it’s time, I know, I can tell in my bones, the ways the knees ache, those joints with a clock of their own, and I drag my fingers through
the hair, back from the temples, and I survey the room of the sprawled
out legs, the stacks of books, the balls of yarn, the half deck of Rook
scattered, and I smile and chime the hour quiet.
“I think it’s time for bed, folks.”
They cheer wild. Race for their beds. They know when it’s time too.
Time for the day’s best hour, the children’s hour, the moon out the window and night studded up with the stars.
pick up and I return and I lead a few lost things back to their homes
and they call from their rooms, the darkened sleep wombs. “Are you
coming to tell us a story of when you were little?”
I say yes, but how could I have known that tonight it would be a child who’d tug the curtain, tear down the veil?
Yes, I am coming. I am coming for the prayers, for the page turning of the printed stories and yes, the stories of your roots,
of the time before you were born, when you were still a future star and
that place in the night sky was black, still waiting for you. (Do all
children love to slide their hands down their roots again, again,
remembering whence they’ve come? “Tell us that story again when…” )
I read. The wee chair in the hallway creaks. I turn pages. I bookmark. And they squirm happy under quilts, anticipating. “Now tell us a story when you were a kid like us.”
(And I smile and I think this is really it: a child’s deep longing to
know that they are known, that the old were once young, once saw the
world large, that for that one evening hour, a story bridge spans the wide river of decades and for a spell, we are one, children together.)
every night I grope mad around the memory vault, feeling my way along
time, hoping to find one I’ve lost, a memory I haven’t yet told, and
wishing I had kept better record but who would have thought that 365
nights of the year, year after year, our children would story beg from
my days before them and I never stop fearing that they’ll be
disappointed at the blandness of the recollections and I never stop
being surprised at how children heartily embrace our feeble efforts at creativity. What audience is as grateful as a child?
is the first tongue of the children and when the aged ones try to speak
it, even haltingly, we are all natives of happiness and of the Garden
and of our Creator Father.
“A long, long time ago,
when I was about your age….” I don’t even know what the next words will
be and I hold them high in the shadowed room, waiting, like a key
suspended before the lock of the memory safe, and I so pray that the key
fits and I’ll find something… and there it is.
“I drew pictures
of pigs and curly-cue flowers and palaces and princesses with blue ball
point pens that left inky-sticky gob marks behind and my mama hung on
them fridge with lettered magnets and that was the first thing I ever
hoped to be.” I remember the smell of the paper and the white expanse of
possibilities and I can see even now the rows of flowers with the row
of pigs, their tails curling up like blooming vines behind them, and I
laugh now the thought and I’m almost too embarrassed to say it.
“The first thing I ever dreamed of being was an artist.”
“That’s what everyone first dreams.”
I stop short. I hold the top edge of the quilt in hand, ready for the tucking, but I’m struck.
Levi rolls over and I can see his silhouette clear, his lanky frame backlit from light in the hallway.
are words of the farming son, the dig in the dirt, don’t hand me a
pencil, I just want to go work with Dad son, the I know Jesus said we
have to work heartedly on to the Lord but I don’t think Jesus ever had
to do Latin son, the practical boy who tells us point blank, “If I can’t be a farmer, I ain’t going to be nothing.”
I am struck and I can only repeat.
“Everyone first dreams this? To be an artist?” I ask those whose first dreams still shine.
Of course ” Levi lies down on the pillow, stares at the ceiling. I
hadn’t known. Do we all first dream of being artists — because that is
who our true selves really are?
“And with colors. Lots of bright
colors.” Malakai pipes up, his toothy grin peeking out behind sheets. I
remember his drawing this morning of bold sails flapping in wind and the
wings of parrots flapping over the waves and I remember the colors.
“And they dream of showing their art?” I’m rooted to this spot, me finding my roots.
no. Well, you do at first. Until you show your art to someone and they
don’t like it. Then you don’t want to show it anymore. Then you start thinking about other stuff to do.”
Ah, yes. I’m unstuck. Child’s told the bedtime stories, all our stories, and I pull the cover up under chins and I smooth.
Every person is made by love and we are love and we can’t stop making. Love makes. God is Word because He must express and we are made in His image, His poiemas and we must express. I run my finger through little boy hair and I can feel his smile in the dark. This child.
There are no two identical persons on the whole of the planet. Anything created that expresses the essence of a person is wholly and entirely original. And whenever I look at a creative work, I am looking at the impossible created. Because before those hands created it, it was impossible to have ever have been created before!
Life becomes art when we attend to it
and I trace a little boy cheek by the light of the moon. And Child,
know this, I will resuscitate the artist within, Child who’s inherited
Father’s creativity. I will not put lips to the dreams and try to
breathe life into them. But I will lay the ear down to the dream and I will listen deep. For all art and artists revive when the dreams are truly heard.
I know it and you speak it Child: All
our lives we all need to create because creativity is the life breath
of our Creator Father and if we don’t create we breathe stale air and we
Levi cups into Kai and both boys turn
towards me and the night white of the window and I lay my hands on both
their shoulders and I squeeze and this skin and bone part of them I
know that this is the wasting away part and the creative making part
deep within these frames is the lasting part, for all creating is out of
love and love is the forever eternal expanding through time rippling
I pray. And they close their eyes. And on the way out of
their room, I pick up a lost crayon, a lego piece, a piece of paper with
a a story begun and I don’t return them to their places.
winter moon in a still house, I lay them out on the counter for tomorrow
and all the artists and makers and inventors and dreamers and
co-creators who will rise under the sun.
“The Bible tells us that we are God’s masterpieces (poiema in Greek); not only creatures, but His creations, His poems (Eph 2:10). We are living epistles (2 Cor 3:3).
And so, our lives are meant to be listened to, because it is God who is speaking into and out of and through the symphony of the years, and the masterpiece of a lifetime.” ~Michael Card