So I take Short and his buddy Gavin (both age 4) to the Impressive Museum. They are on their absolute best behavior due to a very enticing bribe—brownies—after our visit (sorry, Gavin’s mom! I mean, uh, that part of the story is fiction!). We see artwork by all of my favorite artists: Calder, Miro, Giacometti, Kandinsky, Gauguin. We look at sculptures and wood carvings and paintings and mobiles. The boys are attentive and observant and I overhear them saying things like, “This is an inspiring use of color,” or “I believe Georges Braque was heavily influenced by Picasso,” or “Doesn’t this one just ooze symbolism?”
Next, we decide to hit the gift shop so we can buy some commemorative magnets and souvenir "I'm A Real Artist" coloring books. Short starts in with his typical I’m-hungry-I’m-hungry-I’m-hungry mantra (to the point where random strangers are staring at my chubby child and shaking their heads thinking I am starving him when, in fact, he ate an entire apple 23 minutes ago on the drive over here). “Yes, Short,” I say through clenched teeth, “we are leaving right now and your brownie is waiting for you in the car.”
“Yay! This is a great day!” he sings out, and he and Gavin start jumping up and down like happy human pogo sticks.
“Let’s go,” I say nervously, cringing at the strategically placed Henry Moore sculpture that is in our immediate path of destruction. We swerve past the sculpture and out toward the vicinity of our car.
“Fountains!” squeals Gavin in delight, “Let’s make all our wishes now!”
We detour to the gurgling fountain for wishing and more jumping (“I wish we could jump more!” shrieks Short as he hurls his penny into the bubbly water), and finally I convince the boys we need to go to the car (“Brownie time!”). We buckle our seatbelts and the chocolatefest begins. The car is silent in a haze of cocoa beans and sugar. Shreds of paper napkins lie haphazardly around like abandoned confetti.
About halfway into our journey home, my alter-alter ego, Teacher MOV (she doesn’t pop up very often in my normal day-to-day life like Queen Virgo does) emerges with some make-you-think questions.
“If you could take one thing from the museum and put it in your house, what would it be?” Teacher MOV asks earnestly.
Gavin doesn’t hesitate. “The fountain!”
Short carefully considers his various options, then declares, “The ceiling!”
“Huh,” I murmur. “Those are great answers. Now, tell me what your most favorite thing was: did you see one piece of artwork that you really really loved? Maybe the one with the boats next to that bridge?” I prompt, “Or the one with all those buildings painted black like night?”
Short ignores me. I glance in the rearview mirror and see that he has found a stray piece of brownie that was lodged near his collar and he’s attempting to eat it without using his hands. He is darting his tongue to try to reach it: he looks like a lizard. Obviously, all this immersion in high culture has rubbed off on him.
“My most favorite thing?” Gavin clarifies, “In the whole, giant, Impressive Museum?”
“Yes,” I nudge.
“That’s easy! The escalator!” His tone tells me he is quite happy with his answer, like Bob Barker just told him he guessed right and won the Showcase Showdown.
Brownies, high ceilings, fountains, and escalators. Next time we’ll skip the museum and go straight to that other Impressive Place: the mall.
(“Masters Of Vision”)