Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

We Both Learn a Lesson in Appreciation

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

We Both Learn a Lesson in Appreciation

Article excerpt

My 16-year-old son, Alyosha, has always been a gifted artist. At 7, he was drawing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with panache, which would later be joined by Power Rangers playing basketball (his own touch). In fifth grade, one of his pen-and-inks - of a tiger in repose - was displayed in the Bangor Mall (the acme of venues for aspiring juvenile artists in Maine). If my son had a star to follow, it seemed to be art.

But sometimes teenagerhood is like a great big bushel basket placed squarely over the lamp of one's talents. Once Alyosha entered high school, I heard little if anything about his artistic undertakings. The "Dad, look at this drawing!" of his earlier childhood had been replaced with the insouciant grunt of adolescence whenever I asked him to show me something he had drawn.

But now, in his sophomore year, the pendulum seems to have swung back. A few weeks ago, my son came home from school with a long, rolled-up tube of gray paper. "Whatcha got?" I pried.

After a modest shrug, he handed the tube to me. I unrolled it and immediately caught my breath when I beheld an absolutely stunning Chinese landscape in pastel, complete with a gloss of Chinese calligraphy in the border.

"Alyosha," I gushed, truly aglow with admiration, "this is good. Very good."

I had caught his ear. "Really?" he remarked.

I nodded without taking my eyes from his work. "You know, you could make money doing this," I told him, by way of suggesting a possible life's direction.

But my comment only garnered a skeptical wave of his hand. "What do you want me to do with this?" I asked him.

Yet another dismissive wave. "Keep it," he said as he headed for the fridge for a postschool stoking of his gastric furnace. "I can always make more."

Regarding my son as the expert on his own artistic vision, I wondered if he could be right, that his work was less than I was making of it. Wasn't I just displaying typical parental bias, envisioning a Da Vinci in my home?

But the next morning, as I reapproached the work, it looked even better to me. Alyosha caught me examining the pastel as he hovered over his breakfast bowl.

"What are you going to do with it?" he asked with a spark of curiosity.

"You'll see," I said. …

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