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The Phosphorescence of a Two-Year-Old

020

 

You turn two today, my beautiful Lumen.  A couple of those 365-day spans have passed, and I am the most fortunate mother for having spent every single one of these days with you.

You, who only requires water to splash in, music to dance to, and open spaces to run in.

You, with your lengthy lashes, gentle eyes, nose that you’re proud to show me lately that you know how to pick, and that diastema smile and infectious laugh that accompanies it.  You, with your hair that is on its way to matching Dylan’s on the Blonde on Blonde album cover.  You, with your bear cub hands.

You, who jumps as if all the world were a trampoline, and runs as if receiving the silver medal was not an option.  You, who will attempt to climb walls, sofas, chairs, stairs, and over ledges, and when you succeed, almost always land on your feet.

You, who can’t stop giggling when you, your big brother Enlai and I wrestle and tickle in the bed.

You, whose favourite songs are Jay-Z’s “Dust Your Shoulder Off”, Aloe Blacc’s “I Need a Dollar”, the Alphabet Song, and Wheels on the Bus.  You, who likes to sing in your buggy as we walk the streets of London.

You, who is fascinated by Elmo, Peppa Pig, and Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom.

You, who could swing on the swings for forever, plus or minus a few minutes.

You, who enjoys destructing every tower Enlai and I build for you and then running out of the room before we can catch you.

You, who has no flaps left in your flap books because you’ve enthusiastically torn them all out, and who doesn’t like to read books in their page order.

You, who are so independent already, and cheeky to boot.

You, who has been through so much in your short life with allergies and anaphylactic reactions but remains the epitome of resilience, the embodiment of the little fella that keeps on keeping on.

You, who comes to me for cuddles, and who I never want to let go when you do.

At only two, you seem to possess a bendable light, a light that shines around corners and softens rough edges.  Without being aware of it, you offer to those who are living in faint light to lather themselves in your beams.  And to those basking in borrowed light, you remind them of their own lustre.  You are my sweet, sweet Lumen.  Happy Birthday, my love.

 

Happy Mother’s Day to My Village Peeps

It takes a village to raise a child. And apparently one to champion this mother.

After giving birth to my son, I was alone. Just me and my crying, peeing, and pooing bundle of joy. The closest family member was about 400 miles away, with most being about 8,000 miles. My ex-husband was working 70-hour work weeks. And the vast majority of my former workmates were busy living their sans child lives going to gigs, pubs and all-the-rage restaurants, unable to compete in a National Nappy Changing Competition if their lives depended on it.

I had the blues worthy of a Robert Johnson song, and just as it is said that Mr. Johnson sold his soul to the devil for the ability to play the greatest blues ever heard, I felt as though I sold my sanity to ol’ Lucifer in order to have a baby who happened to have the lengthiest crying sessions ever heard.

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I Scream, You Scream

Thrifty’s Mint n Chip ice cream.  Knee-high to a grasshopper, I remember it being all of 15 cents (9 pence) for a single scoop.  Each lick of the green and brown stuff was like arctic euphoria, and this flavour remained my favoured frosty friend for years.  That is, until I sampled butter pecan and green tea flavours.  And then those two fellas from Vermont had me hooked on their Vanilla Toffee Crunch.  I could easily eat a whole pint in one go.  Ditto for Haagen Dazs’ Pralines and Cream, which has served as my glacial gratifier for the last handful of years.  But above all the aforementioned flavours, there is only one which sent my gustatory cells into a shivery tizzy – Haagen Dazs’ Limited Edition Mascarpone, Passion Fruit & Truffles.  Nobody could talk to me while I ate it.  The lights in the room had to be dim.  And I had to have a blanket on me.

