I love earrings. Before the pandemic began, I wore them almost every day. But I stopped going to work during the pandemic, so I stopped wearing earrings every day. Sometimes days or weeks went by without giving them a thought.
But occasionally earrings gave me a nudge because it would suddenly occur to me that I’d better wear a pair before the holes in my ears closed up. More than once, I had a tough time pushing a hoop or post into the hole in my ear. I’ve always worn small lightweight earrings, so I have tiny holes in my ears.
This morning I put on earrings because I wanted to forget about the ups and downs of COVID-19.
I’ve decided to wear a different pair of earrings for thirty days, and tell a story about each pair. I’m not sure I have thirty pairs. (I’m very particular about my earrings.) But if I don’t, I’ll re-wear a pair. And that’s okay because some of my earrings have more than one story.
Day 1—Earrings from Coronado Island, California
I bought these gold-toned earrings with aquamarine-blue crystals on Coronado Island from a boutique jewelry shop owned by the artist who created them. I was drawn to this exquisite pair because my birthstone is aquamarine.
A couple of years after I bought them, I lost one. I wasn’t wearing the clear rubber backings, and the earring slipped out of my ear without me feeling it or hearing it. I still imagine its voiceless descent and landing, most likely on a sidewalk in Northfield, Minnesota.
I was staying at Carleton College, attending a week-long training, and I’d been walking around Northfield. After I discovered the earring was missing, I walked up and down every city block that I’d walked on earlier and some others just in case. For hours, I retraced my steps over and over. I didn’t find my earring.
Using the internet, I found the phone number for the jewelry shop on Coronado Island. The owner answered the phone. I told her about my earrings, my favorite pair. I asked if she had another pair I could buy. She offered to make me a new earring at no charge. She had me send her the remaining earring so she could match the crystal and setting sizes.
A month later, my old earring arrived with its new mate.
I’ve never again worn them without their clear rubber backings. I still have both earrings.
I’ve never forgotten the kind jeweler, who must have also known the sadness of losing a cherished earring. I hope she’s still creating jewelry.
I’d like her to know that I still think of her kindness every time I wear the earrings.
I’ve fallen in love. My heart’s desire is a two-by-three-foot rag rug. It’s striped with crisp aqua greens and purple-tinged blues ranging from pale grey to dark cobalt. It’s a star-crossed love affair. Not because my husband doesn’t like the colors, he does, but because even though the rug won’t clash with our kitchen décor, it also won’t blend with it. “This is gorgeous,” I say, “but it doesn’t go with our kitchen.”
Still, the rug captivates my heart. My husband and I are in a home décor shop in Harbor Springs, Michigan, only a few blocks from the shores of Lake Michigan. We came to visit my mother who lives in Petoskey. Trying to be helpful, my husband points out other rugs. I spurn each one—too thin, too thick, too big, too small. And when a rug has the correct specs and compliments our kitchen décor, I say, “Too boring.”
I know I’m taking the bold rug home with me because it’s a color wheel for Lake Michigan. When we drove to Petoskey on July 3, the water in Little Bay de Noc, fed by Lake Michigan, was aqua green, the color of tropical ocean waters lapping at sandy beaches, the color of the aqua green in the rug I’m holding in my arms. As my husband drove along the curve of the bay, he said, “It looks like a tropical beach.” If I’d taken pictures of the water that day and omitted the deciduous and coniferous trees of the Upper Peninsula, I could’ve posted the pictures and claimed I was at a Caribbean resort. In a couple of days when we return to Wisconsin, the skies will be cloudy and grey, and the water, reflecting the sky, will mimic the deep purplish-blue color on my new rug.
I adore the rug because it reminds me of trips to Petoskey to see my mother. The first time I went was in 1992. Since, I’ve made the trip with my sons; a beloved friend, who passed away in 2018; my husband; and alone. The rug is a memory of my visits to Petoskey on the eastern shores of Lake Michigan.
Two days after laying the rug on the kitchen floor, my grandson sheds his Crocs on the corner of it. The rug and purple Crocs become art on my floor. I take a picture with my cellphone and text it to family and friends with the caption, Croc Art.
A few days later, my youngest grandson either drops or tosses a sippy cup from his highchair. Serendipity. I take another picture and text it to family and friends with the caption, Sippy Cup Art.
Yesterday my dog lay down on the rug. Another picture. Another round of texts with the caption, Poodle Art.
