The Best Literary Writing About Mothers and Motherhood
Subscribe to MER! Click “SHOP”

Paint by Ellen Kaplan

0

“Mommy!”

“Don’t step in the paint!”

“Mommy, look – look!”

“Shhhh. I’m working.”

…. right in the middle… Lost the line, color’s mud. “Alright, what?” Ow, too sharp!

“Never mind.”

“Whoa. OK. Where’s Margie, isn’t she taking care of you? “

(Got to find another sitter, no, never.. what am I gonna do?”)

“Don’t you want to go find Margie? I’ll be done soon.”

“No.” Out he flickers out he flies. Unidentified Flying Child. “OK, I stopped. What are you trying to show me? You know when I’m working, you have to pretend I’m not here.”

“You’re wearing a invisibility cloak.”

Now he’s mad.

”OK, what?”

Nothing.

“Show me. Really. Please.”

“I’m flying. Chazoooom. Double flip in the sky.” Off he runs. The Scotch blanket – it’s a cape. Jump. Right out the low window into my tulips, don’t! And the rhododendrons, oh!

Freckles and dirt, dimples and scrapes and curls. Six, seven soon. In the door zoom through the barn (my studio now, in back off the road and hidden by bushes and bramble, just me and paint and silence. The finished canvases are all lined up, packed in rows; me, laying on pigment, sketch and splash and dream, stand mute…

…and idle, dull when nothing comes. Shower and spatter drowning the urges in thick broad strokes. Color and line and patches of paint. And it’s all about Donny too…..)……

“Give me a hug. Up! Hey silly did you put something in my smock?”

“Margie found a message in a bottle!”

“She did? Where?”

“Don’t know. In a bottle. It’s for you. Watch me.”

Gleaming boy. Fireflies and windstorms Swept up to the sky.

“I’m Archangel. You’re Storm. You can make a hurricane. We can fight the bad guys..”

“Whoosh. Powers above, Hurricane! Here it comes.”

Oooooh.

I can’t play now, find Margie!

“Ok. Show me show me show me you’re flying – I see you! Shit. Forgot where I was, stop interrupting, but but but here we’ll both paint you take the paints and and and —–”

I curl up fetal under my sketch of a painting of a rock. Wrap us up in a cape of canvas and I’m gonna try to fly with my boy. …oh, the termite damage in the corner and (are they?) mouse holes. Maybe I should make us fluffer nutters. Maybe I should …make a list of maybes…and I shoulds.

Here’s what I think about How To Be A Mom:

Guess #1 –

“Donny, Donny. You are Mommy’s very good boy. But we have rules, don’t we, there’s a time and a place for everything. Life is organized…a horse is a quadraped…..And a mother is a person who has a life. Of her own. Now go to bed, and don’t wake up until morning.“

Guess #2 –

Grab him by the shoulders, teach him how to be a little man. Take your punishment, kid!

“No playdates for a week. But if you’re good and don’t bust in here again while I’M WORKING – I’ll think about restoring your privileges. But we’ll have to see.”

You don’t have to yell at me.

“I am not yelling I am laying down the law. That’s how you’ll learn. Now give me a kiss.”

You’re yelling.

“I AM NOT YELLING – now GIVE ME A KISS.”

Hmm.

Jaw jutting, hard-ass mommy, mommy from hell.

Nope. Try again.

Little charmer. Look at him. Chasing birds. Caw caw – that blue jay is talking to him. Sure is. Talking back. He’s flying around the trees with the bird. Soaring up on his cape. Sun catches his smile. “I’m watching you Donny. You’re flying, honey!”

Guess #3 –

I take that canvas and put it on my back and fly outside with my boy. Here I come! We can fly right around the yard and now let’s fly back into my studio.

Paint! We’ll splash colors everywhere! Red and purple and yellow and blue, fuchsia, magenta and brilliant hued oranges, squeeze out paint, let’s paint the walls! Pure Anarchy!

Let’s be perfect pals, you and me, and do whatever you want. Isn’t this fun?

“Mom, mom! Emergency!”

“Donny! Are you hurt?”

I scoop him up, here, he’s fine.

“Silly. What did you do?”

“I fell out of the sky.”

“You what?”

“I was flying and I fell out of the sky. Bye!”

And he’s shooing me off him, wriggling down. There’s Margie, waving him in.

Time to paint. Tubes, palette, knife, brush.

He put…something. In the pocket of my smock.

Paper. Message in a bottle.

Crayoned scribble, it’s a house on fire.

Can’t look now.

My hands are full of paint.
Ellen Kaplan–Chair of Theatre, Professor (Acting/Directing) at Smith College, Fulbright Scholar in Costa Rica and Hong Kong. She performs, directs and has had her plays produced nationally and in Israel, Romania, Ireland, and China, where she directed an English version of Cao Yu’s masterpiece, The Wilderness. Other plays have been performed at Theatre Matrix, LA; Cleveland Public Theatre; Meredith College in Raleigh, NC. With Dream Awakened Eyes, a one-woman show based on the work of Charlotte Salomon, and Gathering the Waters, have toured in the US. Her play about living in Israel during the 2nd intifada, Pulling Apart, a finalist for the O’Neill Playwrights Conference, was produced in New Haven and received a Moss Hart Award. Ellen’s two short plays about prison life were published and won BleakHouse award for best plays. Recent plays include Sarajevo Phoenix, based on interviews with women who survived the 3rd Balkan War, and Grain of the Wood. She has twice been a finalist for the Massachusetts Playwriting Fellowship. Other publications include poetry, translations, scholarship, and a book on mental illness and theatre.

Share.

Leave A Reply