Although accounts of how I licked the life out of my favourite flavours could easily make up the bulk of my creamy chronicles, the chronicles could not be complete without the chase scene.  My childhood involved not one chase scene, but several.  Ice cream trucks frequently drove up and down my granny’s street, and upon hearing that first note of the truck’s melodic chime, I worked myself into a frenzy.  The truck was usually a mile away, but due to my keen sense of hearing when it came to all things ice cream, I would dart inside the house to beg my granny for change.  My granny was usually occupied doing things that grannies do, but because ice cream was the top priority, I always expected her to stop everything in order to get her coin purse and give me some change.  My poor granny was arthritic so it would take her what seemed years to a seven-year-old to shuffle to her room to get her coin purse and shuffle back to the front door to give me some coins.  I usually ended up having to chase the ice cream truck, which had since driven past my granny’s house.  I always bought the same ice cream – Strawberry Shortcake.

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Wherefore art?

“Let’s go back to the other art project, let’s go back to the snow,” my little guy said over and over.  While some parents dread hearing “Are we there yet, are we there yet?” I was starting to develop pleadstoreturntothisparticularartpiecephobia.  The “art project” he was referring to was Oliver Guy-Watkins’ installation entitled “Technicolour Process”, created with wood, resin, wax, reclaimed furniture, salt, Dacron, shredded poly, rockwall, spray frost and LED lights.  I could understand his desire to continually go back to view this work; he was afforded his own mini winter wonderland.  I too was intrigued by what I saw to be a slice of our modern age viewed through an apocalyptic filter.

For sale at the bargain price of £22,500, this piece was one of over 400 pieces on display from nearly 80 students at the Central Saint Martins MA Fine Art degree show.  It was especially important for me to view this exhibition as it is the last show to take place at the historical Charing Cross site.  So long Soho, hello King’s Cross and Archway, the two locations to which the programme is moving.

When my son was not even a week old, I took him to see a previous degree show there.  Well, I didn’t really take him to “see” the show as his eyes were barely open.  And I may or may not have had my own yearning to see the exhibition.  I think I secretly hoped that all the energy and creativity in the works would  somehow affect my breast milk production, and by some osmosis-like process find their way to my son’s psyche and bones when I gave him the boob.  High hopes, you say?  Okay, I’ll give you that.  Delusional, freakish mom?  Fine.  You can have that, too.

The institution that is Central Saint Martins holds a distinctive place in my ticker.  More important than it being the establishment from which I received my degree, it represents a wish I had that I was determined to fulfill, and it represents the mother of all psychological experiments.

In my final year as a US college student, I decided to study in London.  While studying abroad – at a school that was a two-minute walk to the British Museum – one of my professors was keen to introduce us to different art schools throughout London, giving us their respective histories, telling us of different alumni, and explaining the schools’ diverse curriculum.  Of all these art schools, Central Saint Martins is the one that stood out for me.  There was an odour of  imagination and authenticity, and a stench of sweat, acrylics, and varnishes that took hold of me and never loosened its grip.  I told myself I would be back in London to attend Central Saint Martins one day.

Fast forward a decade later, and my husband and I were now living in London.  There we were on a lazy Sunday, and out of nowhere, he declared that he was going to apply to get his Master of Laws.  I told him that if it would make him happy to obtain yet another degree – he already had three – and if he thought it would improve his chances of being accepted into the Overachiever Hall of Fame, he should go for it.  And then it happened.  The thought.  The thought of me realising my own dream of going to Central Saint Martins.  I asked my husband what he thought, and he said, “Apply today!”  He suggested I apply to more than one school, to which I responded, “There’s really only one.”  So I sat down, filled out the forms and wrote my statement.  That statement is an assemblage of the most honest words I’ve ever written.  I started to write it, with words, sentiments, and examples pouring out, and I finished it in about ten minutes.  And I felt strongly about not wanting to edit it.

When the letter arrived saying I was accepted into the programme, there may have been some yippeekayaying, some yahooing, some jumping on the bed.  There is a possibility that I may have headed to Cass Art, Cowling & Wilcox and London Graphic Centre that same day to peruse some goodies.  A slight possibility.

