stranger then and a friend now, commented, asking if she could use the picture as a basis for a painting. I said yes, as long as she would give me a chance to buy it when it was complete. And she said of course. And then she sold it to me for a song, even delivered it to my door. And so we met, first online, then in person. And now whenever I walk by her painting, I see her signature "Bullock" and remember how kind her eyes are, and how very well they match her art.

Anyway, I took a picture of this painting (of a picture) because I wanted to remember that moment last night. The one with the gold sunset on a pink wall in a room that could have been anywhere and still have felt like home. When we opened the box, Dani saw the painting and said, "Oh dat's my old picture for my room! Dat's me on da beach when I was a baby, right Mama?" And my chest tightened, overwhelmed at my fortune. I did not earn this. This little girl who loves me, this roof over our heads, sheltering the four of us and our sentimental collection of shells and art and photos and remember whens. These are gifts I did not see coming. These are gifts straight from heaven, undeserved.

And when I look at that picture, especially last night when I looked, I am taken back to the moment when I snapped the shot, to that day with mild sunburn and the most relaxing kind of exhaustion. When she was 18 months. And it's not that I'm not pining for that moment of years past. It's that I'm appreciating it, remembering how it felt to live it, loving that it is forever part of my history and of hers.


I need to say one more thing. Mary has been reading my blog almost from the beginning, leaving kind comments here and there. And while I rarely had a chance to reply to her comments or to follow up, I always, always, always appreciated what she had to say.

And the same goes for those of you, some who comment and encourage and engage so regularly, some who only can pop in to click "like" every so often. Either way, you need to know how much I appreciate it that you read (and sometimes comment), even though I rarely reciprocate or reply. I often feel selfish that I eat up your comments but don't take the time to offer a comment or reply back. But I've let go of the self-imposed expectation of engaging fully in this space. Because when I do (engage fully here), the space I live in, the people I live with, get less of me. And at this stage of life, I can't risk giving even the tiniest bit less to my real life people.

So, in short: I love that you read, comment and engage here. I'm not ignoring you (even though it might seem that way). I am very very grateful for you all--my "real life" friends and family, my kindred spirits met only in the ether (at least thus far!), my faithful readers and commenters. Thank you.


Ohio Has...

Several weeks ago, on our way out of Maine, Caed asked, "So, I know Maine has lobsters and beaches and lighthouses. But what does Ohio have?"

I was tempted to answer "losing sports teams", but took the high road with an enthusiastic "we'll see when we get there!"

Well, we're here. And I admit, I'm starting to see.

1. Three months of apple picking season and farm stands on every other corner. (Did I mention we live in the country?)

2. We can get to Trader Joe's in 15 minutes. Cue the angels (in organic cotton woven robes).

3. Corn Sweet Corn. And we're talking fresh. As in picked-at-7-a.m., buy it at 9 a.m., tempted to eat it for lunch but the plan was to wait for dinner fresh.

4. Sushi. (Oh not really, not at ALL. Just seeing if you were paying attention).

5. Libraries that rock the proverbial party (albeit quietly). We've been to the library as many times in the past two weeks as we've been to Home Depot, which is somewhere in between too many freakin' times and infinity. Only instead of coming home (yet again!) with the wrong size plastic anchors or completely unusable--yet oh so energy efficient--light bulbs, we come home with another Ladybug Girl book, a new Jack & Annie book!, and Mamaphonic (a collection of essays my friend Elizabeth accurately predicted I would love.)


Today was Caed's first day of first grade, his first day in public school. I know that great teachers and fun school buses and sweet new friends aren't unique to Ohio. But they still count as something Ohio has, right?

And because I don't want to forget, I've compiled a comprehensive list of the information I extracted from Caed after his first day of school:

1. I made a friend from my class who is on the same bus as me, and we're going to sit together every time we go on the bus.

2. I only got one minute to eat my lunch.

3. I was only on the bus like one minute, and then BAM! I was home.

4. My friend--the same one from the bus--he sat next to me at lunch and he asked to try one of my red peppers. So I shared with him. He talks to me a lot.

5. (Upon being told that the hot lunches aren't free) Why do they expect kids to pay for lunches? Don't they know that kids don't carry around money?

6. For my one thing special about me, I told my teacher I was a lefty, and she went crazy. She said, "A lefty! A lefty! Everyone run!" But she was just being silly.

