(Author's note: I cranked this one out in about an hour – and had it revised, don't worry. Inspiration came from the last day of school when one of the teachers brought her little 4-5 year old daughter who was drawing pictures in everyone's yearbooks. P.S. I don't know anything about Picasso, I just looked pictures up on google images, but I tried not to include too many fallacious details. Enjoy! ~not Ross)
"Mommy, Mommy, look what I drew!" Gracie ran, tottered up to her mother's desk. Her hand, dimples where the knuckles should be, clutched the corner of a white sheet of printer paper with colors on it, lots of colors. "I drew it all by myself special!"
Harriet bent and swung the little girl into her lap, took the drawing and held it far in front of her. She'd left her glasses in the car. "It's very nice!" she said, pinching Gracie on the hip. Gracie jumped and giggled. Harriet pointed to the semblance of a box drawn on the paper in bright red crayon. "What is this one?"
Gracie stopped laughing. She wrapped her fingers around her mommy's shiny watch and pulled the artwork close. "It's a rocket," she said, stumbling over the R.
"Oh, I like it! It's very pretty!"
She hopped down and teetered out of the room, downcast. Harriet sighed and stood slowly up to chase after Gracie. One of her knees cracked. The other mothers at Gracie's preschool were half her age and blond and pretty, they wore makeup in public and rings on their fingers. But Harriet's knees cracked. That's what she got for marrying late. She walked stiffly and towards Gracie's bedroom. The door was open because that was the rule. "Gracie girl," she called softly.
The bed, the big girl bed, was covered with stuffed animals, and Gracie's little body protruded from the pile, her head pressed against the forested wall. Harriet had spent three days painting trees on this wall for the baby that kicked in her abdomen.
"Gracie girl," Harriet said again. She laid her hand on Gracie's back, small and warm. "Are you crying, Gracie girl?"
Gracie sniffed loud and long.
"Tell me what's the matter, Gracie girl. Sit up."
Gracie unburied herself from the ocean of turtles and pandas and cats. Her face was red, a tear dangled from the side of her nose. "You didn't like my rocket," she sniffed.
"Gracie girl, I love your rocket! It looks just like a real rocket!" Harriet rubbed her back.
"Why didn't you get it?" Gracie reached for a doll with shiny yellow hair and hugged it close to her chest. "I'm not a good draw-ist."
Harriet nodded, and nodded some more, and she stopped rubbing Gracie's back. Because she knew that feeling, the one that says, you're no good at this. "Gracie girl, get up. Follow me." She stood and waited by the door as Gracie dragged out of her safe stuffed animals, and when she drew near, Harriet reached for her hand. How could a hand be so small and so fragile?
They walked back into the living room and straight for the bookshelf. Harriet ran over the book spines with her unpainted fingernails. She used to paint much bigger surfaces than fingernails, back in college when there was time for things like curling irons and painting. And this was the book the art proff's graduation gift. And that was back when she told the world to look for her work in the museums, when the proff thought a book like this would actually be useful. She pulled it off the shelf, smiled at the distorted figures on the cover.
"What's that?" Gracie asked.
"Sit with me," said Harriet. They sat against the empty wall beneath the window, sunlight on their legs and tangled in their hair, turning it bronze like the frame on the family picture. She opened the book, and Gracie touched one of the pictures with one finger, one finger like she was supposed to touch the breakable things in kitchen stores.
"What's that?" she breathed.
Harriet smiled and stroked Gracie's head. Most women her age couldn't do this with their children, kids four times Gracie's age. "That's what a lot of Picasso's friends said. They didn't know what it was. Do you know what it is?"
"It looks like crayons."
"Look what it's called. Can you sound out what it's called?" Harriet tapped the title of the painting and followed along with Gracie's slow and methodical work through the sounds. "Woman with a Flower," she said after Gracie gave it a good try.
"It doesn't look like a lady."
"That's what Picasso's friends said. He had to tell them what all his paintings were, because they didn't understand the pictures. But you know what?"
Gracie twisted around in Harriet's lap and held her round face close. "What?"
"This book is all about Picasso. It's filled with his paintings, even though no one understood them. He got really, really famous, even though people didn't think his drawings made sense." Harriet tousled Gracie's hair. "You could be really, really famous, too. You just can't let people who don't understand make you sad."
Gracie leapt up and grabbed her drawing off the coffee table, holding it out for everyone in the world to see. "I'm not sad! I'm going to put this on the refriger!" She galloped through the kitchen door, purple flower skirt flouncing up over her turkey legs.
Harriet nodded. Someone should have sat down with her over coffee ten years ago and said that. "You just can't let people who don't understand," she whispered, running the palm of her hand over that dear Picasso book, "make you sad."
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