Sunday, June 5, 2011

Going to see the Chagalls

(Images from the Marc Chagall exhibit at the Taichung Fine Arts Museum)
I always dream in color. It’s strange but I envy people who dream in black and white. Probably it’s because of growing up with my sister Lisa who loves old films. Errol Flynn and The Sea Wolf or those great noir classics like Bogart in Maltese Falcon or The Big Sleep.
I lay in the dark and close my eyes and all I see is vibrancy.
I was doing exit interviews with students the other day and I came to YoYo. Great name, huh? Her mom gave it to her. At first she said she hated it, but… well, with a name like that… you’ve just got to accept it and roll on. YoYo said she didn’t want to be a doctor or an engineer or just an office worker. Fact is, she said she didn’t know what she was good at except one thing, she said she could always find where something was beautiful.
I just sat back and smiled.
These are the kinds of conversations, as a teacher, I feel I was born for.
I have a person in my life who is sick. They don’t want anyone to know, and so I won’t say their name. But the person reading this will know I am talking about them. I think it scares everyone who is close to the situation because this person has always been very strong, able to lift, able to carry, able to show endurance. I’m afraid that in the end, this person will refuse treatment because they just want to lay down and close their eyes and be embraced by an all surrounding aura of indescribable hue.
This past weekend I took my daughters out to see the Chagalls. The Fine Arts Museum is holding an exhibit and so I drag my girls out into the heat. The cicadas in the trees along the park blocks are deafening, and Kinu rides in a stroller holding a pink stuffed dolphin.
I think it is essential when raising kids in foreign countries to keep normalcy: Picnics in parks and trips to the zoo, celebrating birthday parties with classmates or baking cookies with friends. I find myself so attuned to this, like I actually teach my kids the Pledge of Allegiance and show them School House Rock. I don’t want them to miss out on being an American kid, I can’t let them feel lost in that discussion.
So today it is Marc Chagall, with his wild colors and giant chickens, his neck craning kisses and flying lovers. Tomorrow it will be Stuart Little and documentary footage of cowboys in lonesome prairies, Laura Ingles Wilder and John D. Fitzgerald’s The Great Brain.
Color finds a way, it seeps into our skin, into our minds. There’s no stopping it. We spent most of the morning at the Art Museum’s children’s center, putting puzzles together and water painting on glass.
All these children on the floor surrounded by parents, the good ones, patiently tying knots with string and folded paper into dragon boats, sticking thumbtacks through plastic pinwheel straws. All of us trying to brighten our little world with precious shades.
I may not be the most artistic person. I may not be able to sculpt or draw or hold a brush worth my weight in salt, but I know what’s important. I know when to cart my kids off down the road to open their eyes. I know what I want them to see.
Maybe that will be enough. Just standing and watching things with them, putting them in the room with the right people and ideas. Maybe that is all good parenting can hope for. If it is, I’m already ahead of the game.

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