We’re often asked if our parents were artists. This question used to be hard for us to answer, as it wasn’t a simple yes or no. In the traditional sense, neither parent was an artist or for that matter even had regard for art. What our parents appreciated was hard work. The more practical, the better. Our Dad spent most of his time in the field making a living as a landscaper. Our Mom stayed home and raised the kids.
We don’t know a lot about our mother’s life before she had children.
We don’t know very much about our mother’s life before she had children. Since she died when we were 27, we find with time there are more mysteries than answers and we have more and more questions: Who was she before she moved to Seattle? Before marrying Dad and then devoting her life to the family, what were her interests? What subjects did she like when she was in school? When did she learn to play the piano? What did she like to read? If she could have had time to herself, how would she spend it? Where did her strength, resiliency, and sense of humor come from?
Being the mother of nine meant she spent most of her life raising children – between their first child to our leaving for college, she and dad raised children for 31 years! Even though they were tired and stressed well before we were born, they always tried to do their best with what they had and knew. Dad worked 6 days a week, while Mom found ways to engage us each day. She took us to the library every week and encouraged us to check out all the books we wanted. In the evenings during the growing season, our parents had us weed the enormous vegetable garden, but also gave us a corner to raise flowers. Between our helping with chores and cooking, she kept two coffee cans available for us: one filled with the same gray clay we all used over the years, the other full of nubs of broken crayons. She allowed us to use the entire dining table as a surface to create model towns, or to color scraps of paper spread out like a mural.
As we grew older, she encouraged our obsession with music (even though she hated the 80’s look we were emulating). When she saw how content we were while drawing, she’d offer up her old magazines for collage, or let us know which old house paints we could use for our drawings. When we were teenagers, she wouldn’t interrupt our middle-of-the-night intensive “for fun” art binges, even though they often happened on school nights. In the morning she wanted to be our first viewer.
There are many reasons for what we do, whether we’re conscious of them or not. We now see our parents had a lot to do with our becoming artists. If our parents hadn’t encouraged creativity, we might have taken a different path. Now, we’re passionate about our work, we feel a loss when we’re not able to work in the studio, and in many ways, can’t imagine life if we weren’t artists.
Because we’re approaching Mother’s Day, we’re thinking about Mom (not to leave Dad out, we hope to tell you about him another time). We’re remembering her work and effort, and are thinking about ways to express our gratitude. Whether she knew it or not, she raised nine creative people. So proudly, we answer the question with: yes, she was an artist.
So proudly, we answer the question with: yes, she was an artist.