7. I played basketball at recess--it was all the older kids against me. And I won.

8. I think all the work today might have been kindergarten work. I didn't even see one compound word ALL day.

9. We got to do gym! Soccer AND basketball! But not that long really, cuz it took our teacher forever to get us organized-ed.

10. Remember in the Laura story (Little House) how the boys were giving the new teacher a hard time and not listening? Well, at my class, it was the opposite. All of us boys were quiet and shy. And the girls were the ones talking. And we boys were just looking at each other like (insert eyebrows raised facial expression).


Exactly four weeks ago, I pulled up in my haphazardly packed (to the hilt!) car, turned up the driveway toward the house we now call home. The propane tank, the one I forgot I'd have to take with me, lurched forward, smashing the bag of snacks and doing a number on the already brutalized dried flower arrangement. I wanted so badly then to just fast forward to a cleaned out car, and a cleaned up house (with a couch and a table and a bed that I didn't have to blow up). So here I am, four weeks later, and I know what Ohio has.

Ohio has apples turned into crisp,
backyards with more weeds than grass,
more tree frogs and crickets than you can shake a stick at,
and plenty of sticks to shake.
Ohio has summer and fall and the season in between
when you don't know whether
jeans will be too hot
or tees will be too cold.
Ohio has all of us, home for dinner,
all of us, waking up
under the same sky
and sometimes covers.
Ohio has infant Home,
Just four weeks old, but
growing like you wouldn't believe.
If this is four weeks, can you imagine four months?
And that's the crazy thing.
I totally can.

(Hooray! Longest post EVER is finally over.)


Old Enough to Know

She insists on showers now. No more baths. "And go away", she tells me, so she can have her "pibacy". I come back a minute later with the towel and stop at the door. I hear her yelling, "Nothing can stop me! I'm Ladybug Girl!"
I come in, catch her making superpower muscles. She smiles sheepish and says "two more minutes." I say no, but she can turn the water off by herself. And she does. With her hands, she twists the knob. And with her words she announces, "I use my maggot (magic) powers to turn opf da chower!"
She grins and drips. She is my three year old, now closer to four.


He makes friends on the monkey bars. Tag and hide-n-seek ensue. "Guys! Guys! C'mon guys--THIS way!" He half pleads, half instructs. Then arms pump and legs kick, and he's halfway to the twisty slide before you can say kindergarten. He runs fast and falls hard, bleeds and bruises, and springs up (before I can say antiseptic). He keeps running. "The game wasn't over," he tells me later. "Did you and Daddy think I was so brave, to keep going when I fell down?"

Yes, Buddy, yes. So so brave. How is it that he has already learned to do as his Daddy does, to keep going after he falls down, to stay in the game even when it hurts? He is my five year old, now weeks from six.


They were barely 3 and almost 1 in this picture. Wow.

There are no diapers in my bag, no special spoons in my drawer. No sippy cups or pacifiers or four-piece puzzles lurking under my couch. Their legs grow. Their steps stretch further away. And I don't follow or hover (at least not as much as before). Because they are old enough to know to run back, to call out when they need me. And I am old enough to know what a privilege it is to be here when they call, to be found, the mother of a girl closer to four and of a boy almost six.

tuesdays unwrapped at cats


I Want to Know Their Names

She came bounding down the stairs, found my arms open, climbed on my lap. I held her, my nose pressed against her hair as she sat frog-legged and fetal, my baby-gone-girl.

I turned up the volume to the monologue in my head, heard myself shouting to treasure this moment, to hold onto it as long as she would let me. After three minutes of silence, of clinging to each other and this feeling of belonging, she turned her face to mine.

"Are we goin' ta go to my new 'chool today again?"

"No, babes. We're going to Caed's school today, to meet his teacher and new friends. We'll go to your new school again in a couple of weeks."

"But I want to go to my 'chool when my new pwiends will be dere."

"Your friends don't start school for a few more weeks. Right now, there are no kids at your school because it is still summer time."

"But Mom..."

"What hon?"

"I'm 'cared."

"Why are you scared?"

"Cuz I want to know my pwiends' names. At my new school. What are my pwiends names gonna be, Mom?"

