Fun fact, when you buy art off of my site, you’re getting used art. Most of the time when I do a painting, the piece ends up on my bookshelf until it’s time to go to a show or fair. When show season ends, however, the painting doesn’t, and, having a fairly small studio/office, ￼I hang the surplus art in our halls and rooms, and it lives there until Etsy makes the little cash register sound on my phone.
￼Sometimes I feel a little sorry for my husband. Sure, plenty of wives come up with redecorating ideas here and there, but living with an artist, he often comes home or wakes up to a new house. On good days, it becomes a rotating art gallery, and every bit of wall space is fair game. On the more chaotic days, there may be plans brewing for a better way to use that guestroom at the end of the hall (a bigger studio? or maybe not).￼
Whether the chaos is a small rotation or a major room organization, my husband’s defining goodnatured smile will appear, reminding me of my mom’s observation, “You found yourself a good man.”
I’m guessing that next to a lot of productive artists is someone with a good natured smile.
Seven-year-old Thing2 and his thirteen-year-old brother Jack take turns sitting next to me when we go to Sunday breakfast at Bob’s Diner in Manchester, VT. Thing2 is still at the age where he’s easily entertained by shiny objects and it was my wedding ring caught that his attention the other morning.
Waiting for our drinks to arrive, Thing2 grabbed my hand from the table and began inspecting the rings, twist and turning my finger. The Big Guy told him the story of the stone (they came from his grandfather’s ring) and then of his own gold band (also owned by his grandfather).
Thing2 tried to pull off my ring for close inspection, but I stiffened my finger and the ring would not come off. It would twist, but it would not move up my finger.
“It won’t come off,” exclaimed Thing2. The server had now brought our drinks.
“It’s not supposed to come off,” I said.
“What is it.. cursed?” he asked turning to ancient pop culture and Ringo Star’s ruby ring in the move Help to explain the phenomenon on my finger. Even Jack had to laugh at the question. Our server took our order and walked away giggling.
Thing2 was now wedged between my arm and body. Sun flooding through the plate glass window bathed Jack and the Big Guy on the opposite side of the table. It was just an ordinary Sunday with nothing planned except wood stacking and hanging out around the homestead. I had his answer.
It’s the Big Guy’s birthday. Today our family is celebrating him, but I’ve also come to see this day as the demarcation of the seasons.
It’s not just because his birthday coincides with the second day of fall, but because his favorite birthday dessert is not cake. It’s apple pie, preferably made with apples from our own tree. It’s only after a few cold snaps that the apples start to take on a sweeter taste, and the first, tart bite, softened by the streusel topping, evokes all the soon-to-be wood-stove warmed evenings, homemade breads and stews, and evenings snuggled on the couch. So now, celebrating the Big Guy is really a celebration of a season of family enjoying family. And who better to inspire it?
I have come to believe that in many marriages there is one partner who has their head in the clouds and another who helps keep both people anchored to the ground. Anyone who knows me knows that my head is not in clouds; it’s often in another dimension. No one knows this better than the Big Guy, so, last night, when I casually moved the new dark green shrub to the edge of the counter as I unloaded the grocery bags, he raised an eyebrow but didn’t ask what had prompted the purchase.
The plant was just the end of a journey I had started two days ago on the first sunny afternoon since the official start of spring. For the first time since I’d claimed my Mom-Cave at the back of the house, I minded that my cozy winter cocoon lacks a view of the impending greening of our yard. Our house is earth-sheltered, and, while all the bedrooms and family areas look towards the forest and fields that border our yard, the bathrooms and the study are tucked into the back part of the house, which is buried under three feet of dirt.
All of this made my first thought – how could I install a window – just a tad irrational. When I returned this dimension at five A.M. the next morning, I considered other options as I wrote. Taking over the one unoccupied bedroom/winter laundry room isn’t feasible for the longterm (the boys are getting old enough for their own rooms). Then I though about moving to our well-lit, but unheated, attic. My mind churned as I mentally figured out heating and decor for the space. The Big Guy has plans for most of that space, however, so I nixed the idea. Then came a stroke though, sadly, not of genius. It was the stroke I envisioned the Big Guy experiencing when I finished pitching my next plan – remodeling the upstairs and the downstairs with a workshop, study and guest-area down and family bedrooms up.
