A child sees everything, looks straight at it, examines it, without any preconceived idea; most people, after they are about eleven or twelve, quite lose this power, they see everything through a few preconceived ideas which hang like a veil between them and the outer world.
Today is the anniversary of my niece, Olivia’s birth. She’s turning 8.
8 years ago, I sat outside a delivery room in Springfield, IL, and cried my eyes out. Mainly because my sister wouldn’t let me in the room and I feared I’d never get to see a live birth. I didn’t foresee having children of my own, so I thought this was the closest I’d ever get to that experience. But she wasn’t having it. So I sat outside the door and cried. For myself.
I got in the door later, when Olivia had opened her own door on the world. She was really little. Too little for me to want to touch much. That was the extent of my thoughts at that time. And her heart was beating erratically, so they had to keep the sound of the beat on a speaker, radiating through the room. That was my first solid memory of her presence — sleeping near the window that night, listening to the sound of her heart.
I spent the first year of her life in a house with her and my sister. My thoughts at that time were: I think raising a child is at once both the absolute hardest AND easiest thing in existence. Everything sucked. The diapers the bottles, the non-sleeping, the crying… Also – everything was awesome. Magical. Adorable. Delightful, etc.
She walked onto the planet and turned our worlds upside down. She took a family that had done little more than fight (and whose vicinity I had avoided for YEARS) and turned us into a 4-man band. One day, when she was in her little ‘bouncer’ on the floor, someone started stomping….and like a storm rising, soon the room shook with our adaptation of ‘We Will Rock You’. It was, in a word: incredible.
I don’t know when we noticed she was crafting and coloring around the clock. When we started seeing a touch more talent than we expected in her drawings. Her work was influenced by an expertise. (This was by no means a shock, as her mother has some serious artistic tendencies herself.)
So these last few years, we have urged her onward. Most of her gifts (birthday, holidays) are simply tools for creation — Hobby Lobby is her #1 favorite place in the world. She awakes every morning and heads to her easel, or grabs a canvas and sits on the bed, while Scooby Doo is on in the background. Many times, she won’t come to the phone when I call — if she’s in the middle of something, she must stand by it until her vision is complete.
She’s an Artist. Me, my mom, my dad and my sister — we show off her work and give her feedback, always exclaiming “What a little artist” or “What a great artist” she is. I hereby promise to spend the rest of my life continuing that. Telling her every day. Reminding her that her essential artist is an important part of who she is and that it should not be ignored, whether it always be exclaimed or not.
Calling oneself an artist seems huge. Gigantic. Too big for the britches. I would NEVER call myself an ‘artist’, I have a hard time even typing out the stake I won’t claim. I don’t feel any bit an artist — it sounds romantic, high-reaching, otherworldly and everything I could ever want to be known as….. But someone whose opinion I adore recently deemed me one. Said that it was seeping out of my skin. It actually wasn’t Olivia. But Olivia has influenced me, and inspires in me awe and wonder…and I hope to continue on my path as well – crafting words that attempt to recreate the feelings I’ve found.
Today also happens to correspond with two landslide happenings in her artist’s life, as on this day, she has both her first public Art Show, and officially sold her first piece. (For $50 — which, she requested in the form of….a Hobby Lobby gift card.)
So Happy Birthday, to you – my tiny artist niece and best friend. And to you, I give thanks. For helping me find the artist in myself.
*a note about the artist
When asked what she’d like to be called. ‘Olivia’, ‘Liv’, ‘Livy’ — the like — she spared no time with her response. “Olive,” she said. Will that be her artist’s signature, I wonder?