Monday, July 21, 2008

The Usual Accomplishments

“…….it is very foolish to ask questions about any young ladies – about any three sisters just grown up; for one knows, without being told, exactly what they are – all very accomplished and pleasing, and one very pretty. There is a beauty in every family. –It is a regular thing. Two play on the piano-forte, and one on the harp – and all sing – or would sing if they were taught – or sing all the better for not being taught – or something like it…..”
So went Mary Crawford’s assessment of a family of daughters. I know she was wrong at least in part, I myself have three very pretty daughters. And between the three of them we have a healthy mix of drawing, painting, piano playing, ballet, writing of prose and poetry, solo music and choral, short video production, painting screens, and I know not what.
As a teenager myself, I had a vision for the type of home I wanted to someday create. I wanted a home that was peaceful and orderly, and I wanted a home filled with artistic expression and creativity.
It could be that my two dreams were at odds with each other. I grew up in a large family with creative parents. My mother was artistic and from time to time the whole crazy household would get swept up in some project. Sewing, painting, decorating, or art classes would spill out into half the house, while the rest of the house would be in shambles. These were busy times, and often the artistic vision would include a deadline- having the project done in time for such-and-such event. I will admit there were times when I would walk up to my friends house, breath in the quiet air, and fall asleep on a cool sofa while she did her work, cleaning a house that already looked spotless to me. But on the other hand if I wanted to make doll clothes there were always scraps at hand. In the garage I could find drapery remnants to use for throw pillows, tote bags, covering a table that was really a pile of boxes. You could sit and sketch without attracting attention. One summer my room-mate sister and I would sit in silence on our beds, each writing a serial style teen novel, for hours, until we swapped notebooks to catch up on the other one’s story. We had no TV at the time.
So I dreamed of finger painting with my babies, making messes and creating. But I also dreamed of having laundry done on time, having dinner done of time, regular shopping trips, and just a regular train of living. As I do this, many mundane little events fill up my days, until it’s been a year and I haven’t painted a thing with my girls. Then I tell myself I’ll do it in summer, and then summer is over and it never happened.
This past week I decided I was going to make it happen. I had a few canvas boards in the garage. I didn’t want to wait around for the time block that oils would take so I bought a bag of acrylic craft paints to augment the half empty and dried out lot that I have, we broke out the easels, and started to paint. My two DD’s 16 &11 painted with me in our light filled breakfast nook, and I think I’ve secretly decided I’m going to leave my easel out all summer, just to make it easy. I worked on a picture of my sis and I at Malibu Beach as children. It’s not done yet. I was going for a simple, almost paint-by-number retro kind of feel. I can’t wait to finish. My youngest daughter did a fine portrait of our dog Missy. It actually made me want to try one. My DD 16 is painting a picture from the recent Northanger Abby, where Catherine Morland is reading outdoors on a blanket. Their work is great, and I had so much fun, I found myself in the usual refrain of “Why don’t we do this more often?”
But I’ve decided to be easy on myself and just be happy that we did it!
Sometimes breaking from the routine and doing something artistic with the kids is quite an ‘Unusual Accomplishment’ indeed.

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