If I could change one thing about myself – I mean, aside from the size of my upper arms, my ass and my thighs, the ever-deepening lines in my face and the sheer insanity of my hair – it would be my utter inability to create anything. Except clutter, of course. I’ve got that down to a science. Sadly, my artistic prowess peaked when I mastered coloring inside the lines. And, let’s be honest, I only became proficient at that once someone showed me how to trace the picture with a crayon first (thus creating a thick crayon barrier reminder of the lines’ presence).
I am in awe of crafty people. My cousin has two ridiculously artistic daughters. One is a fine arts professor whose paintings are breathtaking; the other is the Martha Stewart meets Mary Poppins kind of stay-at-home mom we all fantasize about having. The crafty side of Martha as opposed to the ruthless side, of course. She’s the kind of girl who’s all ‘I found a piece of felt and a button and made a bicycle with it!’. Truly remarkable. You know how we’d throw a blanket over half of the dining room table (because it wasn’t big enough to cover the whole thing) and pretend it was a fort? Yeah, this is what she made instead.
We only visited her family a handful of times when we were growing up, but I felt like every trip to their house was magical. Still do. They only lived about a half hour away from our cookie-cutter neighborhood, but being at their house felt like being in Tuscany. It’s a big white stucco house with a terra cotta roof, an in-ground swimming pool and acres of gardens – both flower and vegetable – with a view of the rolling hills of…well, Maryland. OK, so it wasn’t Tuscany, but still.
As beautiful as the outside was, the magic happened inside. It was a place where art thrived. The high-ceilinged rooms had drawings, paintings, art supplies and books piled up as far as the eye could see. The giant turned staircase led to the bedrooms, one of which had the most beautiful (and only) mural I had ever seen. The girls had painted a mural of a (Tuscan?) countryside on their bedroom wall! As the daughter of a mother who would burst a brain vessel over a fingerprint on a wall, I was at once enchanted and very afraid that someone was going to get in BIG trouble.
My parents are honest, hardworking, pragmatic, no-nonsense people. In their world, art projects would fall under the category of ‘nonsense’. It’s not that they don’t have an appreciation for art; they enjoy marveling at art as much as the next person. It’s just that they would rather spend their time cooking and cleaning and cleaning some more (in my mother’s case) or watching bad Italian television and soccer ten decibels louder than normal human ears can tolerate (in my father’s case). Each of them went through (mercifully) short-lived forays into the craft world when my sister and I were young. My father went through a bizarre collage phase. He poured over magazines, clipped pictures and glued them onto giant poster boards. I’m not sure what spurred this unusual hobby, but I’m guessing my mother put the kibosh on it because it was getting too messy – what with the little scraps of paper and the mutilated magazines all over the basement. My mother’s arts-and-crafts adventure was limited to a period of several weeks where she briefly became obsessed with making pine-cone wreaths. Pretty sure the pine sap finally sent her over the edge.
Did I ever tell you that my mother dusts her walls? No, seriously. She also mops her kitchen floor at least once a week and pulls out her fridge to mop under it. Every. Single. Time. Her floor is more sanitary than my kitchen table. By far.
In spite of my obvious genetic art deficiency, I once decided to attempt to create something. I went to Michael’s determined to create a thing of beauty. Everyone would oooh! and aaaah! at my hidden talent. It was going to be awesome! Credit card in hand and full of hope and promise, I perused the aisles for inspiration. After about 45 minutes of studying their wares and giving serious consideration to the amount of time and patience the various projects would require (for I have an insatiable need for instant gratification and an acute patience deficiency,) I decided to make a harvest wreath for my front door. I spent another hour gathering up the necessary supplies – 45 minutes of which were spent selecting the perfect autumn-themed silk flowers – and headed to the cash register. I didn’t bat an eye when the cashier told me the total was > $100. It was totally going to be worth it!
Side note: I went with wires as opposed to a glue gun. I am anti-gun. Also, I was afraid I’d burn myself.
I decided not to put off my project for even a day (lest I lose interest and have to stare at the bag of supplies for six months before donating it to Goodwill when Jack wasn’t looking). It was a cold November night. Dr. Zhivago was on TV. Jack, who usually grunts, rolls his eyes and grabs his computer to surf the web when I watch a movie that even hints at romance, actually enjoys Dr. Zhivago. It’s not my favorite, but I had planned on creating my masterpiece before I went to bed and I thought maybe the movie’s score would inspire me in some way. So, I plopped myself down on the floor, spread out my supplies and got to work.
Four hours, one fingernail, 17 cuts, a crippling pain in my back and 1,295 profane words later, my wreath was finished. It was a thing of beauty! I hobbled over to the front door, gently hung it up, closed the door, woke Jack up (he can never make it through the whole movie) and went to bed. The next morning, I was anxious to show Jack my beautiful creation, so I dragged him to the front door:
Me (excitedly yanking the door open): TA-DAAAAAH!
Half of the silk flowers had gotten stuck on the icy window of the storm door and were pulled off when I opened the door. There were wires sticking out all over the place and sad, harvest-gold silk flowers clinging to the window.
That was 17 years ago. I took me about 12 years to get to the point where I didn’t give Michael’s the finger as I drove by. It was an incontrovertible turning point in my life. In that very second, I decided that some are meant to create art and others are meant to purchase art. Guess which one I am.