When my daughter was small, she scribbled on paper like it was a paying gig. We hung her mini masterpieces on the refrigerator. We strung them on a line across the window with teeny, tiny clothespins.
We even framed a few of the accidentally stunning watercolors.
I say accidental because I am not a stage mother. Where some may have seen pint-sized talent and dreamed of art school, I assumed any child of mine would grow up to claim her share of my decidedly average artistic ability.
But it goes beyond the question of talent. I’ll be honest and admit that I am a mother of the dream-squashing kind.
I may not always voice my negativity, but when she said she would be President someday, I said “Hmmm.”
When she said she’d be famous, I said, “Well, I don’t know.”
When she said she’d have a picture hanging in a museum when she grew older, I didn’t say anything at all. Just felt a little sad. Because we all know that these sorts of dreams don’t come true. And isn’t it my job, as her mother, to teach her to dream a little more realistically?
I consider my own life. I am not the President. I am not famous. I will never have a painting in a museum.
But then I consider it some more. If I could have seen my today twenty years ago, what would it have looked like to me?
I have no doubt it would have looked too good to be true.
This husband, these children, our home. That garden, this book, my perch by the window, and even the mug of tea at my feet. I could have imagined a life with fewer shadows, but I don’t think I could have imagined a life more beautiful and more perfectly suited to me than this one I’ve been given.
Who is the wise one, and who is the fool?
The six of us join the crowd in the museum. This is Wyeth country, and the museum on the river is home to N.C.’s pirates, Andrew’s farmhouses, Jamie’s haystacks.
For the next few weeks, it is also home to an exhibit of local student art.
It is all so normal, so everyday. The reception with apple juice and cookies. The proud parents and grandparents filing past the wall of identical black frames.
I actually stand in front of that wall for a full ten minutes before I realize my daughter’s dream came true.
Here is her portrait of a pumpkin. One bright light in a constellation of black frames.
It is hanging in a museum.
It is an impossible dream. A wish upon a star.
An ordinary day.
Oh, I just cried a little bit, Christie. This is so my heart, letting our little moments of artistry be big moments, validating that expression. Also, are these your photos? If so you are hardly average in your artistic ability!
Thank you, Esther. There’s a whole universe in these small moments, isn’t there? Credit for the photographs goes to my sister, Kelli Campbell. I think we both wanted to be artists growing up. I remember the two of us sitting side by side with oil paints and charcoal in the home of an elderly art teacher. Those tools didn’t quite work out for either of us, but I think we’ve both found our medium since those days. Kelli with the camera and me behind the keyboard.
Oh, how beautiful. This one took my breath away, Christie.
Thank you, Val.
Precious…and I know her! I am star struck!!
Ha ha! Me too, Tracy! Fortunately, fame doesn’t seem to be going to her head. 🙂
my artist-girl, kenna, has been talking about lily’s museum piece ever since her last letter:) i love love love this post.
Thank you, Kelli. And thank you, again, for the gorgeous photos. They tell the story better than I do, I’m sure.
You got me! Totally heart struck here, Christie. So beautifully told, friend. And so sweet to savor.
Thank you, Diana! I am so glad this touched you. I love seeing you here in my space.
Wow! This writing penetrates the soul and shakes up some mighty vivid images and truths!….grateful for your skill
I did get to see your sister’s lovely photos by going directly to your website. I was expecting to see children’s art in those empty spaces but maybe you will include those in another entry. I loved what you had to say about trying to help your children have realistic dreams.
Hello Carol! I’ll track down a few photos of Lily at the museum and her portrait of a pumpkin (all on my husband’s cell phone!) and share them on facebook. I’ll be sure to send you the link. Children’s artwork is just the best, I think.
I like to think about what my ten year old self may have thought looking at my life now 23 years later. Thank you for that perspective.