Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I Freaking Love Art.

I freaking love art. 

I'm not the best at making it, but I love doing it, looking at it. 

I'm not sophisticated or fartsy.  I just love to make stuff.

The seeds of this love were planted early on in my life, I believe it was kindergarten.  We had the chance to make stuff almost every day in my kindergarten class.  Right next to the meeting circle spot was a heavy rectangular table covered with butcher paper and THAT was our art table.  There were chunky wooden paintbrushes, indestructible with their hairy bristles, soaking in thick tempera paint.  Long pieces of thick, slick paper laid waiting on the table in front of each tiny chair. I had nothing like these glorious tools in my home.  Neither did my neighborhood playmates.  We pushed each other in old shopping carts, ripped the heads off of Barbies, and pretended to smoke like our parents in our free time.  No, nothing at home compared to this glorious place called kindergarten where I could paint anything I wanted--be who I wanted--away from those twisted little kids in my apartment complex.

One day, a day I would wager is still remembered by my kindergarten teacher, I let my love for art be known to all who were fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to be in my class.  I can't remember if we were choosing our first center or just transitioning, but I DO remember standing in the meeting spot thinking about how I was DEFINITELY going to the art center next.  As I focused on the table, I realized that there was one chair left.  Almost simultaneously, I became aware that a boy named Michael was headed toward that chair and he was closer and he was definitely going to get there before me if I didn't do something FAST.  I did the only thing a kid in my situation could do.  I ran as fast as I could, hands out in front of me, and pushed him out of the way so I could sit down. 

Everything would have worked out just fine if he hadn't started crying.  Big baby.  Actually,  I felt kind of bad about it because he fell down, bumped some body part.  I was in the chair, about to grab the paintbrush, when the teacher came over and told me I had to go to time out.  TIME OUT?  ME??  Didn't she understand how much I freaking loved art???  No matter.  I had done a bad thing and had to sit in the red chair.  No art for me.  I stared at Michael as he painted, imagining that I was the one holding that brush, pulling the paint into the shape of a tree or a flower, not him with his swollen red eyes and messy brown hair.  He probably eats his boogers, I thought.  He isn't even being careful, I thought.  I was supposed to sit there.  I needed to sit there.

Although I've learned to be patient, to keep my hands to myself, and to use nice words, I still have the urge to run full-speed at people when they get things I want and push them out of the way, especially when it's obvious they don't care about what they have.  This urge is particularly strong when I see children mistreated by careless parents or abandoned by selfish ones.  Why can't I have children?  I'm supposed to be a mom.  I need to be a mom.  It's not fair, but that's okay.  God has his own art table.  He's painting his own picture.  I'm catching glimpses of it every day.  It's just as beautiful as the one I imagined for myself, just different.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Head in the Monkey Bars

Who gets their head stuck in the monkey bars? 
How stupid do you have to be to get your head stuck in monkey bars?
How big does your head have to be to get it stuck in the monkey bars?

Me.  Not that stupid.  Depends on the monkey bars.  It was '83, okay?

In 1983, a lot of things were different.  Kindergarten was split into two times, AM and PM.  We watched The Letter People.  We painted and used typewriters and played in small wood and plastic kitchens.  We read books in an old metal and ceramic claw-footed tub.We went on field trips and rode in the teacher's car (I did, anyway).  There were swings on the playground--swings!  We also played on hobbit-sized playground equipment made by people who didn't know kids have big heads.  Everything was right in my world as far as I could tell and I definitely had the world's best kindergarten teacher.

Her name was Mrs. Senn and she was an absolute angel with her curly brown hair and sunshine eyes.  She taught me patience, kindness, tolerance, and self-acceptance.  This is the same teacher who sent me, with several other students, to the kindergarten playground alone.  I'm guessing that this was perfectly acceptable given the year.  We were just a few feet from the classroom door. The door had a window, a sliver of a window. I'm sure she was checking on us occasionally.  I certainly never worried that anything would happen to me or any of my friends. 

I don't remember what I was thinking before I climbed the ladder up the tiny monkey bars.  I just remember that they were a little taller than me and silvery smooth.  I remember being at the top, getting freaked out because the skinny little rungs were pressing into my knee caps, and knowing that I HAD to get down.
 I sat down and put my legs between two of the rungs.  Definitely big enough for the rest of me, I thought.  I slid my chubby little body through, no problem.  Apparently, even I had no idea how big my head was because I came to a stop with my toes barely touching the sand and my head definitely stuck above the bars.  I tried to pull myself back up with my noodly kid arms, but just couldn't do it.  I did the only thing a kid could do in my unusual situation.  I cried for help.

I remember one of the other kids running to the classroom to get the teacher.  Mrs. Senn ran out with a milk crate for me to climb up on.  She helped me get back up through the top and comforted me just like I would comfort one of my students today.  I still feel like that kid getting her head stuck in the monkey bars.  I put the cart before the horse.  I forget to consider the obvious.  I think I can do anything, but get scared when I go too far, too deep, too fast. 

Aren't we all just on one big set of monkey bars, trying to keep going, trying to hang on?  Mrs. Senn isn't around to save me any more.  I have to cry out for help from my friends, family, God.  I guess we all do.  Who's bringing you a milk crate the next time you get stuck?  You can't stand on your tippy toes forever.