Monday, June 25, 2007

Living the Dream

Today my son started his second week of art classes at Kendall College's summer classes for kids. He's a wonderful artist already, he's always had a knack for it, and I want to keep on encouraging him to pursue the things he's good at. It was no question of whether or not I wanted to sign him up - three weeks of drawing monsters, one of his favorite subjects after regular cartooning and dinosaurs - I didn't need to ask.

For every class, I have to drive him downtown. I love being downtown. There's a special magic about it that thrills me. Of course, I haven't been downtown in too many big cities, just Denver, Washington D.C., Chicago, and Lima, and I'm not saying that Grand Rapids can compare, but our downtown has similar charm. Parallel parking is a challenge, but once we're out of the car and our feet hit the sidewalk I'm totally into the scene. There's always something going on, there's always interesting people to observe, thinking of Whitman's "blab of the pave."

My son just holds my hand and lets me lead the way. I'm not sure how much he's taking in, but when we arrive at the school entrance, he's captivated by the student art on exhibit in the front lobby and wants to see each painting and sculpture all over again. He asks me questions about how the artist made each work, what the titles are, and what they're supposed to mean. Any of you out there who are art aficionados know that looking at art is one thing and understanding the deeper meaning is another. But I try my best to explain what I think it means. I, too, am thrilled to be there. Taking it all in. I had never been inside Kendall before, until my son took this class.

The whole trip is exciting, right up to when I help him sit at his drawing board and unpack his supplies. He's totally into it. I spoke to his instructor for a few moments, somehow the conversation turning to me sharing that I'd always wanted to attend Kendall but never had. He looked surprised, then asked, "Why didn't you do it?" I didn't have an answer on the tip of my tongue. Where could I begin? He commented that a career in fine arts can be intimidating. I mentioned that I hadn't given it up, but had taken a detour - graduating with my degree in creative writing instead. I told him how I still had it all, my drawings and paintings, and all my art supplies, everything down to the easel. That I had planned to come back to it someday, when my kids were older, when I have more time. We talked a little longer and ended the conversation pleasantly. I said goodbye to my son. As I exited through Kendall's lobby, thinking about my old dream - the career in art I never pursued - those old feelings of bittersweet regret flooded through me, just as fresh and new as they had felt when I was twenty. Would I ever be able to do what I had told the instructor, "I'm going to back to it again when the kids are older"? I had to wonder. Would I ever practice fine art again? Then I couldn't help but remember what Langston Hughes said, and I think he said it best:

"Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow."

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