Monday, August 23, 2010

Encouraging Imagination

I may not have recognized it back then,
but today I realize how much my mom
encouraged our self-expression.

And unlike modern mothers,
there wasn't a push-
or a pull-
or any bias on her part.

She merely smiled and approved
of most every creative venture
that my siblings and I fabricated.

Be it fancy mud pies
or elaborate club houses,
Mom would never turn her nose up
or lecture us about the mess we made-
or criticize the end result of our crude artistry.


In fifth grade I watched a guest speaker
fill a blank canvas full of plump fruits
and dripping candles-
painting shadows and light so realistically
that you felt you could pluck them
from their frame.

I immediately decided that
I wanted to be an artist.

Somehow- I have no idea how-
my parents managed to get me
a set of oil paints.

I was in heaven.

I couldn't wait to recreate
those purple clusters of grapes-
and the fuzzy pink peach-
and hot wax in clumps around a candlestick.

I remember how perfectly ugly it turned out...
An 18x24 painting that my mom promptly
displayed above the living room sofa!
For a long, long time....


Another time I recall the bathroom mirror getting broken
and the pieces were set outside on the back step.

I decided they looked like puzzle pieces,
so I began gluing them to black poster board
to make a mirrored tree.

Mom loved it.

After hanging in Mom's house for years and years,
I now have it stored in my garage-
Still displayed in the broken yard sale frame
she found for it.


Linda and I were young HGTV enthusiasts back then-
before there was such a show.
We occasionally cooked up brilliant ways
to decorate our room-
each time getting a nod of approval from Mom-
and a skeptical cringe from Dad.

One time we cut out hundred of "paper dolls"
from the Sears and Montgomery Wards catalogs-
and glued them all over the walls and ceiling
with home made flour paste.

Another time, we painted red and white stripes
(freehand, of course) on all four walls.
The original plan consisted of a navy blue ceiling
with glow-in-the-dark stars,
but Dad was pretty firm about keeping the ceilings white.

Later, it was neon shades of blue and apple green-
but never again quite as far-out
as paper dolls dancing on the plaster.


We never got in trouble for the times
we waded in a muddy ditch up to our knees,
brought home smelly clams from the creek,
or bent the good encyclopedias to make
houses for our Barbies.

Mom stored all my poems in the Bible.
And read every story I wrote.

She allowed me to spray paint
and glue and glitter
to my hearts content.


Even today, when I'm trying to choose
between the Exotic Eggplant paint
or the Soft Cream for my walls,
I imagine my Mom simply smiling
in a way that says "Follow Your Heart".

Thank you, Mom.
For letting me be a free spirit.
For letting me experiment and dream-
and be who I was meant to be.