Last night, I removed all of the scattered items from the dining room table. I wiped it off, got out my supplies, and set up the ironing board. I got my glass of water and placed it on the side table, realizing the sacred act I just performed was one my mother did hundreds of times growing up.
Throughout my childhood, I’d watch her cut out patterns, sew curtains, design costumes, doodle, and help with school projects all at the dining room table. All family life circled around that wood slab.
I listened to an episode of the Levar Burton Reads podcast recently and in it Levar talked about a formative time in his life. When he was in the third grade, his teacher would leave him in charge of the class by having him read a book while she went to go fix herself her afternoon cup of tea. It helped him understand the responsibility of telling a good story and later in his life he realized this teacher saw something in him that he didn’t quite understand at the time. This formed who he is today.
It’s interesting to think about the formative moments and people that guide and mentor you to your passions and bring our your talents.
I cleaned off our dining room table to work on my family’s themed halloween costumes. I’ve rummaged through the supplies of many failed hobbies over the past years to create our costumes. But are they really failed hobbies? The watercolor supplies, the quilting phase, the embroidery floss, the ginormous scrapbooking tote: these are all pretty important pieces in my creative tapestry that have helped build the business that we have today and the person I am today.
But the most important thread in my creativity is my mom. During my formative years, she gave me a safe space to create and experiment. She let me use her sewing machine to create clothes for our cats, she thought it was great when I wanted to knock a little patch of sod out of the yard to try to grow a few pumpkins one year, and she sat through countless hours of my homemade movies. I was lucky that I got to grow up where there were no boundaries to stretch my creativity.
I think about this as I watch my own child develop his interests and creativity. I see him hook up toy tractors to toy wagons with ribbons, yell at imaginary pets to jump on pretend trucks, and make lego sets all on his own. I go through sad phases as I don’t think he’ll ever take an interest in art or music or really anything that doesn’t have wheels, I worry he’ll be into heavy machinery for all eternity, which I understand isn’t a bad thing. We need people to be into heavy machinery…otherwise how are things built? Last month at his annual dr.’s check-up, the nurse asked if he could draw a person, I told them sadly no, he was still too young. But what I really wanted to say is, “no I’ve tried to create an environment where he can explore all creativity and interests but he won’t because FARMS. AND TRACTORS. Will I ever get to turn him into the kid that is genuinely curious about all things in life?”
The nurse simply smiled and said, “Let’s see if he can,” and handed him a pen and told him to draw mommy. He scratched out a rugged circle, an upside down U representing hair dangling over the circle, and two dots for eyes. I stared in awe at a primitive portrait of myself. Is this how my mom felt when she saw there was more potential in me when all I wanted was just volleyball for all eternity and did she ever wonder if I’d ever be curious about all things in life?
Levar Burton said in his podcast that the teacher who asked him to occupy the class by reading was “an early example of someone who saw me. Who saw my value, something I was good at, a talent, and employed it.” I see values in my son that will take him awhile to understand. My mom saw things in me that took me awhile to understand.
But sometimes it takes the act of doing a task you’ve seen done so many times before to realize these values have been in you all along and you should thank the people who have seen these values from the beginning.
So thanks, mom, it goes with my bathing suit.