It’s a game now with two rules. One, I don’t put objects on the rug—I have to notice something that ends up on it. With four grandkids, who visit often, and my two dogs, I never have to wait long. Two, I decide if an object on the rug is art-worthy. (Poodle Art was an iffy choice, but I don’t need much encouragement to take pictures of my dogs.)
The rug, like Lake Michigan, color shifts in different lighting. It makes me smile. It feels good under my bare feet. And it lays near the backdoor, so it doesn’t provoke envy from the mossy-colored rag rug in front of the sink.
Before the pandemic, I wouldn’t have taken up with a nonconforming accessory, even if the colors enchanted me. But after a year and a half of strange events, I’m going with what moves my heart.
[Author’s notes:Alas, my cellphone camera doesn’t capture the vibrancy of the rug. My mother lives within view of Lake Michigan, and I live a few blocks from Lake Superior. When we visit each other, we enjoy each other’s Great Lake. Vote for your favorite picture by clicking on “Leave a reply” and casting your vote in the comment box. I purchased the rag rug at Finishing Touch in Harbor Springs, Michigan, at 237 East Main Street.]
Clara, my nine-year old granddaughter, has wanted to be an artist, then a scientist, then an artist who is also a scientist. Michael, my seven-year-old grandson, once stated he wanted to be a doctor.
Last week things changed. On Tuesday, Clara wanted to be a scientist. But on Wednesday, she decided to be a fashion designer, and Michael announced he wanted to be an artist.
I didn’t ask questions like, What’s your day job going to be? Or make statements like, I guess you’ll need to learn the phrase, Do you want fries with that?
Fashion design is a form of art, so Clara hasn’t strayed far. She loves to draw and create art using different media: colored pencils, paint, stickers, beads, sequins, sticks, leaves, fabric. (I’ll stop the list here, or I’ll exceed my word limit.) Michael loves art too and is becoming more experimental and playful.
During Wednesday’s art-at-my-kitchen-table time, Clara drew portraits of people wearing masks. COVID is part of our lives, so I wasn’t surprised to see masks show up in her artwork.
“Look, Nana,” she said, holding up the first portrait.
“Very nice and colorful,” I said.
She drew another portrait of a person with a mask, then another.
“Look, at these, Nana.”
“Nice. I like the designs on the masks.”
“Thanks.” She wiggled in her seat and grinned. “I’m going to be a fashion designer and design masks and hats.”
“Your designs will turn masks and hats into art people can wear,” I said. She liked this idea.
She began drawing people wearing colorful hats but no masks, and said, “It’s easier to draw people wearing masks because drawing a mouth is hard.” I agreed with her, mouths are hard.
Michael drew one portrait, then used stencils to create an intergalactic scene and whimsical hodge-podge. Much of his artwork is scenic.
Evan, my four-year-old grandson, is into drawing beings that look like creatures. He’s discovered he likes colored pencils over crayons because his older siblings use them. He drew a doleful creature with a frazzled mouth, then left the table to play with toys.
I babysit my grandkids three days a week, and when they’re here, we make time for art. Whether it’s a drawing project or a project involving supplies and the hot glue gun, the grandkids enjoy creating.
Next week or next month, my grandkids may have new career choices, but we’ll still have art-at-my-kitchen-table time. Art develops imagination, spatial awareness, and problem-solving skills. But best of all, their faces are full of joy when they hold up their artwork and say, “Look at this, Nana.”
“Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.” ― Kurt Vonnegut
Because of the pandemic, I provide daycare three days a week for my grandchildren, ages nine, seven, four, and two. In addition, I serve up homeschool lessons for the oldest two and a dash of preschool curriculum for the four-year-old. My favorite lessons involve artwork. It’s their favorite too.
Many of our art projects are prompted by ideas from the internet. But Thanksgiving and childhood memories about bringing toilet paper rolls to school for art class inspire our latest project: Toilet Paper Roll Turkeys.
In art-teacher mode, I whip up a model paper roll turkey to inspire my three oldest grandchildren. (Two-year-old Charlie will be happy to play on the floor with an empty roll.) With pride, I text pictures of my model turkey to family and friends. They ooh and aah appropriately, much in the manner of a proud parent attaching a child’s work to the front of the refrigerator.
Before the grandchildren decorate their turkeys, I cover each roll with brown construction paper. On the day of our class, I sprinkle the table with scissors, glue, pipe cleaners, googly eyes, construction paper, stick-on faux gems, glitter foam sheets, popsicle sticks, and stickers. They eye the smorgasbord of craft supplies, eagerly waiting for permission to dig in.
