I can’t believe Lewis has chosen Archie’s drawing (below right) over mine (below left) and the fact that Archie is thirty-two years younger than me, and in his first year of primary school, makes Lewis’s critical review even harder to take.
Don’t be silly, I reason with myself, Lewis is only three. His opinions are scattered and random.
It’s not hard to convince myself that an adult will see my true talent and so I hatch a plan.
After dropping Archie at school and Lewis at kindergarten, I skillfully get Tyson to sleep in his cot and, knowing that Reservoir Mum will be home for lunch soon, I make some changes to my drawing – adding the allure of a pink background, some action, some dialogue, and in the bottom left-hand corner I write, ‘Love you Mummy’.
Just as I’m sticking Archie’s picture on the kitchen cupboard, right next to mine, keys rattle in the lock and she is here.
As I draw her attention to the drawings my stomach begins to churn, nervously. If this doesn’t pan out as I hope, if she chooses Archie’s drawing instead of mine, I may implode.
‘Archie made these…’ I say.
‘Wow, they’re great,’ she says. ‘Did you help him with the writing?’
‘Um… I can’t be sure. He wants you to pick one, just one… your favorite… to take to work with you.’
‘I don’t mind the scary elephant,‘ she says, ‘but this one, with the googly eyes, is really good. He’s becoming a genius our boy.’
The looming dark bird of depression that was circling at the first sign of my demise sweeps down and pierces my shoulders with it shiny sharp talons, tearing away my self belief, my artistic ideals, the very core of who I am. They will be carried to the bird-beast’s nest and be used as food for its squawking heathen offspring.
I am now a human shell.
As Reservoir Mum wanders off to eat some lunch, I allow my eyes to wander over Archie’s picture again. As much as I would like to, I find it impossible to dismiss Reservoir Mum and Lewis’s awe. My heart skips several beats and a cold sweat washes over me…
Look at the tasteful white background, the understated green borders, the glimpse of the waterhole and the grassy bank – so subtle, yet so richly suggestive. My fingers shake as they pass over the doleful yet perceptive elephant eyes, which have been perfectly placed with dobs of home-made clag in order to breathe beyond the two dimensional, unveiling a great history, a story, that while ultimately unknowable, is able to draw insight from the viewer, to build a sense of hope, of togetherness, which says, ‘Things are always as they are, we will be okay.’ I notice the unbroken line that corals the ‘grey’ of the elephant and the artist’s intention is clear – as large a presence as the elephant is, one kink, one tiny prick and its immense form will disappear. I am overwhelmed by a tangible recollection of timelessness and detachment. Archie’s elephant suffers the same limitations as all of us, as all living creatures. The grouping of eight number 3’s signifies a depth of meaning beyond the reach of most art gazers and the random placement of the 3 below the elephant’s right ear, is Picaso-esque. The elephant’s trunk, pasted on after the drawing, reaches out to the native behind the tree as if to say, ‘come with me on this journey, do not let our physical differences keep us apart.’ It is this great need to connect that finally brings a tear to my eye. Drawing the two natives so simply, when he obviously has so many skills at his disposal, is a bold move and suggests a great level of confidence, almost arrogance, on the part of the artist, at the same time that it imparts a powerful environmental message for humankind – our heightened sense of ourselves has caused enough damage. We need to take a step back, join the herd, and reclaim our place in the world as just another animal.
My drawing – any drawing I ever do – will never compare. I must let go. Any attempt to compete with Archie’s vision, with his genius, will only be met with disappointment and shame. As an artist he is my superior. All the skill, creative expertise and emotional dexterity I have developed over my 36 years, he has now surpassed.
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‘If David Sedaris had got married and had kids, he would have been Reservoir Dad. Fall-on-the-floor funny, sharp, witty and just a little bit sexy.’ ~ Kerri Sackville, Best Australian Blog 2013 judge
A sharply funny, fresh and irreverent chronicler of real life in today’s parenting trenches, Reservoir Dad is a stay-at-home dad whose award-winning blog has already won hearts and minds all over Australia and beyond for telling it like it is and making us laugh out loud – and sometimes cry, but in a good way.