Monday, August 28, 2006

making memories

I'm up before the dawn's cracking today, 4:00 am. I have an unusual art job to do, and I wanted to get to the site early. A young woman called me two days ago to ask if I might know someone who would do a nursery mural. That isn't unusual, but the thing was-I have the space of one week, starting today. People that know how I work know this is not a problem. I have planned to do it in one day. But the reason I have only a week is because the mother-to-be is out of town with her husband, and he wanted to surprise his wife. I still do not remember the connection between the woman who called me and this couple, but she did tell me these folks were approaching middle age (late thirties) and this was their first child. She also told me the pregnancy had been very difficult up to this point, and the child may not live, or may be handicapped. The more she shared on the phone and on our ride to the house, the more convinced I became that I should take the job. We pulled up to this brand new, huge, beautiful home and my contact fumbled with keys and a timed alarm system. I sort of felt out of my league until I walked in, and the sense of "someone" and warmth filled the home, even though the owners were not there. I looked at the nursery and decided I wanted to be a part of this house.

My daughter rented a movie, "Everything is Illuminated" and I watched the whole film and a part of it three times. Elijah Wood gets top billing as Jonathan Foer, but the actor who gave the film it's life and heart was Eugene Hutz. He portrayed a young Ukrainian man, Alex, enthralled with all things American, though his command of English was rather unusual. He becomes Jonathan's translator (of course, no one questions why Elijah Wood's American character doesn't speak Russian) when this man travels to the Ukraine in search of his grandfather's home town. The story has an incredible ending, and a very delicate balance of comedy, whimsy and deeply poignant moments. The journey's end was totally unexpected. Jonathan is a collector of family memorabilia, and a photograph of his grandfather, Safran, and an unidentified woman move him to make this search. The title comes from a statemant that Alex makes, that everything is illuminated in the light of the past.

This was on my mind as I decided to take the mural job. As an artist, somehow it is so important for me to be a part of people's memories, to leave behind a trail that someone may follow as life changes. Alex asked Jonathan why he collects, and he said, "Because I'm afraid I'll forget things". If this child lives, one of the first memories he will form is of his surroundings in the nursery. And I hope that he will remember the painted cows, chickens, kitty cats, dogs, trees, farmyard and grass surrounding the crib. I pray they will help him to be happy and contented, and one day when he's in college or grown, remember the house he grew up in. Maybe he will marry and have a child, and want to give his child things he once had. The preciousness of memory is all we have when time and things in our lives pass by. I want to create all the memories I can for someone to collect and pass on to future generations. We need to live our present lives illuminated by the past.


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