Long before it became my “living,” it was my life. Before I could write, I colored in the feelings jumping around my heart with off-brand crayons, in the coloring books my mom purchased at Olson’s Supermarket. As Mrs. Bergstrom handed out words at Washington Elementary, I added them outside the lines of the images on the page. With increasing confidence in heart and hand, I graduated to blank sheets of paper, creating my own images, my own poems. The silent urging of closeted dolls, (Big Suzy and Malinda), told me to go show my mother. And I did. Every phrase. Every drawing. Because she caught me, with guaranteed safety and wild approval, each time I dared to fling myself from the cliff of my bedroom floor, feelings-first, straight into her outreached arms, waving my newest creation that revealed my entry-level heart…this…this is the reason she was always my first set of eyes — and would be, the rest of her life.
As I began to sell my work, she had the greatest response ever. When I would complete a piece and show her, she would say, “That’s going to sell immediately!” She said it as a compliment, for sure, but also with the slight melancholy of “let’s never let it go.” (My safety net. Those outstretched arms.) When I would make the sale, with the widest of prideful smiles, she would say, “Ooooh, no….” and we heart-giggled in delight.
Pablo Picasso said, “We are all born artists, the problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.” My mother never let me forget. As I put new pieces up for sale on my website, I smile, hearing a faint passing giggle from the sky, “Oooooh, no…” (Still. Those outstretched arms.)