I place my turkey on the table. “You can use this as a model, but decorate your turkeys any way you want. If you want to add googly eyes or something heavier, like pipe cleaners, to your turkey, I’ll hot glue it on so it stays.” My glue gun is heating up on the kitchen counter.
“I know,” Clara says. She’s nine years old and likes me to know that she already knows plenty. She also loves arts and crafts.
Michael, the seven-year-old, digs through the supplies and grabs a sheet of Caribbean-blue glitter foam.
“I don’t want to make a turkey,” Evan says. “Can I just cut and glue paper?”
“Sure,” I say. Evan’s four, and today decorating a paper roll to look like a turkey isn’t his thing.
Charlie is playing on the living room floor with his plain paper roll and toy cars.
Clara and Michael sift through the craft supplies searching for the perfect ingredients to bring their turkey visions to life. Clara chatters about her plans, sharing every artistic decision out loud. Michael’s hands do his talking as he grabs a pair of scissors, uncaps the glue, and adorns his paper roll. Evan cuts and glues random chunks of colored construction paper, but he’s stealing glances of Clara and Michael dressing their turkeys.
Evan yields to temptation. “Can I make a turkey?”
“Sure,” I answer, handing him the third brown-papered roll. He reaches into the supplies and gathers his fixings. I hand him a box of sparkly stickers because his little hands can manage them. He’s smitten with the googly eyes and amasses them in different colors.
Meanwhile, I’m slinging my hot glue gun, attaching googly eyes and wings and tail feathers fashioned out of pipe cleaners for Clara and Michael.
Evan’s ready to have his turkey’s eyes glued on. He points to a spot; I glue on an eye. He gets another eye, points to another spot, I glue. This cycle is repeated five times, and he’s on his way for a sixth eye. “Enough eyes,” I say. Past experience with four-year-old children and art supplies tells me if I let him, he’ll have dozens of eyes on his turkey. It will be creepy, but even scarier our googly-eye stock will be seriously diminished. “It’s time to decorate your turkey with some other art supplies.”
Charlie appears, his tiny fingers clutching the table. His eyes, barely rising above the table’s edge, scan the goods. He says, “Nana,” which covers a lot of ground. I hand him another plain paper roll and he scurries back to the living room floor.
After the turkeys are complete, I’m amazed by the personality of each one. The spiced-up creations made by my grandchildren eclipse my bland turkey.
Clara’s turkey is attired for Mardi Gras. Its twirled red, orange, and yellow pipe-cleaner tail and wings are combined with a sparkling red belt and a yellow hat topped with a red glittery foam feather embellished with a faux lilac-colored gem. Her turkey is ready to strut down Bourbon Street.
Michael’s turkey, with glittery blue wings sporting shimmering purple and neon green spots and glittery blue legs, looks like a butterfly. “Very nice,” I tell him. I don’t question his color choices. I imagine his turkey as a butterkey or a turkfly wanting to flit from clover to clover. Perhaps it’s masquerading to avoid the axe and being placed on a platter at the dinner table.
Evan’s turkey is the most unique, in the way only a four-year-old can interpret a turkey. Asymmetrical, it’s a Picasso turkey. Its eyes look up and down, left and right, none of them aligned. Both its wings protrude from the right side, something Evan insisted on when I asked him if he was sure. A green foam airplane sticker flies from the left of its forehead to the right. Its beak is a mauve foam saxophone sticker. Its mouth is a glittery green J and its feet are two sparkling raspberry-colored F’s. Evan has channeled Picasso, whom he knows nothing about. But maybe Picasso channeled four-year-old artists.
As each turkey is finished, I place it on the ledge of my kitchen window. The turkeys, including mine, strike impressive poses. Throughout the day, as the grandchildren wander through the kitchen, one of them will stop and admire the turkeys, always with special attention paid to his or her own creation. Evan asks, more than once, “Can I hold my turkey?” I hand it to him, he holds it, then hands it back to be returned to the flock on the ledge.
Vonnegut’s advice, “Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow,” rings true. And his conclusion, “You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something,” shines on the faces of my grandchildren. They’ve created something.
I look at my turkey and remember the peace I felt while making it. And even though it’s ordinary next to my grandchildren’s turkeys, I feel joy because Vonnegut is right—I’ve created something.