Ever have one of those moments where your parents share something about themselves from their pre-kid days, and you feel like you are seeing them for the first time?
For as long as I can remember, my brother has owned a ceramic Denver Broncos football player. It looks like a “Precious Moments” figurine in a football jersey. He still has it displayed in his home, even though it looks decidedly out of place in his concert poster décor bachelor palace.
A few months before my dad passed away, he went over to my brother’s house to mow his lawn. My dad, Larry, loved toodling around on his riding lawnmower just about as much as he loved watching “Ice Road Truckers.” He was that kind of guy.
He finished the job and was relaxing on the couch while my brother, Chris, fetched him a cold drink. Dad looked at the figurine and said “those eyelashes were a bitch.”
Chris replied with the obligatory “huh?”
My dad proceeded to tell him how he and my mom used to hang out and paint ceramics together. Again, “huh?” is the response that comes to mind. My dad was legendary for being a tough as nails, hard working, blue collar good ol’ boy. He did not painting mascara on ceramic statuettes.
After I got over my initial disbelief, I loved hearing about that side of my dad. I liked imagining him and my mom talking and laughing as they crafted something for their children. Was there a softer side to my dad that only my mom got to see?
In going through a box of old clothes, I came upon a ceramic figurine of a ballerina. I remembered my mom telling me that he had painted it in high school. I had assumed that the ballerina was an assignment for a class- something he crafted for a grade and then immediately forgot about. It never occurred to me that it was an activity that perhaps he enjoyed.
I am not a religious person, and I have no concrete beliefs about the details of the afterlife. But I did hang the ballerina over my dresser. I guess I like to think that maybe my dad is still watching over me, or that perhaps a bit of his essence was embedded in the paint.
What will my kids learn about me after they are grown? Will they know I spent one night as a rockstar? That I used to host a monthly debate forum? That Ben and I would spend afternoons doodling strange cartoons with colored pencils to make each other laugh?
I am a different person since having children. It is impossible to go through a life changing event and not change. Sometimes my pre-kid self seems like a complete stranger to me. I don’t look like her. We don’t engage in the same activities. I worry that as my time gets more and more limited, the pre-kid me will get pushed further below the surface until she disappears all together.
Activities may come and go, but my personality is my personality. I am reminded of some words of Maya Angelou’s that are often quoted:
“The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.”
In this instance, I am the one who needs to hear these words. Almost daily, someone will tell me “you are so creative.” I usually blow this off as a nicety. I don’t take much stock in it because many people associate creativity with knowing how to follow instructions. I can crochet because someone showed me how to crochet. I can sew (horribly) because I have many friends who sew and shared their knowledge with me.
But how many times do I have to have someone tell me “you are creative” before I consider this to be a fitting description? One of my pet peeves is when women deflect a compliment by retorting with a negative response about themselves.
“You look nice today.”
“Oh thanks. I look really messy. I didn’t have time to fix my hair.”
Ugh. Just say thank you! Yes, I am a creative person. I can admit that to myself and I hope it doesn’t sound egotistical.
Even if my children do not know about every cool story from my past, I hope the intentions behind those instances are carried on in my daily life. I had one night as a singer of a band, but I sing with my boys every day. My husband and I don’t have free time to doodle away the afternoon, but we draw silly pictures with Liam and Kellen all the time. I like to think that pre-baby Kat and Mama Kat are somehow working together to raise the precocious boys into well-rounded men.
But I still look forward to a day when they are stunned that their old mother used to be wild, crazy, and creative beyond any bounds that they know of.
This one time, I called my friend at 8am in the morning, and said “we’re leaving for Atlanta in an hour….”