“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”
― Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island
Most mothers, in the midst of raising young children, can’t possibly fathom what the house will be like when the kids are older. What would life be like without having to cuss (softly, so you don’t wake the kids!) when you step bare-footed on a lego in the dark?
The clutter of children has a way of taking over your life. Even their chosen decor takes center stage. Your bathroom, instead of being elegantly appointed for guests, now rocks a shower curtain with super heroes, or sea creatures with polka-dots. Kids know what they like, and we love our kids, so their tastes and opinions tend to take center stage for several years.
When our daughter, Olivia, was 4, I painted her tiny little bedroom to suit her little-girl fancies. She requested pink walls and a soft blue ceiling with puffy white clouds interspersed with glow in the dark stars. The main focus was the mural on one entire wall which I managed to complete and unveil at her 4th birthday party. (Hey, it’s cool when Mom is an artist…You can just pick out any picture in your Disney books and she’ll recreate it on your wall!!) Her bedroom wall danced with dolphins, unicorns, Dalmatian puppies, fairies, Ariel and Flounder, and Mother Willow (from her favorite movie at the time, “Pocahontas”). All of her little friends were jealous and she was perfectly satisfied.
Flash forward 6 or 7 years. Olivia was now a camouflage-wearing pre-teen who could hold her own with all the neighborhood boys. She was a horse nut and could not abide pink walls for one more second! She chose two shades of “hurt your eyes” brilliant blue and repainted her bedroom walls and trim herself. (Dad & Mom were allowed to help with the hard bits, like taping the windows!)
Except for the mural…we were all a little sentimental about it and it escaped the redecoration frenzy; though she hinted repeatedly that it would be awesome if I could redo the parts that were no longer cool (like Ariel and the Dalmatians). Olivia sewed her own curtains (covered with horses), recovered her chair with the same horsey fabric and even repainted her desk in matching, vibrant blue. She adored every bit of it and was very content.
(For those of you thinking we were crazy…We were a home-school family and encouraged all sorts of crafty, self-expression. Sewing and painting were great skills to learn, and after all, it was her domain and if she wanted to live in a room that looked like the cast of the Smurfs had exploded …so be it!)
Flash forward again a few years. Our son was headed off to college halfway across the country and was vacating his MUCH bigger room. It adjoined the old play-room and suddenly all this lovely space was available to our newly teen-age girl. Her furniture and prize possessions were transported in the blink of an eye; almost before her big brother was out the door. The little blue room was abandoned without a backward glance.
I had my nostalgic Mommy moments looking around her vacated bedroom. The reality of one child leaving the nest and the other growing up so quickly hit me between the eyes. Everyone assumed I would repaint and make a cute little guest room; but buried somewhere under those years of stepping on Legos and relegating my easel to the corner of the dining room, was an artist on a quest for a space of her own. I claimed that tiny blue room as MINE!
I didn’t bother to repaint…somehow the blue fit my spirit and mood of the moment. And honestly, I didn’t want to waste any time painting walls when I could be really painting!
I took down the horse curtains and enjoyed a sunlit view of our yard. It didn’t seem to matter that the windows had stained glass peace-sign decals on them! I moved my easel, drafting table and art paraphernalia upstairs. I tacked up my current sketches and inspirations, plugged in my boombox and I was in business. Color me happy!
The light wasn’t fantastic; the space was small and it was REALLY blue…but it was mine, and best of all, it had a door. I could escape the busy-ness of daily life and a home business during those little odd, in-between moments and get completely lost. I wasn’t in the midst of family traffic. I was able to shut the door and actually find privacy. I didn’t have to put everything away so that we could use the dining room table in order to eat supper. I could leave incomplete projects out and work on them whenever the mood hit or time allowed. It was heavenly! (and Blue!)
I reveled in that little Art Room for over 3 years. I produced a number of paintings there that I’m very proud of, and spent countless happy hours lost in color. There was just enough room for our dogs to lie at my feet, and for a bean-bag in the corner for Olivia to come in and visit. I loved it there. Just writing about it makes me smile…
Family circumstances changed. Health concerns cut into my art time. The blue room stayed hidden behind a closed-door and projects gathered dust. Eventually all my supplies were packed up and unfinished paintings were consigned to the closet. The tiny room became a guest room for a short time, and then I moved away.
The house stayed in the family, so I can visit the blue room every now and then. Believe it or not, it is still blue and still adorned with that mural from long-ago. Nobody has the heart to paint over it just yet, though it will probably happen soon.
It is still used as a sewing room and occasional guest room, so I can go up and sit on the bed and remember all the life that happened inside those brilliantly colored walls. Our daughter dreamed her childhood there. I can close my eyes and feel the countless stories read, songs sung, and games played. I can hear her little girl laughter and feel her good-night hugs.I myself dreamed many things there. The dreams of a mother, wife, hopeful artist…the very walls are saturated with hope, contentment and vivid plans. It is a room to get lost in.
I haven’t had the luxury of an entire room dedicated to dreams and creativity since I moved; but I have discovered the joys of setting up a seasonal art studio on the front porch of our little cabin in the woods. You couldn’t ask for a more serene view, and I am kept company by jays, squirrels, deer and our two dogs. Even when it is raining, the front porch is a fabulous place to be lulled by the creative muse of nature.
Someday I’ll have another art studio. I’m often planning and building in my head and my next studio will have more space, better lighting, and probably won’t be blue! Hopefully it will quickly be filled with all the inspiration and contentment of our cherished little room with the brilliant colored walls.
I’ve come to realize that “the little blue room” is not just a place. It is really code in the secret language of my heart for a state of mind. And I’m finding that state of mind in so many unexpected places…even just sitting on the front porch with my dogs.
So incredibly well said. You are an artist inside and out. I love you and thank you for a year and a smile.
Incredible!! I sat in the room as you told the story. I can feel the pains of watching our children grow and leave the precious little times behind. When I think of what the little blue room feels like, it feels like coming home. Perfecttion….yet again 🙂
Thank you, Libbey! I love you too and cherish our friendship so much!