A Tiny Picasso in the Bathroom

When my son was 9, he went through a phase—maybe lasting a weekend—as an amateur artist. His medium? Colored clay. It came in cool rainbow blocks that were hard as a rock and perfect for dropping on a table to make a big thump. Not only did he make things with clay, but he liked to sell these objects afterwards to friends and family. Darn kid was already an entrepeneur. He shaped a cup that he wanted me to buy for $2. Most of his other creations were only $1, but he knew he had me simply with the utility of this cup. This wasn’t just some silly clay-worm or colorful round bowl with toothpicks set in it. No, this was actually a little cup, with a real handle (although do note I couldn’t really pick it up or put any liquids in it). Still, it was a cup just the same. None of his other sculptures—such as the set of saggy, green barbells—made any sense, although I admired his use of color in all of them. So, after a long afternoon pounding and shaping all kinds of things, he put his artwork in Ziplocs and labeled the bags with price stickers. Next thing I knew, I found him in the bathroom cutting his nails with a nail clipper. What else does an amateur artist do between finishing in the studio and having a big glass of Scotch? But this was a big deal—this was the first time he ever tried to cut his nails. He found the clippers and just went to it. It seemed to be some rite of passage, like the first time he made tuna fish. Even that time he found the can opener on his own, opened it, and informed me he was great at making tuna. He said he could make it in no time at all, he even gave some to the cat. The day of the big nail cutting, it was thundering and lightening outside, the first storm of the spring. And  as the rain pounded against the windows, I felt time give my arm a little squeeze. My son was just starting to jerk away when I kissed his cheek or when I hugged him before bed. So I didn’t hover over him. I wanted to. But all I could do was wash the black smudges off the bathroom light switch and surrender to the slow process of pulling apart.