It was like stepping into an oasis, where the children sit quietly and make art, while outside, soccer players clock each other inside my car.
Why didn’t I pick art?
I was driving a car full of kids — the kids on the soccer team I coach — home from practice when I stopped at Bernadine’s house to pick up my older son, Nick. My son the artist. Bernadine is his on again, off again art teacher (depending on our schedules), and the two of them have a bond that I’ll never attain with my soccer players, largely because it doesn’t involve making him run laps or shouting, “Shooooot iiiiit!”
I’d just told my team, “Don’t hit each other. Don’t throw anything at each other. Don’t make fun of each other. Don’t do anything until I get back.” But as soon as I went inside, I could see the windows fogging up in my car, presumably from the soccer balls pegging each others’ heads.
In Bernadine’s house, though, there was no such thing. Her dog greeted me as though I had been lost at sea and presumed dead. Nick sat at the art table, a plate of half-eaten homemade cookies and a mason jar of iced tea at hand, drawing.
“Now,” Bernadine eased into her run-down of their afternoon together. “You can see that he used burnt umber as the base for his painting.” She pointed to the Cape May Lighthouse painting Nick had begun. “And while that’s drying, we are working on the three types of columns.”
Nick said nothing. He just kept on drawing his Doric column, occasionally switching from pen and ink to charcoal, and then pausing to nibble his peanut butter cookies.
Outside, my mini-van shook.
“We learned how to layer oil paints, and how to use shading today,” Bernadine added.
“Looks great, Nick,” I complimented his work, peering into the driveway. I wanted to rush him outside and back into my car to break up whatever was happening in there, but we had art to collect and transport oh-so-carefully. Some things were still drying. Plus, we had free cookies to bring home, because Bernadine is always sending us home with sweets she’d made herself.
As we gathered his artwork, a part of me wished that I had what they have together: a mutual love of art in a peaceful setting, with a loyal dog underfoot and snacks at hand. Instead, I have a love of soccer, on muddy fields, with 17 water bottles underfoot and — “I said no hands, not even in practice!”
It’s true that I love the sport and its players, even the ones I would have to yell at when I returned to the car for throwing things at each other and making fun of each other when I’d told them not to. And I can’t teach art. I can’t even draw a straight line. So, I leave it up to Bernadine, and I’m glad to, because I know that I’m actually giving Nick something very special — the gift of passion. I’m providing the right to do what he loves to do, even if it’s something I can’t do myself. Even if I’m just his driver.
When we returned to the car, the soccer players settled down (after a talking-to).
“Wow, Nick,” one kid piped up. “Did you make that?”
“Yeah,” he shrugged. And then all the soccer players admired his work.
“That’s really good!”
And so were the laps I made them run at the next practice.