A funny thing just happened. The week was grueling in a subtle sort of way. A sneaky tired bitterness at the end of the day. Looking sallow and tired in a navy blue cardigan. I sent the kids to my parents house for a sleepover. They went quite gleefully – barely glancing back at their sallow mother, even as I danced in the driveway, waving our small dog around in the air like some fat, fur-bearing baton. Leo looked distracted. Olive appeared to be smiling, but in retrospect it may have been a simpering sort of half-smile. I should probably stop trying so damn hard to make these kids love me. At this point, they do or they don’t. Or they do sometimes. I think that is probably the case. In their hearts of heart, they are one with me, their mother. But, really, I seem to irritate them far too much for them to feel much more than a fleeting fondness for me most days. A fondness that is compromised by the simplest of juice cups. “I can’t stand orange! I didn’t want ice! You’re ruining my whole day! My whole life!”
These Children. They Are Mine.
So, those children that are mine have gone to their grandparents for the night and I opted to savor the childless early evening (a rarity) by painting. I gather my brushes, still soaking in the murky water of earlier painting, my board of sketches waiting to see if paint suits them…I walk around the house carrying these things, the brushes clattering against the side of their glass, the four-foot board like a rudder as I swiftly go upstairs, downstairs, through all the rooms – looking for my makeshift palette, my IHOP to-go tray.

Suddenly, it dawned on me. My mother had thrown it away. She thought it was garbage. She saw the IHOP box and it’s contents, a swirl of buff titanium, antique brass, Higgins blue and heavy body white. And she thought it was some sort of disgusting leftovers situation. I called her, “Did you throw away my IHOP palette?”

“Oh my god…” she says.

And in that moment I realized that I wasn’t upset about the loss of the plastic tray or the almost unusable paint it held. No, I was offended that my mom thought I had some nasty rotting food casually laying around my house.

She called back a few minutes later, “It’s in the back of my car.”

“Why is it in the back of your car?”

“I don’t know why it’s in there. I guess I just put it in there. I didn’t even know what it was.”

This makes no sense to me. Either my mother is senile, or she was sneaking my trash to her house to dispose of. She does that sometimes. Comes over, snags a bag of cobwebbed shoes off the back porch and ferrets it away, to her rural trash route, or to the failing thrift store on Hwy 74A.

She thinks I can’t take care of myself. It didn’t even occur to her that the IHOP tray may have something to do with art.

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