Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Missing Artwork

My kids are getting older and keeping more and more from me.  I miss the days when I was their best confidant.  At one time, they told me everything - every hope, every disappointment, every secret.  No longer.  But it isn't only the secrets that they used to share that I miss now.  I also miss their artwork.  In preschool and kindergarten, every drawing was precious to them and had to be saved and displayed.  My older son went through a phase when he drew the figures from his favorite Yu-gi-oh cards again and again.  He entrusted page after page of colorful monsters to me, until my office bulletin boards and hallway art gallery were overflowing.  But there was to be no culling out of the best and most beautiful -- all had equal importance to him.  Similarly, when my scuba-loving younger child went through a period when he drew Jacques Cousteau's Calypso (always with a magnificent triangular sail - perhaps not true to life, but certainly true to his understanding of ships at the time), I didn't have just one or two, but dozens and dozens to display.  And for a time, even although their level of artistic output had declined dramatically, I could still count on the annual self-portrait -- an elementary school art class ritual -- as a means of updating my collection of their artwork. 

The revolt against me started with hearts.  As part of a class project integrating art with math, my older son was asked to draw a representation of numbers that were meaningful to him.  Along with the date of his birthday and our street address, he drew a series of hearts to indicate his fondness for the numerals.  The whole piece was beautiful, rendered in wonderful watercolors on thick, high-quality cream stock.  I was instantly smitten.  He hated it.  To me, it showed creativity and the spark of brilliance.  To him, it was simply the result of a tiresome school assignment.  He was embarrassed by the idea that I would hang it up and his friends would see the pink and red hearts.  Our compromise was that I would hang it on the back of my office door where only I would enjoy it.  In time, even that was unbearable to him, and he tore it to shreds.

After that, he stopped showing me his artwork. Fewer and fewer assignments from either child made it home.  The gap between the ages they were when they did the work on the walls and their current ages grew.  When the latest picture I had for my 7th grader was something he painted in 2nd grade, I gave up and took it all down, replacing my hallway art gallery with their sports photos.  Sigh...

Thankfully, this story has a happy ending.  Recently, I received a remarkable brochure in the mail.  Sent by the church we attend to encourage participation in a capital-improvement fund-raising campaign, it featured a four-color rendering of the church building.  There was something familiar about the choice of vivid colors and the confident thick outlines of the building exterior.  I showed it to my younger son.  The look on his face confirmed my suspicions.  I'm not going to display it in my gallery... but I have gathered enough copies to send to family members who will appreciate it and still keep one for myself.  The art collection lives on!

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