My narrator kicked in again, pointing out this fear of the unnamed. How it strikes at 3 and at 35, and every age in between, when the moments we've yet to meet hijack the peace of the moments we know. I too want to know my new friends' names. I want to skip the effort to initiate relationships, the putting myself out there, the mining for commonality. I just want to know them, their names and their kitchen tables. I want this new-in-town phase to fast-forward. I want to know their names, and I want them to know mine.

"We'll find out soon." I heard myself say. "You'll have so much fun with your new friends, Dani-girl. You don't need to worry or be scared."

Did you hear, that, weird Inner Narrator Voice? We don't need to worry or be scared. Even though we are preemptively weary of the effort that being new and unknown requires. Even though we have no name for these next three years. We don't need to worry or be scared. We need to be right here, shaking hands with the moment we know, embracing it.
And in time, we'll learn the names, all of their names. In time, we'll know what to call these years.

This photo was taken in our last afternoon at Pine Point, a name we know, a place we love. There will be more just like this and altogether different, I'm sure. More names we will know. More places we will love.


Building Memories

It was his only day off in weeks, and he should have been studying for the boards.

But screw the boards (literally).

Because there are some moments you simply can't miss. And on this Sunday afternoon, he and his son hammered a whole collection of such moments together, building the most beautiful hours.

tuesdays unwrapped at cats
This moment shared with the community gathering at Chatting at the Sky for Tuesdays Unwrapped.


On Vulnerability

Sometimes I wish that we could put on personalities like tank tops, wear them like tee shirts, throw them in the wash when they started to stink. But even then, mine would be the kind with instructions to launder inside out, cold, gentle cycle. Because I tend to fray at the edges from the criticism of the suds. And sometimes I bleed color from the constructive agitation.

I am weary of being sensitive, of crying easily, of feeling everything. There was a time when I shut it all off, worked like a robot, developed such thick skin that my heartbeat grew muffled beneath it. But I shed those tough, ugly (albeit durable) layers several years ago on the floor of my old office, the one with a door I could shut and a window I couldn't open. Kevlar no longer hangs in my closet.

Now I am vulnerable, wearing my imperfections like stains down the middle, and I wish for resilience even as I whisper gratitude at the return of emotion.

I have been thinking much about this business of being vulnerable, and maybe it is self-serving to say this. But I believe it takes more courage to love without holding back, to feel without hedging, than it does to live in predominant independence with achievement as the primary measure of value. I lived the latter approach for many years, and in doing so, I insulated myself from the most extreme temperatures of joy and pain. A life at room temperature is really no life at all. (And I have a host of mid-19th century poets who will back me on this.)

Now, I'm not saying we should all aspire to being needy, emotional wrecks. But I do think we (okay, maybe just me) should not be ashamed to revolve our entire life around another, to not be able to imagine the next day without him in it. Is that vulnerable? Yes. But is it weak? I don't think so.

And this courage to be vulnerable is not just about love of another, a spouse, a child, or a friend. The same courage sits also at the foundation of goals that are largely out of reach. It is what bolts dreams down, attempts to frame them into reality, into walls and roof and legitimacy. And it is this same courage that makes us appear foolish to others, to ourselves. Take for instance, after 25 years the love of your life cheats on you. Or an investor laughs in your face when she hears your business pitch. Or your extended family ridicules you for leaving corporate America to start a dairy farm. Whether the yield is joy or pain, elation or disappointment, it almost always begins by locking hands with courage on one side, vulnerability on the other. And by stepping out.

“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability... To be alive is to be vulnerable.” - Madeleine L'Engle

What do you think? Does it take more courage to be vulnerable? Is it human nature to try to protect ourselves against the deepest love, the truest life, to settle for something less scary, but also less satisfying? Or is it just me?


All That Glitters

Frankly, I was just getting tired of hearing, "But Maaawum, you NEVER let us use the glitter!"

That's right, kids. I never do. I don't even know why we have a stash of glitter in the art box. What kind of lunatic carpet-hater do you have to be to actually BUY glitter, not to mention to permit it to be opened.


It was a nice morning. And I figured the chipmunks wouldn't care if we (g)littered their deck with sparklies. (Yes, the deck indeed belongs to the chipmunks. It appears they closed on the property last month and are now living the American rodent dream, raising 12.2 kids within the confines of their brown lattice fence.)

