My mother likes to tell the story of how she was once kicked out of art class in high school. She likes to revel in her lack of creativity, wearing her sloppy paint lines and smudged penciling like a badge of honor. I imagine her as her 17-year-old self, all dimples flashing and curly hair running wild, with a tray of clay falling over sloppily, like the scene from Ghost except embarrassing instead of romantic.
“I was so bad, they told me to leave, can you believe that?” I have heard her laugh time and time again.
And every time she tells the story, my heart breaks a little inside because I can see what my own mother apparently can not — that every mother, whether or not she thinks she is, is part of the most creative force and energy on this Earth.
In today’s modern-day view of motherhood, I think we tend to think of “creativity” as something that can be captured or harnessed or sold (Big Magic or big money, and yes, I loved the book so don’t get too mad at me), or maybe something even cutesy, like all of those adult coloring books that are somehow all over the shelves at my grocery store.
We look at the moms who throw the elaborate Pinterest parties or craft something amazing out of nothing or maybe just put Joanna Gaines on a pedestal (where she belongs in my mind, totally) and hold them up as examples of what it means to be creative. “Did you see that punch bowl carved out of blueberries that Kate made? Wow, she’s so creative!”
I will grant you that I am not that type of creative mother. Like my own mother, I absorbed the idea that I was better than those frilly artsy-fartsy types. You wouldn’t find me finger-painting or distressing furniture or sewing elaborate costumes for my children. Nope, we aren’t the creative types, us women in this family.
Until slowly, as I became a mother myself, I came to see that universal creative energy that exists in simply being a mother.
Motherhood, I would come to find out, has crafted me into the ultimate artist.
When life first burrowed its way inside of me, carving pathways and a placenta, creating a personhood inside my very being, I became part of a tapestry I didn’t know I could weave.
When the first wave of love bowled me over as I brought my daughter, wet and warm, to my chest, I became part of a creative force more powerful than anything I could have ever imagined.
When I counted fingers and toes and eyelashes and freckles, when I kissed perfect little lips and squeezed delicious little thighs, I marveled at what I had made.
When I praised small hands that first colored, so intent, with tongues sticking out, adorable crooked looks of concentration set firm on a face changing before my eyes, I became more beloved than the most decorated of art critics.
When I rolled out play-dough and ignored the mess I would be cleaning up later, smushing and laughing, I sculpted a memory forever imprinted on a little soul.
When I showed, by example, that lines were meant to colored outside of, I taught a greater lesson.
When I lunged and jumped and lifted and stretched and appreciated, I displayed the beauty of the body, no nude model required. (OK, fine, sometimes, there was nudity, but that’s their fault for hunting me down even in the shower.)
When I traced the stretch marks on skin worn thin, I looked past the imperfections to find the lost beauty on a broken canvas.
When I rejoiced, each and every time my eyes hungrily soak in every detail of my children’s faces, memorizing what is fading every second, breathtaking to behold, I became the curator of the more precious work of art known to womankind.
When I wove together the fabrics that hold our family in place, tying a thread here, finding a lost shoe there, smoothing over a fight there, I stitched a tapestry bound strong and unbreakable.
My mother may have walked out of her class that day, believing that she would never quite be a great artist, but I would argue that she most definitely became one. Because motherhood, even to those of us who can’t quite see it all of the time, might just be our greatest masterpiece.More On