When my daughter was in preschool she was blessed with a very creative teacher. Not only was this teacher funny, spunky, and musical, but she could turn anything into art. The kids painted with all sorts of substances, many not meant to be used as paint. They used unusual things as their paint brushes, including their noses. She taught most of the kids that they also had the ability to create art using whatever was around them. I say most because let's face it, even at three some kids don't posses the creativity gene (especially me).
My daughter embraced this idea of everything can be used for art like she was living in a loft in an art cooperative in Tribeca. It started small, with various household items used for projects like buttons, paper plates, coffee filters. Then it grew when she decided to fashion entire outfits out of printer paper and tape. Her interests and abilities flourished. When she was 5 she wrote, created the stage props, directed, acted and produced a one-girl show on the life cycle of a flower. I was thrilled - smart and artistic! But over the past two years I have started to realize her arts and crafts have a dark side.
The rate at which she produces her art is alarming. It is not unusual for her to crank out a few illustrations, a sculpture out of items she pulls from the recycling bin, a love note to mommy and a haiku, all before she goes to school in the morning. Even more alarming than the rate of her production is her volume. Last month it came to my attention that I have three large plastic bins jam packed with her masterpieces. And I can't bring myself to purge them.
Next week my daughter turns 8 and I have come to realize that the older your kids get the faster time seems to fly by. Kids have a way of simultaneously making some days (most) feel like the longest day of your life and that a year has gone by in the blink of an eye. Because of this I find myself becoming panicked at the idea of not preserving each and every memento. I know the teenage years are coming fast and furious, and I want to hold onto that memory of when I was her hero. When she would draw pictures and write stories to entertain her younger brother...because she liked him. I have already learned the lesson of how you blink your eyes and your sweet toddler who was just learning to walk is now going on sleepovers and wants to wear makeup. In some ways I feel like holding onto this art will slow down time. Suspend her at age 7 for just a little longer.
I am not a sentimental person by nature. In fact, if you asked my husband, he would speculate that I lack the sentimental gene. I love to purge things and the more I can put in the recycling bin the better I feel. Let's keep things minimal. However, when it comes to my daughter's stuff, I find myself destined for starring in an episode of Hoarders. It physically pains me to throw any of it away - the napkin doodles from the restaurant, the pipe cleaner ornament or the rubber band necklace. Okay, so that last one I pitched without a second thought.
But it's getting worse. The volume and variety can leave me with piles upon piles of stuff after a particularly prolific weekend. Some days I find stacks of watercolor pictures of...her feelings. The other day she proudly showed off the wind chimes she had made out of string and a few empty wine and beer bottles. Even my husband couldn't muster any sentimentality for that one.
So I do have a line. It is faint, and far away, but I feel fairly certain you won't find me smothered to death one day, under a pile of mandalas, thumb print art, pom pom creatures, glitter glue, feathers and popsicle stick replicas of Falling Water. But you will find me with lots of reminders of my little girl. Three full bins and counting.