It’s very easy to forget the ones you live with.
You settle into a rhythm of life, everyone filling their niche, every day conducted similar to the last.
My mother’s days are filled with constant attendance. She loves us and shows us that by gifting us with pressed shirts and meringue topped pies. She is a gifted self starter. She takes 24 hours and make the most of it, each day, every day. It’s a testament to her physical and mental stamina and heath as she approaches her eighth decade. It’s a testament to the way God made her.
I woke up one morning, listening to her start her day, as she moved about in my kitchen and thought, I should do something special for her. So I asked.
“Mother, what can I do for you today?”
“What do you mean,” she says, already formulating what she guesses I mean.
“I mean, what can I do for you that I’m not doing.. or that we haven’t done… or that you would like for me to do,” I finish this last with a little growing trepidation.
With my mother, that agile mind of hers, creative as all get out, the range of possibilities is wide and deep.
“I want you to paint with me,” she says knowing I cannot refuse.
I look at her. Her smile is a mixture of delight and triumph.
I could not have been the product of my dad and her and not received some measure of desire for the aesthetics. Both of them came from stock that needed to draw or paint or build and at one time I carried a sketchbook around. I minored in art for heavens sake. But painting was something I had never been comfortable dabbling in. It was the colors. Black and white and fifty shades of gray made sense to me. Shades imbedded in a never ending rainbow of colors confounded me.
It is this very extravagance of color that my mother relishes. While I languished among bacterial genetic sequences over the years, my mother improved her natural talent in painting with skill.
“I will fix my paint room all up for you,” she said anticipating the joy our combined creative potential promised.
For the next week, part of her day was spent getting everything ready for her daughter to paint with her.
She organized and laid out paper and brush, shared her stash of pictures that could inspire one’s soul to artistic expression, and waited for me to make time.
In my mind, things were different. I was realizing how much this request meant to her. I realized how much I had not counted on being this emotionally invested or, let’s just face it, personally involved. I asked her what she wanted me to do for her, I hadn’t thought it would require me to participate, at least at this level.
After a week, I told her I was ready.
She ushered me into her art room.
As she did all my growing up life, that special brand of her preparation was evident. I realized how much she wanted to share with me the passion and joy of painting that is a staple, a necessity in her life.
I had chosen to work in oils and I began dotting my pallet from the basket of crumpled tubes filled with pigment. If you happen to be inexperienced it would look like my color choices were limited as the box holds only yellows, blues, and reds along with various siennas and umbers. But that is the beauty of a talented artist, she will create the rainbow of variants and mixtures of those to convey what must come out of her heart and onto her canvas. For me, that is the worst part. The potential in those tubes is luminescent, vibrant hues OR overworked, over mixed shades of muddy brown.
Over the next three hours she hummed and busied herself about me, occasionally checking to see how I was doing. I smeared paint on everything because I tend to be aggressively messy in things like this and I fretted over the large stretched canvas. She gave very helpful hints and judged my progress with an eye critical for my success. I was a little bit in awe at how much she knew.
My painting hangs at the farm, framed by my Mother with an insistence similar to the one that started this whole event. ‘It grows on you,’ she tells me. ‘I like it’, she says. The painting depicts a woman, her back turned, looking out on a lake topped by a sky at dusk. A table with a wine bottle and a small lamp to her right, lights one corner.
What it truly pictures, though, is a mother who taught her daughter to share a passion. And what it means most to that daughter is how much her mother loves her, always has and always will.
Oil, 13 X 20, House on Lake, D. Huddle