Mommy van Gogh
By Melissa Face
“Draw,” says Evan, my nineteen-month-old. His tiny hand grasps the red crayon and moves it back and forth across the lined paper. I clap for him, tell him he is doing a great job, and his round face lights up. He is proud. “Draw. Draw. Draw,” he repeats.
Evan continues marking the paper with the red crayon, and I keep reinforcing how wonderful his artwork is. And it is wonderful. Evan is my firstborn; so, by nature, everything he does is just wonderful.
Then, Evan does the unthinkable. He takes the red crayon and the notebook and shoves them both in my direction. He looks at me with hopeful eyes and says, “Draw, Mama.”
“Oh no,” I think to myself. “I was afraid of that.” I have dreaded this moment for a long time. I am terrible at artwork. I have always been terrible at artwork.
In elementary school, my classmates skipped down the breezeway when it was time for art class. I hung back at the end of the line and walked slowly. Less time in class meant less opportunity to embarrass myself with another horrific creation.
Throughout the years, I painted, sculpted and drew as required. And since it was elementary school, I was given a passing grade on my creations. I brought home numerous stick figure drawings, paint smears, misshapen globs of clay and papier-mâché distortions. And like any good parent would, my mom and dad praised my artwork and displayed it somewhere in the house.
I remember making a butterfly in Bible school, a candle at youth camp, and a cloth heart at mission friends. My parents lovingly placed each item on the desk in their study. I shuddered when I walked past their little desktop gallery. I knew I wasn’t an artist.
I am thirty-three years old now, and little has changed in terms of my artistic abilities. I have not progressed past a stick figure drawing; I can’t cut out a heart shape from a folded piece of paper, and I am incapable of neatly folding the corners of a gift-wrapped package.
But today, my toddler wants me to draw. He insists that I draw. So, to avoid letting him down, I pick up the red crayon and begin. I draw a smiley face. Evan laughs. Then, I draw a sun in the corner of the paper. Evan keeps smiling. “Draw, Mama,” he repeats.
I get braver and attempt one of my trademark stick figure people. “Da-Da!” he squeals. With a little more confidence, I draw another stick figure next to the first one. It has a triangle dress and long lines of hair. “Ma-Ma!” Evan squeals again and claps his hands. Clearly, my drawings are better than I thought.
This is not as unpleasant as I feared. In fact, I am starting to have a little bit of fun. I draw a picture of our dog, Tyson, beside the two figures. “Horsey!” Evan shouts. Close enough.
For the next few minutes, Evan and I engage in our own version of Pictionary. I attempt to draw something that he recognizes, and he shouts out the object’s name. Sometimes I am successful, and sometimes I fall short. But regardless of the quality of the finished product, each of my attempts is met with an appreciative giggle or squeal.
Today, I am an artist.
Now I know that I do possess a little artistic talent. I had just never met with my ideal audience until the other day. I am meant to draw only for the non-judgmental, inexperienced, completely open-minded toddler. My work is meant to be displayed on etch-a-sketches, magnadoodles, and coloring books throughout my home. I am particularly creative with stickers, magic markers and of course, red crayons.
I am an artist. I am Mommy van Gogh.
About this writer
- Melissa Face lives in Virginia with her husband, son and dog. Her stories and essays have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul and Cup of Comfort. E-mail Melissa at firstname.lastname@example.org.