The Children’s Art of Illumination

Alphabet Soup

I was just over at Stephanie Baffone’s blog reading about the sacredness of “refrigerator” art.  Living in this house there is no choice but to agree.  Just a few hours ago I came into my room with a pack of Scotch tape and a rainbow colored drawing I’d been instructed several days ago to hang next to my desk signed with an enthusiastic I, an upside-down V and a Y that’s more like a pitchfork without a handle.

Our house looks like a daycare explosion–refrigerator drawings, den cluttered in art supplies, dining room waiting for the super duo cleaning team, pipe cleaner window hangings you can see from the street.

I don’t ever remember my childhood home looking this “lived in” though Ma swears it wasn’t always spic and span.

Well she had nine kids, I should hope not!

But even on the holidays I can’t remember disorder being left till later.  I might be able to recall one or two art projects going up on the fridge for a week or two, but it will take some doing.

Ma did keep a drawer.

I  loved that drawer in the bottom of her dresser.  I’d spend whole minutes lifting and memorizing school projects my sisters and brothers made when they were younger.  Some I’d try to copy my own way–a construction paper Happy Mother’s Day book, a yarn and glue Christmas star.  Some I’d trace the texture, feel the bumps of clay, the cool, smooth glaze.

Some were mine.

It was never a thing with my mom, making a production over projects.  I remember getting all excited over a clay Smurf I’d made with a molding kit my brother gave me for my 8th birthday.  It was air-dry clay pressed into a plastic mold and painted with acrylics.

I’d spent hours touching up the little blue body, his little white hat and little white pants.  My sister helped with the eyes, they were perfect.

When I went to Ma all “Look, look!” she was distracted with putting away groceries and being grown up. I got all pouty-faced and sulky.

Just as clearly, I remember the work and the worry put into last minute history papers and English assignments. I remember Ma reading over a paper I wrote, correcting spelling, grousing over handwriting, but in the end saying, “You wrote that?  That’s really good.”

It was a funny thing to me, having words I organized on a piece of paper recognized for being “good”. When I wrote something down it either sounded right or it sounded wrong. If it was wrong I messed around with it until some sense was made. I didn’t realized then that messing around with words could be just as important as painting a mural on a high school wall (what my sister Julie did) or joining the Marines and shipping out to Okinawa (My brother Bill) or going back to school to work in Physical Therapy (My sister Sherry). It was just something I did.

When Ma read and liked my writing it became valid. Not put-it-in-the-drawer valid, but pat-on-the-back-mention-it-on-the-phone valid. That was something. That was good enough.

So this is what I think, I think refrigerators and desks and bedroom walls and stairways and sides of jetliners are made to be illuminated and that every child’s vision is meant to be hug-and-kiss-you-have-an-amazing-imagination valid.

Art Hungry

Because we just never know what’s going to be the thing that sticks.

What about you? What do want to be illuminated?


About E. Victoria Flynn

E. Victoria Flynn is a mother and a writer living in Southern Wisconsin. Published in a variety of venues, Victoria is currently writing the first in a series of three fantasy novels based on Cornish folklore. When not taking part in a shrieking dance party or engrossed in her own little fictions, Victoria is keen on art, the natural world and people unafraid to explore their own brilliance.
This entry was posted in adventures in childrearing, kids, ma. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Children’s Art of Illumination

  1. What a wonderful post! Thank you for the shout out. I would like to illuminate my accomplishments instead of focusing so often on everything I still have “left to do.”
    Love the pictures. Thanks again!

  2. pennyjars says:


    Here! Here! Recently I was complaining to a friend about things that were stressing me and things I was worrying over. She looked at me oddly and said, “Hello! Success.” I think I could use a recording of her saying that to me every morning when I get out of bed.

    Thank you for the inspiration!

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