Nothing Stays the Same

Downtown Nashville

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One aspect of home schooling – for better or for worse – is that the student as immersed in the peer pressure cooker.  My son is independent in lots of ways, but that fact remains that he and I are together a whole lot of the time.  It doesn’t seem to bother him, for which I am grateful, but I do worry that he’s going to be lost when he goes off to college.

But then, on Thursday, we had one of those milestone days.  For example:  the first day the kid pulls themselves upright and toddles across to your outstretched arms.  They day they figured out they could dress themselves, or when they squiggle their hand out of yours as you’re walking them to school.   Thursday was one of those days.

He got up and did his school work.  He studied for the SAT math test.  He did a lesson in Arabic, and one lesson in graphic arts.  We had a discussion about the history of film, and talking about how readers add meaning to texts.

Then, he had a bagel with peanut butter and brown sugar and an apple for lunch, took a shower and gathered his things and drove himself to Nashville for a meeting with a college recruiter from a small liberal arts college in Ohio (Almost all small literal arts colleges are in Ohio, I’ve discovered.)  He met her at Bongo Java in east Nashville.  He wasn’t sure which one she was.  All the grown-ups had laptops and notebooks, he said.  She recognized him; he was the tall skinny kid in a hat.  They had a good meeting by all accounts. Then, he drove to an apartment complex across town to teach aikido to a group of middle school refugee students.

On the way, he stopped at Church’s Fried chicken and got a box of chicken legs because he was hungry.  Now, this may not sound like much, but for some reason it struck me as momentous.  This is the kid who expect mom to fix him breakfast, lunch and dinner to order whenever he’s ready.  And, he used his own money.

He brought his own mats for the class and he and his sensei set up on the tennis court where all the children in the apartment complex gathered to watch and try to copy the moves of the seven lucky kids who’d signed up for the class.

My son drove home – thirty miles or so on a winding two-lane highway in the truck he bought for $100.00 before he could even drive.  My husband and I were relieved, as always, to hear that rumbling engine pull into the drive.

At dinner last night, my husband asked me if, a year ago, he’d told me that my son would drive himself to Nashville, meet with a college recruiter, drive across Nashville, picking up and paying for his own dinner, then teaching martial arts to refugee children, if I would have believed him.  No, absolutely not.  Not in a million years. It’s the small things, those little milestones that remind us that nothing stays the same.


A Tormenting Hobby

So, I’m sitting on the dock this sunny Sunday morning.  My son is attending the last day of a three-day Aikido seminar here at the local YMCA’spremier campground.  Once the martial artists hit the mat in the building behind me — I could hear the communal convocation clap way down here by the lake — I am alone.  Except for one friendly, nerdy straggler who couldn’t resist a snapshot of the goose that has been showing off , taking off and landing on the shimmering blue lake surface all morning.

It is one of those mornings where one finds  joy in the act of simply being alive.  One feels compelled to come up with some larger, metaphysical truths but that attempt is mostly doomed to fail.

I have been an artist all week.  I started out intending to make a little piece of something for my bedroom.  Nothing much; just something to match the black and white color scheme.   Which is almost like wanting a “sofa-sized painting.”  From that modest beginnings my project has grown so that the UPS guy must think I’ve developed a crush on him..  He comes around every couple of days with a fat parcel of art supplies.

My tall work table that was intended to be our homeschool desk has been transformed into an artist’s work table.  I scrounge around for unused plastic bins and boxes so I can organize my supplies.  As if I were a serious artist, one whose pencils and glues and stamp pads needed a permanent home.  Nothing like the handmade  book I halfway bound, or the skeins of yarn stuffed in a tote bag in the corner.

But, I felt fired up in a way I haven’t felt in a very long time.  DareI say, it has made me happy after a very long time of feeling sad.

I’m working on collages, and I can tell a difference in my work from when I started a few weeks ago and work I’m doing now.  It was hard to remember how to be creative, but once I began, the juices flowed freely. 

The last few days, though, I began to be frustrated.  New ideas slowed down.  I started feeling guilty over all the money I’ve spent on supplies.  The sticky mess at my table began to bug me.  Some of the things I tried didn’t work and had to be scrapped.  Every piece I’d done — even those that were my favorites at the time — have some little flaw or another.  My work can be sloppy and rough.  I don’t let glue and varnish dry long enough.  All my collages curl rather than lay flat.  I remember that I’ve had other enthusiasms before and they’ve all amouunted to nothing.  What I am doing now is not productive in any way that can be seen or measured.  My work isn’t good enough to sell.  If I were to take an art class to try and better my skills, I wouldn’t want to do it anymore.  I like experimenting blindly.  That’s part of the thrill.  But, it’s a little self-defeating also.  It’s as if I want to keep myself just below the competent level. 

Leave it up to me to be tormented by a hobby.