Tag - paper

Paper Places
El Gato
The Paintbrush

Paper Places

1. assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something
2. one in which confidence is placed

I used to give trust freely, like a gift, but I’m not so giving anymore.

“Mom!” says Sam, “You are QUASHING my CREATIVITY!”

Amused, I ask how cleaning up his mess — the scraps, the tape, the crayons, the scissors — how is that quashing his creativity?

“I need it like this,” he explains. “Don’t you trust me?”

“Trust? Sure — but can we clean up some of it?”

“Now you’re starting to BREAK my creativity. When you tell me to clean up, it is BREAKING me. Don’t BREAK me, Mom.”

Seriously. I sound like a kneecap smasher or a wild horse wrangler — instead of a mom who’s just trying to clean the freakin’ kitchen and make dinner.

I simply do not understand how creativity can arise from this chaos. Even while I see it everywhere: the  complex structures made out of paper and tape, the “water slide”; the “amusement park”;  the “life-size Sam figure” lying in front of my dishwasher — this chaotic jumble of mess is too much.

“Sam!” I try again. “Just clean some of it then. How about all the scraps, we can put them in recycling,” I say, hoping to awaken his earnest “Go Green” crusade, when he will tell me again that he thinks we should ditch our minivan and walk everywhere.

But even as I say it, I realize that I spend far too much time trying to create order from chaos and despite my best efforts, chaos has chosen to land smack in my kitchen and my life. Why fight it any longer. Perhaps the best I can do is grab my own paper and tape and start rebuilding. Trust that a form will take shape.

He pulls me to the kitchen floor, right next to Life-Size-Sam and in front of the Fun House made of orange construction paper. “I’ll show you how the roller coaster works!” How do I not grab the paper car he gives me and vroom vroom it up his paper roller coaster. How do I not smile, here on my dirty kitchen floor surrounded by paper places and crayons and tape.

Always the tape.

Give me a paper house built with tape and conviction any day. It’s the effort and actions that count. Charming words, facile and glib, are like a beautifully wrapped box that is empty inside. Unlike my boy’s paper places, they collapse at the slightest breeze.

El Gato

Dear John, as I awoke to your smiling face I could see you were in a hurry — I figured you wanted to get back to your papers full of pink words — the ones I made you leave downstairs on the kitchen table. It was time to stop sleeping with them when you began to get up in the dead of night like the old days, clutching them and demanding to start the day at 2 a.m. Oh no, no. We are not doing that again.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that you’ve now taken to watching youtube videos in Spanish. You hit pause when a new word appears and demand that I write each one down. You listen to the word, repeat the word, “Nutria,” then say, “Write nutria?”

What a lengthy relationship you’ve had with Baby Einstein. All of the DVDs, all of the puppets, all of the books and bath toys and plush characters: I’d guess the entire merchandise line, even the music.

“Time to get up, Mommy? Go downstairs? Ooh-kay!” I was about to oblige but you pulled me to you instead and gave me a hug. That was just fine with me. I wasn’t ready to slide my feet on the cold floor just yet.

One quick hug and then you were ready to split but I stopped you and said, “Hey John? How do you say ‘cat‘ in Spanish?” I waited one beat, two beat, three beats — and you whispered, you said, “Ga-to.”

Seriously. I stared at you in disbelief — could you have memorized a bunch of Spanish words? I tried another: “How do you say ‘dog‘ in Spanish? “Perro,” you said a little louder this time. “How do you say ‘blue‘ in Spanish?” “Azul,” you said.

I laughed aloud at all that you keep hidden, at how very smart you are. And in the silence that followed you said to me, “How do you say ‘red’ in Spanish?” I waited and you answered yourself, “Ro-jo!

And I chased you downstairs to begin our day.

The Paintbrush

Oh, John. After years of making Mommy spell words for you, of pulling my hand and insisting that I draw pictures for you (in crayon, in pencil, on paper, on the computer, once in the sand), after an eternity of my being Chief Scribe — now you’re ready to do it yourself?

balloon1The watercolor paints are new — we have not cracked them open since Christmas — so when you brought them to me with a paintbrush and said “Open Blue?” I took in the situation and your earnest face and thought, Well? Let’s give it a shot.

Of course I hoped that you would paint yourself but I wasn’t optimistic. I mean there’s precedent and it usually ends up being me. But still, I got a cup of water and showed you the basics: dip brush

in water, mix brush in color, paint on paper. I waited for the inevitable “Mommy paint?” but instead you pushed me away and started coloring in a hot air balloon. Like I was in your way! (I was, I hovered.)

How did I not figure it out sooner?

balloon2It’s the medium. It’s the amount of strength required of your little hands, of your fingers. Painting is fluid and smooth. Your body does not protest or resist or get in your way (like with the crayon or the pencil or even the marker). Painting allows you to execute one smooth movement after another.

It’s not (as I sometimes wondered) the repetitive nature of having us draw picture after picture for you. It’s that YOU want to be able to draw yourself. And we’re as close as you’re able to get.

And then it dawns on me that this must be what it’s like when you try to talk. I see how you struggle to find words when it’s so plain that you want to communicate something — your body doesn’t have a paintbrush to help it find expression. And just like when you make Mommy draw for you (i.e., be your hands), you stop in your tracks and cry. Or flap with frustration. I see how frustrating it must be.

What if the answer to both is… painting? So I’ve decided: No more crayons or markers. We are filling this house with paint and easels and smocks. Let’s see what you’re trying to say, baby.

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