(With summer photos randomly inserted to make the text extra difficult to read)

In one week, the boy will be back to school. I will miss him, worry about him, and the regular routine of art, exercise, home repair, and after-school activity will resume. I hope it’s been a good summer for him. His presence was a blessing to me.


Shot at Legoland in glamorous Carlsbad, CA


Academy of Sciences, San Francisco

Each summer, I vow that things will be different. Perhaps everyone does. I’ll produce new, high quality works at breakneck speed. I’ll spend quality time with my kid, take him on a wide variety of day trips, and help him stay up to speed for the next school year. I absolutely will not let the joint descend into a state of squalor worthy of the city dump. I won’t lose my temper or say bad words. I won’t transform into a caricature of a Tennessee Williams character, the woman who swans around the house in a dowdy slip with support hose rolled down around her ankles while sucking down whiskey sours.


Zip line at the Adventure Playground, Berkeley, CA


A view of Alcatraz

Well, I achieved one of those goals. I spent time with the boy, although I’ve let up on the math and spelling practice during the past couple of weeks. Oh, and I didn’t drink any whiskey sours. I actually don’t care for whiskey, and I have a thing about drinking alcohol in front of kids.


Ants painted to look like people at the gawdawful Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum on Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco

It was the summer of listening to my son and building with Legos. It has come to me that one of the most important things we can do as parents is to facilitate our kids finding direction and developing into whoever they’re going to be. Maybe, probably, that won’t be the same as who we are. Maybe we could care less about fishing or magic or baseball, but it behooves us to try to make a smorgasbord available if we can. Try to listen up, act interested, invest in new experiences. Maybe somewhere out there is the experience that will spark an interest. Maybe it won’t be anything we personally care about, and that is fine. We can still be supportive. We can show interest and encourage.


My kid darned near getting killed at Belmont Park, San Diego

It was also the summer of pondering, as I became poignantly conscious of the death of other relationships, and thought about the causes. My theory has long been that I am the common factor in all of my failed relationships, most of which are with family members, so there must be something wrong with me or with something I’m doing. If I wish to be charitable to myself, it could be as simple as being someone who unconsciously seeks out or tolerates a certain type of relationship.


At the Exploratorium in San Francisco


Fort Point, San Francisco

So I sat with the boy, trying to comfort myself by nurturing him while I mourned the loss of something which had turned out to be a fantasy. I’m a big believer in gathering data, you see. Sometimes a person can grow up with a distorted notion of reality, say if there’s been profound mental illness or dysfunction in the family.


Golden Gate Bridge


Legoland Hotel, Carlsbad, CA

At some point, though, one realizes there’s a disconnect between what people are saying and what they’re doing. The two things don’t match. So one gathers data. One looks at the data over a period of years, even. One may realize that one’s model of reality was wrong and that one needs to create a new model. A healthy, more realistic model.


Meerkats at the San Francisco Zoo

I will state this minor yet not-so-minor thing in case it will help someone else: I recently went through six to eight months of artist’s block related to this issue. I still fight it now and then. I can thank Julia Cameron and her book, The Artist’s Way, for helping me to climb out of it. In it, she has a number of extremely helpful weekly exercises. I did them for about two weeks and found them very annoying, so I quit doing them. However, the journalling helped, so I thank her for that. It helped me get to the core of what was blocking me.


A model posing for her public at the San Diego Zoo

There are people out there who are broken in some fundamental fashion. Sleepwalking through life, angry, closed off, abusive, toxic, judging, unable to feel joy for others. Sometimes we’re related to them. Sometimes we’re even related to a whole batch of them. It’s hard to realize that and it’s hard to move away from it. There’s no joy in it. Even when the consequences are the same – I won’t be notified when my father becomes ill, or I won’t ever see photos of my early childhood – it feels different when consciously making a choice as opposed to simply having it happen.


Tiger, San Diego Zoo

There are people who control by withholding interest or approval, who will deny your very point of view. It’s the tip of the iceberg as far as what had been going on for decades, in terms of rude, untrustworthy, sometimes abusive behavior, but that was part of what was holding me back artistically. I’d gradually learned to quit saying anything at all, lest it be used as a weapon to hurt me. The participation in Quilt National, winning an award, a cherished book appearance, the very work I did. I started doubting the validity of my work, and had a harder and harder time working at all. Each time something good happened, I would make a mental note to say nothing about it. Double that if it was something bad, because people would rejoice in it.


The boy at Fort Point

These things happen. I will never understand why I wasn’t worthy of their love and respect, although I suspect that simply existing was sufficient. I’m not sure how one comes to terms with such fundamental rejection. However, based on what I’ve seen from friends who’ve experienced a great loss, there’s solace in turning outward. In nurturing one’s child, in quiet conversation with one’s husband, in taking interest in others and rejoicing in their successes. It seems like a good thing to practice.


An ancient Mayan lidded jaguar vessel at the de Young Museum, San Francisco

Bless the boy for his company this summer.

2 Responses to “Summer”

  1. Martha Ginn says:

    Tanya, I’m nearly a month late finding this entry–sorry! It appears that you treated your son to a marvelous summer that both of you enjoyed. Not just the rides and exhibits and animals, but the spending time together. That was the most valuable part, no matter where you were. You show great wisdom when you realize how important just listening and being there are. He is a lucky boy.

  2. Chris says:

    I like your views on parenting and being supportive of your son’s adventures.

    I think part of maturing is developing ones own sense of reality past and present, and consciously choosing on how things are going to be going forward.

    So glad to hear the artist block has moved on, I am looking forward to your next art quilt.