Where do your children get their innate talents? Even in jest, I can’t claim my sons got their talents from me.
My oldest son Richard turns 30 years old tomorrow. He was this perfect little boy, entrusted to my care. He was sunny, happy, with beautiful green eyes, and a smile for everyone. We could take him into places where children are generally not welcome, like upscale restaurants, because he would sit contentedly in his high chair, chew on an orange slice, and flirt with the servers. The teens at the youth group adopted him as the team mascot – everyone wanted to hold him, and clamored for babysitting rights. We gave him the nickname “Angel Baby.”
When he was barely old enough to talk, Richard picked up his first crayon and started drawing. Back when computer printouts came on thick stacks of perforated folded reams, he would fill pages with stick figures and little houses. That phase didn’t last long. By the time he was two years old, and we sat down together to watch E. T. The Extraterrestrial (seeing that he was a bit frightened at the first appearance of E. T., I explained that it was ‘sort of an ugly dog, very nice but ugly’, which calmed him immediately), Richard was drawing more life-like figures. In fact, he could not stand to not be drawing. His first depiction of the movie showed a recognizable alien, but with cross-hatching across the entire picture. When I asked about the lines, he explained it was the lines on E.T.’s face. Remember the scene where E.T. is about to go home, and the grating slowly raises to close the door? The grating cast cross-hatched shadows. My three-year old son observed that, and drew them. He would come home from outings to the store or the park, and immediately head for pencil and paper. He figured out drawing shadows and light, and started put a bit of perspective into his drawings, before he started kindergarten. Which he didn’t like at first, because they didn’t let him draw all day.
When he was 19, we went to Paris and London for a family trip. He walked to Notre Dame cathedral one night, and made pencil sketches of the landmark under the starlight and street lamps. When we returned home, he turned his sketch into a large chalk-on-black, which I have framed and hanging in my office. This isn’t my favorite (which is an Impressionist acrylic hanging in my home), but new visitors to my office never fail to comment on it. “How did he make those trees look like they are rustling in the wind?” When I asked Richard that, he said “I just draw what I see.” Oh, duh. Why didn’t all of us talentless dweebs think of that?
He also sculpts. He also writes. In high school, he competed in the Academic Decathlon, and won medals in speech, interviewing, and other areas. He plays French horn. He made a perfect score on the ASVAB test, which caused the Navy to beg him into the nuclear sub program. (I can take partial credit for that, as the tests are verbal and mechanical. No creativity required!)
So I remain in awe of my sons: they have talent, brains, good looks, kind hearts. They are gentle souls. They seek and find good people to be their friends and loved ones. When one of your children reaches a milestone, it can make you think back about their lives and wonder everything slipped by so quickly. I was paying attention, but his childhood still slipped away from me. I miss that, but I enjoy this adult.
Happy birthday, Angel Baby.