Wednesday, June 30, 2010

How Curiosity Killed the Roly Poly

Photo by Andrea Sherrick

School has once again captured my attention and stolen away my free time, more intensely packed this summer then usual, with 16-week courses being crammed into eight-week spans of time. So in lieu of paper and paste, my artistic cravings are being satisfied through the creative writings required for my English Comp class ~ this is the second installment for you to enjoy.

 How Curiosity Killed The Roly Poly
by Crystal Neubauer

Inquisitive by nature, Andrea kept me on my toes as a mom. There seemed to be nothing she was afraid of trying and the word “stranger” did not exist in her young vocabulary. Many times I would find her batting her wide eyes up at me having found herself in one sort of a jam or another. Little startled-deer caught in oncoming traffic at rush hour had nothing on her with those eyes. Remarkable Eyes. Once a woman at the grocery store declared “Oh you have the most beautiful eyes! Can I have your eyes?”. Taken quite literally and turning those eyes to me in fear, Andrea whispered loudly: “Momma that lady wants my eyes!”. Perhaps it was coincidental, but there seemed to be a connection between those eyes and the inquisitiveness of her nature.

Family lore includes the trip to the hospital to retrieve the large red bead jammed far up the cavity of her nose. So far up had she managed to insert that bead, a slight bulge presented itself just between those eyes, a little to the right. Another time those wide eyes staring up at me were offset by the closest thing to alien green one could expect to find in the form of permanent ink marker. She had covered her chubby cheeked face, her arms and hands (not even sparing her fingernails), and all over that rounded baby belly that was among the little evidence her height would give to her true age. And one night as I stood at the stove her tiny voice pleaded up at me “Momma I'm stuck”. Intent on my stirring I asked her to wait, but with only a moment's hesitation she repeated “Momma, I'm stuck”. Secure in her whereabouts at my side I paid no attention and once again she insisted, loudly this time, “Maaaaaww! I'm Stuck!” Looking down impatiently I see her extending her arm with her cupped baby hand thrust in the air just above those eyes, having glued each tiny finger to the next from the web to the tip so securely that another trip to the hospital was in order. They were starting to know us by name.

Standing in front of the washing machine, mind set on pie-in-the-sky dreams and mental note-taking of tasks to be done, I thought nothing of reaching my hand into Andreas jeans pockets to clear them of the evidence of her play. Glancing down at my hand as I threw the jeans in the wash it took a moment for my mind to catch up. Squealing, I jump back in compensation for the delay, then catching myself with a chuckle, I realize the harmlessness of the creatures I am holding in my hand, curled as they are and long dead from suffocation.

Or curiosity.

We've had our share of odd creatures as pets, along with a fair number of kittens and puppies. The tarantula bought with Kristin's eighth grade graduation money, the backyard snakes and turtles smuggled in boxes to live under Jason's bed, and of course, there was the Oscar. Oh yes, the hedgehog, and birds, yes there were plenty of birds – but Andrea had an obsession with the Roly Poly.
Photo by Andrea Sherrick

We lived that year in a rented house in the middle of the historical section of town. It was the kind of house that made you wonder if it ever really had seen better days. Its additions were intended to improve, but had been so hastily and poorly erected the entire structure looked like it could be knocked down by a good stiff wind. Or a slight sneeze. But where the house had little to offer in the way of aesthetic appeal, the garden, with its dead logs, plentiful rocks, and old vegetation, was just the thing to excite a wide eyed curious little girl, and the perfect habitat for her favorite terrestrial crustacean, known as the Roly Poly.

Interesting characters, those little Roly Polys were. I was more inclined to believe their small size put them in the category of “bugs”, but in actuality they were more closely related to that hermit crab the Easter bunny had left for Jordan one year. Andrea spent hours that summer poking and prodding those little woodlice into the balls they formed when protecting themselves from harm. “An annoyance” is how they are described in the Pest Gallery by the Blue Chip Exterminating company, but I would reckon to guess that this description would more aptly describe the way the Roly Polys viewed Andrea then the other way around.

She couldn't help her curious nature. Some would say curious was just a polite way of saying “nosy” and if able to answer, the Roly Poly would surely be inclined to agree that this little girl was a little too nosy for their ultimate good.

 Photo by Andrea Sherrick

She's grown up now, that curious little girl, and still seeing the world through those wide inquisitive eyes. But instead of stuffing her pockets full of the treasures she finds each day, she is recording her life through the lens of her camera. And in those captured moments I am able to see the beauty that she sees hidden in the most mundane of things and I too have become fascinated with the Roly Poly.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The therapy is in the process...

