Coffee Shop Art

Original Art by Brian Foud
Top right corner. Reproduction in progress. Original artist Brian Froud.

I went to the coffee shop yesterday, all by myself. So far I’m only aware of two times in life when the phrase “all by myself” brings so much pleasure. When we’re children asserting our independence and when we have children from whom we get a few blissful hours of independence. I love my daughter more than anything in the world but I need a break too. Not just from changing diapers or trying to figure out why is she fussing when she’s been fed, napped, played with, and changed (again!) but just from that constant presence.I’ve heard many mom’s of older children complain that not even the bathroom is sacred to them anymore. Little girl is only 8 months and already that’s been true for most of her life because when daddy dearest is sleeping off a night shift, guess who gets to play in the bathroom while mommy takes a shower? It isn’t that I don’t love being with her and it isn’t really her that I am escaping. Simply, it is exhausting always being with another person, even if they do have scrumptious, chunky thighs. Sometimes I just need to be alone.

I don’t remember why I chose the coffee shop. Panera Bread is my usual “mommy date” spot. I get my u-pick-two and read my book. Well I packed my book this time too… and then my dusty drawing pencils… and my watercolor paper. I put it all in a bag that did NOT have diapers in it, dug out my favorite non-baby approved chiffon blouse, grabbed the keys, and drove over. After ordering a large tea and chocolate cookie I chose a nondescript table at the back and with trepidation brought out my supplies. Watercolor paper, pencils, ruler, print out of original art.

I sipped my tear and had a moment of hesitation. I live in a college town with real art on the walls of our coffee house and hipsters practically hanging from the ceiling. The tea I ordered was called Buccaneer for heaven sake! (And it is delicious!!) Teenagers were sitting a few tables down with their homework spread out and laptops up. Others were reclining in easy chairs, their oversized scarves sweeping the floor, laughing and discussing only what I can assume to be deep philosophical mumbo jumbo they are paying too high a tuition to be spoon fed. Can I do this here? Are they thinking about how silly I look? What if it doesn’t come out well and I have to ashamedly pack it up and take out my… Harry Potter book? Will they know I’ve failed?

I broke off a chunk of my cookie and looked at my supplies arranged neatly on the table. I haven’t painted or drawn in so long. Not since my daughter was born. Not in 8 months or possibly longer. I looked at the piece I wanted to copy, a grin creeping up my face, and resolved: I need this.

Quietly, my anxiety took a polite seat across from me and remained there until is gradually dissipated. Slowly I worked from box to box, taking cares I never had before. I shrugged off my love of hard, dark lines and barely grazed the paper. When I am really sucked up in a painting I begin pushing my bangs off my forehead with my hand. Well, as I kept drawing that hand found a firm plant deep in my hair, strands poking through my fingers and sticking up off the top of my head. Super attractive. A few times I realized what this mutinous hand was up to and I reclaimed some fly-aways. Other times I couldn’t care as my drawing was really coming alive. After nearly completing the first row of the grid I stopped and surveyed my work. I smiled. There aren’t adequate words I can put together eloquently to describe how I felt about my drawing so you’ll have to forgive this: It looked so frickin’ good!

Second massive cup of tea gone I sat back and looked around the coffee house again. Pride, happiness, that shimmery shiny Disney-dust feeling all wriggled contentedly inside. I spent about 3 hours and $5 in the coffee shop and then packed up my kit and went home. It felt so good and even now I think I’ve still got a few endorphins kicking around. It isn’t enough to see art. It isn’t enough to go to museums (although I haven’t done that in a while either). It isn’t even enough to own art. I need to make it. I need to be a part of it. I’m not complete unless I’ve got paint on my smock, clay under my nails, graphite on my fingers, and I smell like turpentine. Art lifts me and fills me up. It’s how I talk to God. It’s how I worship. It’s me, completely soaked in my natural element, dripping naked in primordial uck.

I hope that isn’t too left field for a mommy blog. But I suppose that’s also the point of this particular mommy’s blog. Moms are only moms until we become them and realize all the secrets hidden inside ourselves. Motherhood has made everything special to me so acutely more valuable. I can’t wait for my next coffee shop trip!

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