So out we went with paper and glue in hand. When I saw how happy it made them, I felt a bit guilty for withholding the glitter as long as I had.

Then I took note of the mess on the deck, and all guilt completely washed away. Unlike the glitter, which will probably still be there when the snow of 2011 melts.

And when it comes to paper fighter jets, everyone knows that glitter on the wings is essential. You know, to distract the enemy. Ooooh, shiny!
For the record, it is not a wise choice to test the glittery flying powers of your creation by hurling the jet-o'-sparkles toward your sister's face. Because even though you didn't mean for her to go nose to nose with the airplane, chances are your plane's gonna be grounded.

So what's your take on glitter? Accessory to all that is lovely or the root of all evil?
As for me, I'm just glad we used the rest of the glitter. And no, kids, I will not be buying more. But Maaw-uummm.....


I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here

I was late to meet my sister at the beach.
"I had it in my head it would take ten minutes," I explained.
"How long did it take?" my niece asked.
"Thirty minutes," I laughed, shaking my head, rolling my eyes at myself, so they didn't have to. Note to self and the proverbial Toto: We're not in Kansas Maine anymore.

But even minus the tide, minus the waves (the kind you don't have to rely on boats or storms to provide), minus the seagulls and the salt (I didn't miss those anyway), the beach is still the beach.

During our ten thirty minute drive to the beach, Caed declared that Maine has the most beautiful beaches that he's ever seen in his whole entire life (all five years of it). And Dani agreed. "But don't worry, Mom," Caed continued. "Our Ohio beach will be just as fun. You'll see."

He was right. I did see.
Minus the waves, the tide, the salt, the seagulls.
Plus the family, the games, the splashing, the playing together.
It still adds up to freckled noses, pruney toes, to lungs ballooned with summer, to eyes out-sparkling sand.

Oh, and did I mention the ice cream in lieu of lunch? (That right there is a tradition to carry across state lines.)

In the words of the orphan Annie....I think I'm gonna like it here.


We are Here. We are Home.

In the checkout line, the girl with the throw-back glasses, curiously blond hair and skinny jeans asked me if I had been painting. I don't know why I felt the need to tell her that yes, I had been and to confess that I hadn't taken a shower in two days. I told her I wanted to save the five dollars, but I wasn't part of the club yet, and could I please get a card, since I was going to be here a while.

She asked me where I came from, told me I needed to get in a different line to get the club card (the same one for the smokes). I told her Maine, and she said "wow, that's far." I swiped and signed and told the kids not to touch the candy or the toys or each other, in three separate rounds.

And the girl looked at me like maybe I was exotic for having lived in Maine or for painting white highlights in my hair. And like maybe she was thinking of trying it. But really, if you asked her, she was probably thinking, Gross. That lady hasn't showered in two days.


We are here. We are home. The roller coaster of this past week is a story I won't fully tell in this space. I will just say that one week ago I was stressed to the point of feeling physically ill, breathing doubt through my nose, underwater.

I sat in the parking lot at Lowes on the phone with my mom, and I said, this is the hard part of the story. This is where I have to believe that God wrote this very scene, that there is meaning to all this character development. Because if not, then screw it, I'm going back to Maine. We'll take that dream job in Camden and buy a boat and Viking stove.

In the aisle of replacement toilet seats, I prayed that God would convince me I was supposed to be here, that someday it would all make sense, that someday this would be one of our most treasured stories to tell.

I thought I would have to keep going for months and possibly years, keep plugging away with all this damn character building before He would show me. But it's only been one week. And already, I know. This is where I am supposed to be.

We are here. We are home.


A shout out to my mom, my friends Scott & Anna, my sisters Robin and Michelle, my brother-in-law Mark, and my nieces Aly and Kate for the enormous amount of help and support they provided to me over the past two weeks. They helped me SO much with the traveling, the kids, the rental house, the unpacking. I would never have made it without you guys. So thank you, thank you, thank you!

p.s. If you are wondering where my husband has been in all this, the answer is working and studying. He started his second residency over a month ago, jumping right back into the familiar 80 hour week schedule. So the kids and I were on our own for the past six weeks, including during the move. We all missed each other terribly, and are so happy to be living again under the same roof, if only for hours at a time in between shifts.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
All Rights Reserved - ©MYLESTONES 2007-2012

  © Blogger template Shush by 2009

Back to TOP