I’m sitting next to the eight year old on the couch. Her toes are tucked up under me, because it is December and she is wearing a wisp of a summer gown that is about two seasons too small.
She has been working on a drawing of me most of the day, and I don’t think I’m supposed to know. It makes me happy that it is on a plain old spiral notebook of drawing paper and in pencil, foregoing all the fancy gel pens, glitter markers and so forth. She never understands why I want her to just use crayons or watercolors. Pining for the simple, I suppose.
To be drawn by your child is rather humbling, I’m finding. Today at the grocery store, she followed me aisle by aisle, thoughtfully sketching and erasing. Some people feel on edge when they are photographed, and while I’m not particularly anxious about such things, now I think I can relate.
She glances at me sideways once in a while and returns to her task. I think: Wait – I’m better from this angle!
I don’t suffer from poor posture, but the eyes of the fledgling artiste cause me to elongate my neck, straighten my back and erase a cranky look I can feel plastered on my face.
As in life, her scrutiny throws into contrast the most minuscule of my daily decisions. A ball cap and boots at the grocery store seemed comfortable and easy; now I worry that her overarching memory of me from her childhood will be sloppy.
I found my mom’s almond shaped eyes beautiful and hoped mine were similarly shaped. Her skin is as impeccable at 60 as 40. As a child, I noticed that the women in my family have downward-turning mouths, and I was always a bit concerned about looking grumpy or judgmental.
All these things cross my mind as I feel the depth of my child’s scrutiny. I feel just as compelled to capture her beauty and spunk, the exuberant way she leaps from trees and the way her leg length shoots overnight past the hem of jeans purchased mere weeks earlier.
The best i can do to hold each fleeting moment is to sketch her with words. If there is a day years from now when I can partially recollect the goodness of her toes wiggling amicably against me, her stolen glances at the clock as she wonders if we’ll still send her to bed or might have forgotten her, the coziness of a house where his toes and mine are extended on a shared footrest and a baby sleeps serenely in the next room, it’s a start.
It’s clear that every portrait or still-life can only capture a piece of the scene, and it is all ours to interpret.