“To you it may look like a scribbly line, but to me, when I was four, it ment something totally different… don’t ask me what it ment, because to me now, it just looks like a scribbly line.” –Brad, under the coffee table–
(A WEEK OF POSTS ON THE ARTS)
One problem with being my size is that the places I could fit into at four no longer have open invitations for me. I always found my grandparent’s home good to visit when little. There was always food, fantastic desserts and amazing cookies. My Great-Grandfather, in his early nineties, rocking in the corner chair, would always welcome me with some scotch mint candy, or, if I was lucky, something silvery like a nickle or dime. The drawback with my grand-parents house was the lack of toys. There was never anything to play with. That’s where being the size of a four-year old comes in handy.
I was small enough that I could entertain myself exploring places in that house no one else could, the back of closets, inside cupboards, under beds and my favourite, under the living room sofa. It would open up underneath like a giant subterranean cave with stalactites of coiled springs. It was my own private world in the middle of a big boring living room of afghan covered furniture, collections of fancy untouchables and newspapers.
Best of all, it was a world where I ruled. No one could tell me not to touch this or play with that. If I wanted to risk splinters from the rough undress lumber underneath or dare the springs to nip one of my fingers as I poke their coils like a cobra waiting to strike, I could.
Outside my place of refuge, drawing on the walls was in direct violation of the rules we had to live by, but in my secret hideaway, when I could escape there with a smuggled pencil, I could draw on anyplace I could find, and I did, like the cavemen of ancient times recording their mammoth hunts on walls of stone.
No adult could fit in my secret place so I reigned. My law was supreme. It was good to be sovereign.
Like Michelangelo, laying on his back painting his masterwork on the ceiling of the Rome’s Sistine Chapel, I would lay on my back and on the underside of the furniture, hide out and let my imagination soar as I created my own panoramic murals of adventure and excitement.
In the Fall of 1995, my friend, Gayle, visited for supper and somehow the topic of conversation turned to a subject that reminded me of my great artworks from years ago. I explained how I recalled drawing giant landscapes on the bottom of furniture at such a young age, where I would populate the scenes with characters having great adventures, stories of epic proportions flowed out of my pencil as whatever I could imagine was transposed unto my hidden canvas; dragons, rockets, pirate, giants, treasure, damsels in distress, battle tanks, and clouds. After all those years I still clearly recall drawing with great determination and purpose. My artwork for the ages.
That’s when it struck me that some of my great works of art still existed. I looked at Gayle with a big grin on my face and asked. “Want to see one of those drawing?” Moments later we both lay on our back on the living room floor with our heads under the long coffee table in front of the sofa, viewing the panoramic mural I had drawn there over 25 years before.
I looked up at the mass of scribbles on the underside of the table top and felt absolutely dumbfounded. I was sure when I was four that this work of art made perfect logical sense to my young impressionable mind.
Gayle simply asked, quietly, “What is it?”
I looked at her without words. I looked back at the scribbles completely lost before shaking my head and looking back to her again. I shrugged and answered, “I have no idea.”
Now, forty some-odd years later, I look at this and feel a little sad I no longer have that child-like ability to look at an absolute mess like this and have its story make complete sense.
At my age that could come in very useful.
[It’s interesting to note that when I took the picture for this blog post I found a note scribbled under the table dated July 1996. It stated that my sister and niece where there in 1996, and a picture of our house was drawn there. So it appears that the desire to draw on the underside of furniture is a family trait. (But, I was 4 years old when I did it, my sister was 29. Just saying.)]