Does too much icky-gooey stuff spoil a boy? Some say so, but I don’t buy it. My father tells me he loves me and always has. I never thought it was anything other than true, and fathers are supposed to tell their sons the truth.
My boy likes to draw. He does painting and sculpting, too, but drawing is the main preoccupation. He uses pencils. He does things with them—beautiful things—that I’ve only dreamed about being able to do. I marvel at his gifts, which are evident to me, his father, yes, but I’m not the only one who sees them.
I apologize if I seem boastful. That’s not how this is meant to come across. The boy is eight-years old, still a pup. I harbor no ambitions on his behalf, other than that he finds a way to make the most of his talent. I just want him to draw, draw, draw—then draw some more.
And he does. Morning, noon, or night, whether at the height of summer or in the bleak midwinter, you can find my boy sketching away on loose-leaf paper and in bound notebooks. Much of what he produces is mimicry. He enjoys Pixar movies and Calvin and Hobbes. He copies what he sees. Lately there’s been a lot of Harry Potter.
“Who is the youngest person to have created an animated feature film?” the boy once asked his mother. The boy dreams up his own characters, inspired by the secret lives of stuffed animals. Among them are Moose Guy and Cross, whose adventures are told in comic strips and storyboards for an animated movie studio—Patrix Pictures—that doesn’t yet exist.
One character, James, might be the artist’s alter ego. James carries a wand, à la certain Hogwarts students, and enjoys the company of a sidekick, Blobby.
Perhaps the boy’s vocation for this solitary diversion is borne of necessity. He is the third of five children—the middle man, the fulcrum, the solid center. His parents’ attentions are often focused elsewhere. He gets dragged along on shopping trips and to swimming lessons.
His blank pages are a domain solely unto him. They are governed by rules that he alone dreams up and subject to timelines that he alone maintains. He is the master of James’s fate. He is the captain of Blobby’s soul. We all need to get lost sometimes. We all need a thing we can control.
The boy’s mother, my beloved, is a deft artist in her own right. Maybe the boy gets his talent from her. Maybe he gets it from my dad, his grandfather, who tells me he loves me and who knows his way around a blank page. Either way, it’s a blessing.
Recently, the boy, who is homeschooled, attended a co-op lesson on the Feast of the Epiphany. At the break, he bee-lined for the drawing table. There he produced a sketch of Melchior, Balthazar, and Caspar—the famous Magi, the three kings, seekers of Our Lord, bearers of gifts. I was stunned by his drawing and told him so, both because I am his father and because it was the truth. Life is too short to lie.
Talent is God’s gift to us. So is truth. Both can be a burden. Many talented people can’t manage their gifts, just as some people can’t handle the truth. We know their stories. Their troubles fill our newspapers and keep us chattering. My boy may never get lucky enough to draw pictures for a living or to found his own animated film studio, but I pray he always finds pleasure and delight from the simple act of putting pencil to paper.
We must not waste or ignore our God-given gifts. If we are parents, we have a special duty to provide stewardship. Of course, we must also set reasonable expectations for success. The odds of making it big as an actor, a singer, a painter, or a basketball player are astronomical.
Then again, some do.
© Patrix Pictures
From the January 2017 edition of Fairfield County Catholic