Slice of Life month encourages me to venture outside of my comfort zone, to play around with language and formatting, to try something new with my writing. So it seems very appropriate that this afternoon, one of my friends at work said, "Can I borrow you from 4:00-6:30 this evening?" I am not usually very active on week nights, but The Winemaker was out the last two nights, and I thought a break from the work/parent/work/parent cycle might be nice, so I said sure, not knowing what exactly she had in mind.
Her family was having a painting evening. She hired a lady to come to one of those wine-and-paint sessions, but without the wine (sad face), at her mom's house. There are many things going on in these people's lives right now, and the extended family decided that in lieu of gifts this past Christmas, they were each going to schedule a family event. For her turn, she'd hired a woman trying to start this painting class business, and the cost dropped significantly for over eight people, so she wanted to add a few friends in order to save money. (She's a math teacher, so I had to accept this.)
As it turned out, I was the only non-family member who showed up. My friend. Her mom and dad. Her husband. Her brother. Her three kids. And me. We painted cartoon frogs. I surrounded mine with flying books instead of insects, thus:
It's not a subject or style I would have chosen for myself. Being in a room full of people making basically the same thing (well, other than the teenaged boys, who made severely deformed and disturbing frogs) makes it hard to feel like I was being artistic. It requires a bit more decision making than a paint-by-numbers kit, but not by much.
Still. There I was with a paintbrush and some paint. Mixing, messing up, regrouping, adapting. Listening to the chatter and banter of a tight knit group of people I don't really know. Watching the effort of the young entrepreneur trying to grow her own skill as a teacher. Noticing how much the kids have changed since I first met them years ago. How "grandpa" on my left was the quiet, steady force in the room full of jokes and teasing. Knowing how the gruff uncle on my left has made his sister's family his priority as she faces a potentially fatal illness while her husband recovers from a traumatic brain injury. I stepped outside of my own family concerns, and I also shushed my inner critic. I'm going to hang the silly frog in my classroom, and it will remind me to be open to sudden invitations, to accept being a beginner, and to remember the power and strength of family.
Not a bad start to this month at all.