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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Making valentines

I remember the moment when I realised I wouldn't be collaborating with Mathew Barney on giant installations in Times Square. When I realised that I probably wouldn't ever be returning to art school at all. It was a few minutes after I watched an oblong paper window on a little white stick develop a thin pink line.
"Everything is going to change." I thought.
And, although I was thrilled about having a baby, I hadn't ever really thought much past imagining how good I would look in maternity clothes.
I blame Angelina Jolie. The week I got pregnant was the same week the National Enquirer announced that she would be having twins. On the cover of the magazine she looked round and radiant.
"We'll go through this together," I told her as I waited in line to buy a basketful of candy and one bottle of prenatal vitamins."You and me Angelina."
Once I got past the excitement of a new excuse to shop, I began to think about other ways my life would change.
"Will I still be able to make art?" I asked my friend, a former professional artist who had three children.
She just laughed in my face.
"Sure!" she said."You'll be making art all right! With crayons on two hours of sleep! Ha haha." She wiped the tears of laughter from her eyes, shaking her head at me. "It's better though, I can't explain it, but it is."
"That doesn't sound better! That sounds like a bad movie! A BORING movie!"
"Just wait. Oh and by the way? Get rid of that dog. Once that baby comes you are going to hate the dog."
"No way," I said."I love Lola. She's my widdle baby number one."
My friend shrieked with laughter, again.
"You'll see." she said.
She was on the other side of the experience and it was impossible for me to see the landscape of where I was going until I got there. By then, everything would be altered permanently, forever.
"Oh my God," I told Jeff." I always just assumed I'd be a well known artist, creating masterpieces in my loft and smoking cigarettes in one of my dozens of black turtlenecks. Now I am just going to be the "creative mom" who makes the really good Halloween costumes!"
"I don't see why you can't keep painting," He said.
"No! Everyone says I will be too busy to shower!" I grabbed his arm."Please don't make me move to the suburbs! Please!"
It turns out I had nothing to worry about. After Ruby was born she just slept all the time. I had more time to paint than before, and more motivation.
"I will not be 'just a Mom'" I thought with each stroke. I had to fight against some threatened loss of my identity, like motherhood was something I could fall into and get swallowed up by.
Now that a few years have passed, and Ruby is older, I really do make art with crayons on two hours of sleep sometimes, and it's not so bad. There will be no critique at the end of class. In fact, my audience shrieks with glee at everything I draw for her.
"Draw me a butterfly!" she asks.
We sit on the floor together cross legged, scribbling on giant paper, pouring glitter and glue and sequins onto our creations.
"That's beautiful!' she says.
"What next?" I ask her.
"A castle! Then a princess!"
"You do it too," I tell her, wondering if she will grow up and want to be an artist like I did.
On Thursday night after Ruby's first ballet class we were alone, Jeff was working, so we made a fire and watched Coraline while we cut out hearts from pink and red paper( Ruby's looked more lumpy, more anatomically correct, actually)
We taped the hearts to long strings and hung dozens of them from the ceiling. Then we transformed the record player into a spinning red lightbox.
"Mommy, now you can be my valentine!" she cried and hugged me tight.

My oldest friend, who i have loved since i met her on the first day of fourth grade, is two months pregnant.
"Is everything going to change?" she asked me on the phone. "Will I still be myself?"
"No. Yes. You won't care."
"Tell me, seriously, be honest-Is it Hell?"
I cackled with glee.
"Yes. It's like going to war. I cannot overestimate the pain in the ass that awaits you."
"I shouldn't have asked."
" But it's also amazing! You'll see. I can't explain it. Oh and by the way? Get rid of your dogs."