Morning mural painting at Randall School stretch way beyond the scheduled noon ending time. A tryptic on the retaining wall that surrounds the gym equipment that so many of us worked for so long to become a reality. Now, five years (Really, five years?) after the ‘new’ playground equipment was assembled, there will be art behind it.
The day dawned unpromisingly gray and I was so concerned that there would be very few people to paint that I texted Kati, the organizing teacher, that we would be a little late. When we arrived, however, there was a bevy of painters young and old applying color to the walls. It was noisy, frantic and busy. I held my breath as we dove into the fray. Julia has not always been able to handle happy, noisy crowds, no matter how friendly.
She did fine.
More than fine. She was home and among family.
She picked up a brush, detached herself from me, followed Kati’s instructions about what and where to paint and started. Three hours later when the end of the day was called, she was still painting. She was one of a very few kids who painted to the end. She never took a break. One of the artists who designed the mural painted next to her for awhile and comment to Julia that she was doing a good job. “I know,” said Julia, not out of arrogance. This is her work and she does it well.
(When people ask me, as they do at our annual IEP meetings, of my expectations for Julia’s future, I always answer, sometimes haltingly waiting for someone to tell me that I cannot have these dreams, that I expect her to be doing art. In Italy we heard and read about the studios of the masters, where younger artists prepared canvases or stone, painted backgrounds or did rough carvings preparing for the master’s work. Essentially, that was what we did yesterday. What would it be like for Julia to be apprenticed to some master one day? She was a valuable member of the paint team yesterday. Could she do that every day and learn? More important, could she do that and be happy?)
We were greeted and folded into teachers and staff and parents with whom I worked on PTO. I fell into many easy conversations, catching up, moving forward. Asking about second and third children who I had known as wee ones. Explaining Julia’s middle school which is an alternative to the larger feeder school that most kids attends after Randall. I listened to reports from the high school. I had no lack of partners in conversation.
Middle school has not encouraged the same level of parent participation and “my” middle school friends are teachers and aides. Although incredibly active in Julia’s education, I do little, almost nothing to add to the community at the school. And yesterday I saw the community, that is certainly not lost to me, in whose arms we rested when our family life was in heart breaking transition. I miss the connection.
A few people even told me that I looked very well. One woman who I think I saw every day for four year, told me I looked younger. Well, I never looked worse than during those Randall years. I didn’t ask how old I looked or how ragged. Just a thank you, m’am. And immediately I wonder how would we have walked through our days without such community.
We were dressed in painting clothes which did not get too dirty. After painting, I expected to do a few errands before stopping home to change for church, but painting ran late, we dropped off a kid who needed a ride home, then to the library to return some overdue material, find a new star wars novel and pick up a book by a new friend. After that, a stop at the eye glasses store to have the new lens from the Chicago specialist put into existing frames only to be told the lens were too big, then the grocery for pepitas. By this time we were in great need of lunch and I was giving up on stopping home. We arrived at church in painting clothes. We are by no means a formal house of worship but the slightly paint stained sweat shirt and old jeans strikes a new level for informality for me.
The service yesterday centered around our annual Black Lives Matter weekend. On any day, this is a gut wrenching, soul touching, deep questioning time. Combined with the early morning loving community, the work ahead appears massive and obvious. How to do the work is still so much in question but the end result, a fuller community painting murals together, children laughing and putting color to shapes, adults (and my Julia) cleaning up the edges, clarifying shapes. I know what was missing in the morning’s gathering and possibly what is missing in middle school. I am tender with anticipation.
At the library, I voted. I agree with the push to vote early and I am tickled that it can be as convenient as the branch library on a busy Saturday, but afterwards I felt a wee bit sad not to be at my regular poling place with its official roles and sign ins to cast my ballot for the first woman to be president. After the research on Antionette Dakin Leach and suffrage from twenty years ago, I wanted to invoke our founding mothers as I filled in my ballot. Perhaps silly, but I wanted it to be holy which didn’t really happen at a busy, humming library. But I voted. Proudly. Aware that Antionette and the women who worked hard and long for this privilege were sitting on my shoulder and dancing wildly.