Wednesday, May 13

Trash, Pride, Art

There seems to be a theme emerging. (famous last words if I ever heard them)

Yesterday, I talked about feeling so proud of my kid I could just burst. And I'll be damned if it didn't happen again.

So let me ask you a question. If your kid came to you, excitedly said "Mommy! I have a present for you!!" and stood there, hands behind her back (clearly holding the treasured object), eyes filled with absolutely-certain-that-you-are-gonna-love-this anticipation, what would you imagine that she held behind her back? Really. Stop and think about it. What would you hope was back there? A picture that she drew? A story? A cookie? A diamond? A perfect report card? A stiff drink?

Okay, got that image in your head? Think about it, and don't show your card to anyone else.

This is what my 9-year-old daughter gave to me (I mention her age only so that you know that this isn't one of those oh-how-cute or oh-how-sweet stories that automatically go along with anything a three year old brings you, like a piece of lint or a half-drunk bottle of spring water)

Yes, they are exactly what they look like. Smashed eyeglass frames, minus the temples. "I found them in the parking lot! I think they must have gotten run over lots and lots of times because they're so flat!"

Yes, I know this might not have been what you imagined she was holding behind her back, barely able to keep it hidden, her excitement so great. Me? I swell with pride. That's my girl.

She picked them up because they had been run over a lot of times. She picked them up because they reminded her of my late father's glasses (I agree, and what a great reason whether I agree or not). She picked them up because they were "cool". But more than anything, she picked them up because I have taught her that this is a great habit. (Public Service Announcement: Purell-lovers, time to stop reading now). She picked them up because she thought I would appreciate them and include them in some future artwork in some fashion. She was right.

On my birthday, a little over two years ago, she and I took a walk to my favorite restaurant for breakfast. It was the highlight of my day. I carried a plastic ziploc bag, as I usually do, so that the odds and ends found along the way would have safe place to rest until it was their turn to become part of something new. We call it treasure. We've always done this.

"Let's look for treasure!"
"Yeah! Let's!"

When she was a toddler, I would ask if she wanted to go for a walk--with me, with her babysitter. Her answer was often a resounding "No!"--not only because she was two, but also because she is a kid who likes to "stay close" and always has. "Will you bring me back some treasures?" And she's out the door.

On my birthday, it was a long medium-short walk to the restaurant, and a longer walk back, as we had to take a different route, becuase what if there is other stuff on the other streets?

Within the first five minutes, an elaborate story had begun. I had nothing to do with it. It was a story about a spacecraft from another planet that had landed in this neighborhood and had left some broken parts scattered around, and if we could find them all, they would give us vital clues to the identity and location of the visitors. So we looked. And we looked. And we found important clues, let me tell you, from infinitesimal slips of paper with words on them to pieces of circuit boards to metal washers. I can't tell you the story. Number one, it's classified. You know how that alien stuff is. Our government is crazy about that stuff. I don't want that kind of trouble. And Number two, it's our story. Mostly hers. And it might be true. Nobody knows for sure, do they?

With every treasure found, I feel as if I have succeeded. I have succeeded in conveying the art in every object, art that might not have existed had the item not been run over so many times. I have succeeded in communicating the potential for new life and creation out of the mundane, broken, and discarded. I have succeeded in representing the world as a place where a walk can become a grand adventure to a distant planet, where a bent penny can be the first line of a story yet to be written. I have succeeded in relaying that life is filled with magic.

When she gave me these smashed eyeglasses, she was thrilled. But I am quite certain she did not think I could (or would) use them to see. Hey, no one is right about everything.

Does it get any better than this?


ConverseMomma said...

YES! That is what this post inspired in me. YES! I want to do this too. I want my children to love the simple, to always be on the lookout for buried treasure, to find delight in trash. Oh, you are such a fine, fine, mother. And, she sounds like a wonderful girl.

Jill said...

A Marcel Duchamp natural! I knew it from the get-go--

Anna said...

I take my little girl on clean-up walks. Next to our house there is a creek that is sometimes clogged with plastic bags - she's getting used to seeing her mom dangle precariously over the water in order to snag the bags trapped in the twigs...and we find stuff, and sometimes she puts it in her art (the only art I create is with my pen). At her age, even the dandelions are precious and magical - I want her to keep that.