The Big Guy popped his head in as he was heading out to work, bringing me back to the ground. I posted my posts, got the kids to school and returned to the Mom-Cave for the next 8 hours of my Work-At-Home-Job. My 3 minute dance sessions – my latest attempt to get more movement (not exercise, just movement) – reminded me there was another advantage to working in a room without windows. Maybe I could find a way to make it feel less claustrophobic for the summer.
I googled windowless offices. Google gave me white offices (straight from the pages of the Neat & Childless Magazine), walls with trompe l’oeil murals, mirrors built into reclaimed windows, and plants. I remembered the houseplant cemetery we call a forest and took closer look at the mirrors, stumbling on to a gorgeous and, most important, affordable distressed window with a mirror behind it. I saved the page just as the Big Guy got home with the boys.
“Look at this mirror,” I said, not mentioning my other decorating ideas. “Don’t you think it would brighten up the office?”
“I guess do,” replied my husband with practiced composure. I don’t have hard scientific data on this, but it’s my suspicion that nothing strikes fear into the heart of a married man like the words, “I have an idea”. To I decided not to reveal my endgame (however much it had shrunk), and the conversation ended.
The next afternoon, I announced I needed to get some groceries after work and headed into town. The mirror was still in mind, but as I guided my cart through the aisles, I wandered into the nursery area. The aroma of dozens of Easter lilies and hyacinths assaulted me. I explored, remembering the plant idea and started hunting for something that looked like it would do well in extreme shade. A few minutes later, I emerged from a corner with a nameless plant whose directions to keep it out of sun and not overwater reassured me it might not join its predecessors in the woods as compost.
When I had the last of the groceries put away, I picked up the plant to take it to its new home in the Mom-Cave.
“What do you think?” I asked. “I just thought the room could use a little green.” The Big Guy just nodded and got to work on the latest incarnation of his famous pasta sauce. After +16 years of being the anchor in our marriage, he knows that a cigar may just be a cigar, but a plant is never just a plant.
My younger son dances. He sings. He has a crate full of costumes – including a rainbow wig, several superhero outfits and a tutu – and a puppet theatre complete with curtains sewn by his grandmother. He loves dressing up and taking on all sorts of personae. He is the sum of his arts – joy in a skinny six-year-old package.
We make him leave the costumes at home (on school days anyway), but he brings his joy everywhere he goes. He dances when he walks. He falls in love with people at the drop of hat and is still at the age where he wants to marry everyone with whom he falls in love.
Most of the time his antics and his expressions of love – for his parents, his brother, the waitresses at Bob’s – produce smiles from people around us. It’s hard not to smile at someone who’s compulsively happy. But every once in a while I’ll catch another adult watching his gaiety, and I can see a question forming behind the gaze.
I know the look and the question. The look is judgement warring with joy. The question is the wondering if the gaiety is evidence that our dancing, affectionate child is gay. I don’t know. I also don’t care.
I have seen and heard this story since I was in high school. Several of my closest friends came out to our circle of friends before and after graduation. Some came to the realization that they were gay very early in life. Some had supportive parents. Others lived in the shadow of projection (once with a violent result) because certain mannerisms or affinities were proof to others that they were gay long before they had considered the question themselves.
I would like to say that I was always mature and supportive. With my male friends I remembered it made no difference. With my best friend, I am sorry to say, I was less mature, mainly because she was suddenly dating and someone else was monopolizing her time. At the time I wasn’t adult enough to remember I had done the exact same thing to her a year earlier. The one thing I do remember, however, is that who my friends dated didn’t change how I saw them because they were still the same loving people who had accepted me for all my flaws as we went through the high school gauntlet together.
Today, as I’m watching the news, waiting to see how the Supreme Court is going to rule on marriage equality in California, I’m thinking about our journeys. Some of my friends are still single. Some have had commitment ceremonies – two couples the same year the Big Guy and I were married – and are still happily married themselves. Our journeys have been different, but the parallels are still there.
We all wanted to fulfill our potentials. We all wanted to love and be loved. And we each wanted to be part of a family of our choosing. It’s the same thing I want for both my kids. But, most of all, I want them to have the same chance at happiness that I have had – regardless of the person they find to love. So today, to me, this issue isn’t about politics. It’s about my family.