Paint Something Red

A la The Wiz, “…and the color is red”!  Red has been a mounting preoccupation with Seth for the last few weeks.  Red had been his second favorite color, but I think it has now moved to number one on his spectrum.  It all started at the construction table at school.  While the other kids were busy hammering in corks and connecting odd bits of nail and wood together with wire, Seth was studiously engrossed in red.  He got a hold of the red sharpie used for writing names on construction projects, and spent 45 minutes coloring “emergency cabins” for the boat he was constructing with Naomi.

A few days later he announced that he was going to give his vintage rusty milk truck, “a fresh new coat of shiny red paint”.  He went about the business of getting the paint and carefully detailing the quaint but decrepit vehicle.  I must say it does look much better, and the variations of paint mixed with rust are divine from a textural perspective.  After this initial truck sketch, he moved on to a more ambitious project that involved painting and construction.  Perhaps the process of painting and watching varigated red texture appear got his creative juices flowing.  The result was the “control center” for his “train”.  The control center involved meticulous painting, and well engineered placement of every last paint brush in leveled sand.  I overheard him tell guests, “not to touch the controls they are permanent” and chuckled at his serious demeanor.

I chuckled too soon, because things got really serious a week later.  Gramps and Mattie got new bedside tables and proclaimed their old castaways were “up for grabs”.  Seth inspected both tables and pointed to the smaller one announcing, “I know…we can paint it red”!  This called for real paint, so I got out the bottle of acrylic that I used for the fund raiser signs.  There were a few days between when the paint was located, and all the while Seth kept me on target, “When can I paint the table red?  Is tomorrow when I paint the table red?”  When the time came he was the consummate professional, setting out newspaper, digging up a smock and brush, fully taking control of that side table’s destiny.

It didn’t end there.  The next day there were doll pins to be painted, his fire shirt engine needed to be red, a chair from his art table was in dire need of a makeover, and one of the flower pots simply *had* to be red!  I can completely understand this love of color.  I have spent my entire life in love with one color or another.  I read so much meaning and emotion into colors that my rational mind is constantly threatening to disown my emotional mind.  That said, there is nothing more gratifying that bedecking an object in your favorite color.  So much joy will be gleaned from a glance at this red table and chairs, even if they only serve the banal purpose of fire desk and fire chair for Seth’s new fire station.

The other day Seth proudly told me, “Mommy I am the artist that paints in red”.  I swooned.  I mean come on art school mommies, you know the feeling, the moment when your child manifests vision and implements.  It is the moment when you see them gearing up to take the leap from concept play to considered project.  It’s the instant when the thousands of hours of whimsical process pay off and the meandering path becomes a true direction.

Perhaps I have more of a stake in the growth of an artful child than other parents.  Innately Seth is a man of mechanism.  I can live through 20 more years of engineering if there is the spark of color, the willingness to paint on the side, some vehicle for us to communicate parallel experience.  I am sure Seth will not be quite so extreme, but it is my deepest fear.  So, I meditate on this month of red, cultivating the hope that we can move through life sharing the indulgence of hue appreciation.