I met some exceptionally intelligent and ingenious artists on the course.  I even asked one of my fellow artists to be my son’s godfather.  That said, the experience wasn’t an all together affable one.  In fact – probably because of my emotional makeup – I felt like the course was a psychological experiment of gargantuan proportions.  Freud and his buddies would’ve had a field day, with the egos, screams, crying, grunting, perversity, and other unmentionables I witnessed.  But with art and artists, as with almost any endeavour or occupation, there will be neuroses.

As my little fella and I walked from floor to floor to view this year’s degree show, memories of being there in my pre-mom days surrounded me.  I was  reminded of critiques from tutors and fellow students, of visits to certain exhibitions together, of discussions about Frieze and Art Basel, and of smoking Zhong Nan Hai reds for the first time on the stairwell (not me, of course, but my fellow students).  Nicotine is bad, I tell ya, bad, bad, bad.

There were several pieces that both Enlai and I were captivated by, among them Pallas Citroen’s “The ecstasy of Saint Theresa” and Tan Peiling’s “Room with a postcard on floor”.  The latter explores how visual media informs human perception and understanding of reality.  While I was fascinated by how Peiling challenges us to reassess how a visual-biased culture shapes our attention and experience, my little prince wondered what the heck was going on in the space until he saw a portion of the postcard and said, “Ma, it’s a mystery.  Let’s ask Scooby and Shaggy to help us solve it.”

Rock on in your new digs, Central Saint Martins, and if you happen to come across an application years from now from one Enlai Rooney, I can attest – with a tiny bias – that he’s an extraordinary artist, and you’d be crazy to not admit him into the MA Fine Art programme.

Silent Sunday

Very quietly, tiptoe over to mocha beanie mummy to see the rest of the entries.

Move On Down, Move On Down the Road

 

We get a move on, we’re on the move, we move in different circles, we move while standing still, and then we move house.

Since my son was in my womb, we’ve moved home five times.  Of course, this nomadic modus vivendi was not intentional.  While pregnant, I envisioned us in the same home until my little guy went off to college or at least until he graduated from high school and announced that he’d take a year to live in the Andes and run with the Alpacas, learn to make igloos from Inupiat Eskimos, or train to perfect his trick catch in an effort to win the boomerang world championship.

Alas, my control over where we hung our hats was limited when it came to mould, mice and marital interruptions.  We live in London; mould happens.  And mice happen here too.  Marital interruptions?  Another blog entirely.

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Buy Buy Miss American Pie

Ladies and gentlemen, I have become that mom.  We’ve been visiting family in the States for the last few months, and I have become the mom who frequents the McDonald’s drive-thru.  The other day, while hollering into the microphone to the invisible McOrderTaker, I found myself asking whether she could throw an Incredible Hulk into our Happy Meal because we already had Spiderman, Iron Man, Human Torch and Wolverine.  

When we drove up to the first window to pay, the woman kindly told me that she couldn’t find any Hulks, to which I responded, “Oh, okay, well, how about Silver Surfer or Captain America?”  She said to give her a minute to check.  Minute up, and neither of these superheroes was available.  I told her that we would not actually be wanting the Happy Meal after all because we really don’t want any duplicate superheroes.  I left empty-handed.  She was probably annoyed.  And as we hightailed it out of the driveway, my son let me know he was still hungry.  There was no happy in this meal; this non-existent meal turned out to be sad.  Very, very sad. 

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Diapers or Nappies…Dummies or Pacifiers?

When I first moved to London from the States – childless at this stage – I thought the word loo was far better than the word bathroom.  There aren’t always baths in bathrooms, so the misnomer didn’t sit well with me, especially when I was now being given the option of asking for the monosyllabic and more affable-sounding loo when my bladder needed relieving.

In those first few months after jumping the pond, I often thought of the late William Safire, wondering whether he wrote about lift versus elevator, rubbish bin versus trash can, or hob versus stove in his “On Language” column in the New York Times Magazine.  I considered writing to him to ask for some navigation techniques in this vernacular valley.  Dear William, could a California girl really get away with saying words like knickers, wellies and telly without sounding like a complete nincompoop?

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