A Random Image

Jett Superior laid this on you on || March 7, 2002 || 10:43 pm

Sam divides his spare time pretty equally between three pursuits: reading, video games and drawing. A major part of his appearance is the sometimes multi-colored, sometimes grey-black smudge of any given medium (chalk, pencil, marker) along the side of his left hand. It runs from the tip of his pinky finger down alongside the heel of his palm and sometimes strays to beneath his pinky nail and the underside of his wrist. I marvel at this, because the child has never been able to stand having dirty hands, even when he was the smallest of small.

That smudge, however, has become as much a part of him as his easy shuffle and his painfully handsome face.

When Sam was very little, about seven months old or so, I would pull out a little book that was a constant diaper bag companion whenever we found ourselves travelling or waiting anywhere. He began studying it fiercely when he was a scant five months, concentrating on it with a single-mindedness that was sort of scary to me, a first-time mother. The fact that it engaged him so, though, kept me from ever leaving it at home when we went places. Eventually I would point to shapes and colors and name them for him as he turned thick cardboard pages with hands that were amazingly adept for his young age. By the time he was seven months old I could ask him where red was or which shape was the triangle and he’d point to them himself.

When he was nine-going-on-ten months old, I brought home a packet of eight thick crayons and a pad of thick, creamy newsprint. The sheets were huge, about twelve inches by sixteen (maybe even eighteen) inches and when I sat Sam down next to the pad and opened it, he looked so damned tiny, even though he was a big boy. As was his way, he stared at me intently as I spoke to him and explained what the strange things I had brought home to him were.

I swear I saw understanding in that baby’s eyes as I told him what purpose the crayons and pad were to serve, and then I opened the friendly-looking box and slid the crayons out, lying them on the opened cover of the pad.

I watched as he examined them with his eyes and -without any encouragement from me- picked up two crayons in one little fist and one in the other and looked them over. I waited for the ‘typical baby’ moment, when his little hamfists would fly straight to his mouth where the crayons would find both purchase and purpose, but that moment never came. Instead, Sam put two of the three crayons back down after a time and kept the fat red one clenched in his right fist, observing it.

I took the crayons one by one and began to write the names of each in big lowercase letters in their respective colors:

o r a n g e
b l u e
g r e e n

“See?” I said to him, “You mark on the paper with the crayons. You can make letters and words like I just did, or you can make pictures.” and I started to doodle, drawing curlicue arrows and a stop sign and bumblebees in flight.

“You can do this, too, Sam…you can make pictures.”

His first attempt was tentative, but as he got bolder it seemed to become more and more awkward for him to try and put mark to page. After a few minutes, he dropped the crayon purposefully and I began to gather the others, thinking that we had reached the limits of delving in for one day. Sam-I-Am surprised me, though, by retrieving the crayon with his left hand. The implement securely in place, he began putting himself to the page in a sure manner. I, of course, watched him in amazed wonder. I had been around/cared for enough small children in my life to know that this was not the general behavior of a ten-month-old. It was thrilling and frightening at the same time.

From then on, as long as the kid had something to create with and something to create on, he was completely engaged for solid chunks of time. To the amazement of his Sunday School teacher and his part-time nanny and parents of other children, his little works of art contained very striking detail. By the time Sam was two he was putting folds and shadows in the garments his creations wore; he was putting pupils in big, round (and startlingly bewildered-looking) eyes and this one had long, wavy hair, while that one had a short, severely straight coif. Hands were square-round and sported digits. Houses had texture of brick or stucco. Trees had dark, elaborate branches beneath the pale of the greenery. I swear on my eyeballs that the kid never once drew a stick figure or even anything remotely resembling one.

One time, when Sam was around three-and-a-half, I was going through a sheaf of papers, trying to organize them. It was the point in time when Biff and I were being extraordinarily, hellishly asshead-like to one another, a time of mental disarray and emotional dismay. Through it all I cocooned Sam and Scout against the shipwreck that was happening in our home. I was the fierce lover and protector and teacher of them that I had always been, but to the tenth degree. I was so intent on making their equilibrium go uninterrupted that I was slapped in the face -and HARD- by the drawing that I found amidst the papers that I was sorting.

It was like no other that Sam had ever crafted, and though it’s been put away for ages, I can still see the sweep of every line and the magic of the details in my mind’s eye. It was a rendering of mother and child done mostly in pale turquoise and a peachy-orange.

Mother, in sweeping columnar robes that began at her head and draped past her feet, was holding a rather large baby who was wrapped papoose-style. The mother had a single strand of blonde hair emerging from her head covering and fixed on her face was a vacant look tinged with sorrow. Her eyes were grey. The baby held in her arms did not cry, but had a look of open sadness reflected in almond-brown eyes and gently downturned mouth. As a matter of fact, it was a look of such profound sadness that I began to shake and get sick to my stomach.

And there (with me, anyway) the battle was over. I resolved to put all the crap in my life to rest and unfortunately, most of it revolved around Biff. There in my life evolved an epiphany and the maxim that “I can be miserable by my fucking self….I don’t need anybody’s grand touch to do so.” And thus, the deceptively simple end to the marriage that was already so perilously close to gnawing itself to the bone. So pat and so simple that the clincher ending my fight to gain ground and hold my family together hinged on a preschooler’s drawing of his honest perceptions.

Let the struggle cease; let there be peace. Let there be peace in whatever way it can raise its weary head and manifest itself.

And there you have it.

I guess all this spill was predicated by a trip to the courthouse this morning. I needed an extra copy of certain divorce papers and while I was standing there waiting on the certified copies to be made I sat at a table, Mathias (ironically) busy scribbling away next to me, and reviewed the file. Well, I SAY I reviewed the file. That suggests that I skimmed it. I did at first, but then things started to catch my eye and I found myself starting at the most appropriate place -the beginning- and reading thoroughly. I sat there intently for nearly an hour (yeah, the file’s that thick….I’ve told you previously that it got really, really ugly before all was said and done) poring over the words of legalese that announced our tearing asunder. I finally closed the file with a weariness that I’ve not felt in a long time and came home to sit quietly and await Sam and Scout’s return from school so that I could make sure that their day was without event…mundane, even.

Sam brought home a very elaborate picture of Spiderman that he gave up his recess break to work on and shared it with me proudly. The outside of his left hand bore smudges of bright crimson and royal blue and a touch of black here and there.

Nobody worked it out »

Don´t be shy. Lay it on me.

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