by Lisa Chesser
One-eyed aliens, giant butterflies, flying dragons, mermaids, superheroes, self-portraits and other masterpieces mask our aged refrigerator. Without that in my life, even my morning coffee wouldn’t make me happy.
All parents believe their child is the next Picasso or Frida Kahlo, but we also recognize the need to connect with our child. Their art connects to a part of the soul where words can’t. At least, that’s what I find when I reach for the refrigerator door.
The first time my daughter handed me a drawing a surge of pride and euphoria swept through me. I rushed to the refrigerator as if it were a wall in an art gallery, quickly selected a worthy magnet, and surveyed its magnificence on the refrigerator door. She has come to see the refrigerator as a showcase for her talent and superior abilities, a confirmation that she is the best.
Now, she snatches a piece of typing paper from the printer, grabs a pen or crayon and waits to see where I will display her next masterpiece.
There are moments when I silently grumble that we never have paper in the printer when we need to print, but all I have to do is reach for the refrigerator door and those words never materialize.
Over the years, this refrigerator art gallery has boasted various works of art that expressed her momentary whims and our family’s unique attributes, always with a positive spin. At one point it displayed a portrait of myself accentuating my ultra-curly hair in an afro-like halo with rays of light spraying from my head. When I asked why she added the light, my daughter explained that I looked like the sun in the morning.
My whole perspective changed. I went from being a giant, frizzy-headed mess to the sun. The day I couldn’t find that drawing was the day I realized how much I couldn’t live without my children’s art. I began to value it and make sure that, when it came time to replace old art with new art, the old art had a place to stay. I created a scrapbook where I could slip the ones that meant the most to me.
The depth of meaning has grown over the years. Early one morning, still holding a grudge over an unresolved problem, I made my coffee then reached for milk from the refrigerator. I looked up and stopped. Strange creatures jumped from the door with their disproportionate necks and misshapen lips, kissing each other, flying and floating. Despite all the masterpieces I’ve seen in museums and galleries, I finally fully grasped the value of art. Art exists to remind us of the beauty we forget about while attempting to maneuver through the difficulties in life. Even if the art stands as a testament of our bad behaviors, it still magnifies the beauty we’ve disregarded.
Once my son arrived, the art collection filled our house. The refrigerator art migrated to our walls and doors. One evening after a shower, I found his refrigerator art carefully taped to the hallway walls and bedroom doors. He proclaimed that the house was too boring and it needed some color. He placed each one at his eye-level—so I learned to look down for inspiration.
Eventually, I myself moved some of the artwork to my little nook in the corner of the dining room where I work. A brightly dressed ninja reminds me of the power to fight but to be careful about wardrobe choices. Two flowing girls, outlined in blue and red, tell me to overcome differences. A butterfly splashed with color spreads its wings across my magnetic bulletin board. I hear its voice say, “Open your wings Mama. You’re still a child inside.” And a turtle calls out, “Slow down!” So, I do. Each piece expresses a new discovery, a silent insight, and an imperceptible moment that I would’ve rushed past had it not been my own child who handed it to me.
Living without that, wouldn’t be living at all.