4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.
This is the part I wrote two weeks ago:
Once a week I take all the recycling piled in the mud room out to the garage, put it in five big blue bins and bring it to the curb like a quarter mile away. I drive the monster bin of compost and the two bags of garbage to the compost bins and dumpsters at the school. In my car. Ick. I clear everything off the floors, off the counters, out from under the beds. I even clear off the floor of the laundry room where, contrary to all things sensical, I pile the clean clothes on the floor and the dirty clothes in the basket. And then I put the clothes into the appropriate drawers (folding them first is for rookies, are you with me?)
There’s one thing I never can get to though. We all have that place. That place where everything gets dumped. Okay. I may have about four of those places not including the basement, closets and computer desk. But there’s always one place that is the absolute worst.
The kids’ craft table. It’s where everything in my house goes to die; drawings I want to keep because they seem to reveal an artistic milestone like people with ears, the inclusion of eyelashes or a mature understanding of the power of negative space; piles of recycled Frank Gehry-esque structures or Alexander Calder sculptures made by Mica that he’s now emotionally attached to; the crafts they make at the library or at school or at a crafting birthday party that celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas or Martin Luther King.
The table was a gift from my sister-in-law. And I loved that art table, or at least what it represented. It was going to get us organized while supporting their creativity. But now I’ve lost it. I mean, I’ve literally lost it. It’s been eaten by a pile of sewing scraps, sketchbooks, stamping supplies, paint supplies, bins of stickers, feathers, Perler beads, bead beads, Rainbow looms, potholder looms. I believe it’s under there… I mean, sometimes I see a chair peek out. But it’s been awhile since I saw the whole thing.
And I know that every time my dear, sweet mother-in-law sees this pile in the corner, it must give her heartburn. I know this because one afternoon while she was watching the three youngest kids for me, she cleaned off the whole top; organized it into bins, set aside drawings, recycled way more than I would have. In the end she looked ex-haust-ed. And the whole semi-organized table imploded two days later, like a 42 year old in skinny jeans at a Mexican restaurant. (You know what I mean.)
I remember my art table when I was a kid. It was an old school desk with three stickers on it in the corner, including a Keep on Truckin’ sticker and a scratch and sniff pickle, which I scratched until every scent was gone. I remember this so specifically because stickers were precious commodities back in the day, and because I’ve always loved pickles, and also because I have that desk in my basement right now. My kids don’t love sitting at that desk.
But I remember when it sat in the corner of my childhood kitchen, under the red wall phone. I’d stash my metal Mickey Mouse box filled with a treasure of over fifty broken nubs of crayons. Precious indeed. And every day my mother would gather the yards of computer paper covered with artwork and she’d unapologetically chuck it in the trash.
I have plans to clear off that table of ours, organize the bins, maybe get those bookshelves from Target with all the fabric bins and then sort all their art crap like the teachers do at my son’s kindergarten.
There are so many conclusions I can come to, but I’m afraid none of them are new.
1. I’m trying to raise my children to be a better, luckier, more spoiled me. More art supplies means more love, am I right?
2. I have inherited my mother’s tendency towards hoarding. (It’s all relative as they say; she had an uncle who saved every magazine and catalogue he ever got, my mother has three cats and wall-to-wall cardboard boxes, and I have an abominable art table.)
3. I’d rather be doing crafts at my kitchen table with my kids (which thankfully gets cleared off each meal) than cleaning off that hideous pile.
You can only live with something that wrong for so long. No one should be picking up sliding avalanches of colored paper and capless markers every day. No one. It’ll break a woman’s spirit.
So I did it. I bought the shelves and the bins and spent the day (with four little helpers) putting it all together. Then they sorted the Crayon nubs and capless markers and glue sticks and scissors. I sorted the rest. And this morning I slept in. Only to awaken to this:
And there was a multitude of angels with heavenly voices singing praise over our brand new art corner.
I immediately texted my mother-in-law and sister-in-law a picture. This victory dance is worth sharing.
So today, may you too find peace and solace with your own literal and metaphorical art table. Hallelujah! (Amen.)