I stole away some precious time yesterday afternoon to play and practice some techniques without a finished project in mind while hubby spent some time practicing for his show on the 4th. Art is therapy. No doubt. Relaxing and breathing. And Letting Go. No matter what medium you choose to create in, there really is therapy in the process.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Star-Spangled Lullaby

School has once again captured my attention and stolen away my free time, more intensely packed this summer then usual, with 16-week courses being crammed into eight-week spans of time. So in lieu of paper and paste, my artistic cravings are being satisfied through the creative writings required for my English Comp class and I thought I would post a few of these essays here throughout the summer. 

A way of letting you know that I haven't forgotten you and in hopes that you will not have forgotten me.

Photo by Andrea Sherrick

Pull up a chair and a tall glass of lemon-aide, slide the brim of your hat over the bridge of your nose, dangle your toes in the lake and forget about work for just a little while.....

A Star-Spangled Lullaby 
by Crystal Neubauer

Rows of newly purchased Keds lined the gutter as I sat on the curb shoulder to shoulder with my cousins along First Street excitedly anticipating the distant rat-a-tat-tatting of the drums and the blaring of sirens which signaled the start of the parade. Our hands clutched little American flags waiting to wave them at the antique cars and floats passing by in hopes of being rewarded with a shower of candy for our patronage on that day.

For the first ten years of my life the Fourth of July was celebrated in much the same way. There was a strong sense of community in my hometown of Champaign, Illinois. The Fourth of July festivities was a good example of how the diverse faces that flavored the racial makeup of the mid-sized, mid-west town would come together without the self-consciousness that so often segregated other communities in those years. But community to me had more to do with the gathering of my aunts and uncles, grandparents and cousins, and the wide array of friends, and friends of those friends, who would turn out en masse early in the morning to unfold lawn chairs with newly webbed seats in Illini colors and spread out orange and blue plaid blankets claiming “our spot” along the curb.

After the parade we would happily clutch our bags of candy and pile into Dad's work van for the six block trek to Gramma and Papa's house, where we would spend the rest of the day oblivious to the continuing celebration at the Field House on the U of I campus. Here, we would spend the afternoon eating the ice cream Gramma had made the day before after hours and hours of hand-cranking, and we would fold paper airplanes to give to the uncles who would load them with Black Jacks and send them hissing into the air while the aunts scolded and warned us of the little boy who had lost the tips of his fingers after participating in just such folly.

Later in the day we would gather the lawn chairs and blankets again and head across the street to sit in the parking lot of the Radisson Hotel, where the white dome of the Assembly Hall was visible and the view of the fireworks display at the Stadium on Kirby Avenue was unobstructed by the cherry tree that filled Gramma's front yard. We'd chase each other with snap-n-pops exploding at our heals and wait for it to be dark enough for the fireworks to begin and then cuddle on the nearest lap. It didn't really matter whose, back then the arms weren't selective and were always open for one of the cousins to climb in. And just for a moment, in the bursts of those acrid-smelling stars, I held on to the illusion that begged me to believe that everything really was going to be okay.

 Photo by Andrea Sherrick
This year Gramma was forced to give up her little ranch house on Birch street and go to live at the Champaign County Nursing Home. The same culturally rich faces were present as I remembered from my childhood, but now each one in a different state of decline. It was startling, really, to see her after all this time and realize she no longer knew my name. As I leaned in close her smile widened and she grabbed the sides of my cheeks in both hands as if she knew exactly who I was and she was delighted to see me after all this time. “Gramma, do you know who I am?” I asked with tears filling my eyes as she shook her head from side to side, the same wide silly grin still on her face highlighting the emptiness of her gaze.

Later she grabbed my face again and spoke, “You do look familiar....”, and I prompted her with names she might more easily recognize then mine, “Do I look like Dianna?”, as she shook her head once again my cousin Lony leaned in and giggled “You probably remind her of you!” And so we shared a laugh and Gramma sat smiling at us both, just happy to see somebody stop in front of her chair and keep her company for a while.

Walking through her house that afternoon, I stop to look through the large picture window of the living room and am struck by the lack of change in Gramma's front yard. The little concrete gnome still stands by the bird bath under the cherry tree, which has not grown much taller then it was when I was ten, just enough shade to cool under in the heat of the day, but still preventing a clear view of the night sky. I can nearly see the outline of the chairs scattered across the lawn and closing my eyes I can just catch the sound of my Gramma's voice calling my name and hear the laughter of the family that had once been so close.

Across the street I look to see that time has not stood still as I had hoped. The parking lot where those sweet summertime gatherings took place is no longer there and the view from Gramma's yard is nothing more then the cold brick backside of the newly renovated hotel. I load the boxes of memories into my car and head out for the three and a half hour drive. And as I watch Gramma's house disappear in the rear view mirror, I know in my heart that this town will always be my home.