Friday, May 18, 2007
Of deep analysis, art and rhubarb pie
I don't know what it is about some of my blogger friends like Dale, Old Lady and Megan, but all three of them frequently write things that remind me of topics I need to post about myself.
Megan recently shared some of her students' artwork which reminded me of my old friend Mariane.
Mariane is a fabulous lady I met at a party and became friends with a number of years ago. At the time we met she was about 90 years old and in perfect health, except for being almost totally deaf from old age. Other than that she wasn't even on any medication.
Mariane is a Jewish-German Holocaust survivor who moved to New York in the early 1950s, where she still has the same apartment on Riverside Drive. Her rent is currently in the neighborhood of $300, and I once proposed marriage to her in a shameless attempt to get my hands on that rent-controlled lease. She just giggled, not realizing I was completely serious.
On the day we met we were discussing general subjects when she began telling me about her former career.
"I vorked vith cheeldren," she said.
"What did you do with the children?!!!" I shouted.
"The children!!!! What did you do with the children?!!!!"
(Ok, you get the effect of the deafness....basically everything had to be screamed and repeated multiple times.)
"I deed art zerapy vith zem," Mariane replied.
"Art therapy? What is that exactly?"
"Ven zees cheeldren vere hafing problems, I vould meke zem draw me a peecture. Zen I vould know vat vaz zer problems."
"Oh, that sounds interesting."
"Yes, eet vas very revealing. I vould alvays start vith hafing zem draw a peecture of zemselves so zat I vould know ekzactly who zey vere."
"Wow, that sounds kind of scary. Does it actually work?" I asked.
"Vait just von meenute," she said as she began rifling through a desk in our host's study. She found a pad of paper and a pencil, which she shoved at me assertively. "Draw me a peecture of yourself," she said.
Now this made me nervous. I have always been a terrible drawer, barely able to make a straight line let alone render a likeness of anything remotely resembling anything in the natural world. Plus, I was terrified that my drawing would somehow reveal the darkest side of my personality, a place the wisest among you know better than to visit more than once.
But I decided I was up for the challenge. I sat myself in a chair in the corner of the room and set to work, carefully drawing a picture of the man I envisioned myself to be. I took special care to make myself look as happy and well adjusted as my borderline-retarded hands would allow. I made sure to draw a big goofy smile on my face, and did my best to make my eyes sparkle. All that happy face kind of stuff.
After about twenty minutes I handed the pad back to Mariane. "Be kind to me please. I'm really bad at drawing," I implored. But she probably didn't even hear me as she had already begun studying my picture in earnest.
About five minutes later Mariane, without looking up from the pad, made her first pronouncement:
"Deesgusted vith life."
I literally felt the hope drain out of my face; so much for my happy-Tom cartoon rendering. I became defensive immediately.
"Disgusted with life?! What do you mean 'disgusted with life'?! I'm not disgusted, I'm happy! I'm content! I have a good life!! How could you say that about me?!!" I was really quite bothered.
"Meking a compromise."
She only half mutterd this second pronouncement as she continued to study my drawing. I felt a small bout of hysteria begin to rise in my chest.
"Compromise?! What does that mean?!! I don't know what you mean by 'compromise'!" I was yelling so that she could hear me, but as I was also clearly upset, people started to poke their heads into the room to see what was going on. "
"And I still don't understand this 'disgusted' business!! What is it about my drawing that would make you say such a terrible thing?!!"
She finally looked up from the pad and peered at me critically above her reading glasses.
"Do you hafe flat feet?"
At which point our host entered the room to break up our little private party and to call us to the dinner table. This was probably for the best, considering my growing agitation.
I tried to question Mariane later about her analysis of my drawing, but she either couldn't hear me or decided we had discussed it enough. It could be that she didn't want to upset me further, but my preferred theory is that she cast aside her doubts about me once she tasted the homemade rhubarb crisp I had brought to the party for dessert. Not to brag or anything, but in my mind a good piece of sweet rhubarb pie is medicine enough to cure most of the world's ills. And I have a certain way with the rhubarb.
So let's just leave it that Mariane felt my love of life shine through my rhubarb pie. At least I hope that's what she was thinking as she wolfed down two full servings before picking up the plate to lick it clean.
All the same, I don't believe I have attempted to draw anything since that day. So much for my art therapy.