This article was originally posted online, April 2005.
Way back, decades ago ... how can that be? I was facing a panel of "Real Life Working Artists" also known as my professors, waiting for their verdict on my Senior Project. The project consisted of a one-person art show in the university. Unfortunately, I'd failed my first one. The renderings were accurate enough, but they were too illustrative for my avant garde, non-representational loving mentors who, I realize now, did me a favor. They thought so at the time, because when I returned months later with my second show, I passed hands down, grabbed my BFA and, having honed that starving artists, dark-eyed appearance down pat, promptly started . . . planning a wedding.
"We know you are getting married," they'd said. "Don't you get busy and forget about your art. Don't you forget to paint, or you'll lose your talent," they warned.
I nodded, "Of course, I won't stop painting."
But I did.
I fell into someone else's life, and before I knew it all I wanted to be able to do was keep the house clean enough and raise children unscathed by a difficult marriage.
Slowly though, like tiny plants under the snow in winter, ideas, images, colors, sounds, rumbled around quietly in the depths of my personality. A book idea here . . . a sculptured figure there . . . a life drawing class . . . a painting trip to North Carolina . . . a box of pastels . . . a watercolor of nothing but water. I started to keep notebooks: "Drawings," "Dolls," "Writings." I registered copyrights and started to learn piano.
Weaving in and out of the day-to-day life of a mother, I pulled along a ribbon of creativity and it lightly swished past my face and through the memories of my children. I held onto it after my divorce, and wiped my tears with it more than once.
I didn't forget and I didn't lose my talent. They were wrong. Everything I experienced as a young wife and mother fell into the pockets of my invisible painting smock and waited there, patiently, for me to gain the wisdom to view them anew. When I did, creation turned out to be so much easier than it had been in my twenties. I only had to please myself, and I became free to try anything. I also was free to fail. Free not to be "the best." Free to enjoy the process. Free of the fear that I would never be an Artist.
Today, I was in the grocery store. "Put that down, now!" exclaimed the young mother behind me in line, in that tired mother voice that is so often heard in grocery stores. My first impulse was to be critical. Does she know how angry she sounds? I thought. Then I turned around. She had a baby in the front of the cart and a young boy of about three was trying his best not to touch the brightly colored impulse items hanging at his eye level. My heart softened.
"They are the same age difference as my boys are," I said, smiling. She replied in a much kinder voice as well, and stated her son was usually well behaved.
"It's hard not to touch these things, they are irresistable." I told her that my children were now in their twenties, and how fast it went. I also said I remembered what it was like to be so tired and have so many demands as a mother of young kids.
I paid for my groceries, wished her a good day and moved along. Home. Home to my business where I draw, paint, design, write, edit and make a living doing what I love. And, being a mother. How great is that?
The professors were wrong. The talent doesn't leave. The creativity doesn't leave. There is time in life for each phase of life and there are ways to keep creativity alive during the fallow years. I wish they had told me that instead. I would have had more hope in the future.