Last week, I taught a writing workshop at The Hyde Collection where we took inspiration from the Francisco Goya exhibit (on view now through 4/26!).
After exploring animal symbolism in literature and Goya’s art, the final “assignment” was to write a 500-word story including an animal to represent any concept, person, or concern.
My husband urged me to do the assignment myself, beforehand. So, I wrote about a young buck that visited our yard last summer. It represented my oldest son, growing up too soon for this sentimental momma.
Halfway into writing it, I started crying. So hard, I had to step away from the computer. I finally got it down but then when I told my mom about it, water works all over again! I didn’t even read it aloud to my husband but sobbed to him over the phone at the mere mention of it. It’s not best writing in the world, but it’s raw and honest.
Writing is so good for the soul. It feeds you. It frees you. It rises above all the crap to elevate what’s important in the world. This is just one example.
Would you like to read my piece?
Worthy of a Crown
Deer often visit our yard. Beyond our property line at the base of the woods is a stream where they like to drink. Typically, we see them at dawn or dusk, nibbling at winter’s craggy brush, foraging for food. Always in twos or threes, sometimes with a fawn, they can be seen bounding away at the slightest sound, white tails raised like truce flags. We’re always delighted to see them, and believe their visits carry good luck.
Just last week, as my three boys left for the bus stop, two deer stilled at the sound of their voices before escaping gracefully and soundlessly into the thick woods.
It’s the first and only year all three of my boys take the same school bus. Next year, my oldest, AJ, will be in high school—a fact I have to keep repeating to believe. Despite the universal warnings, AJ has gone and left babyland and little-kid-hood behind without my permission. When did he start clipping his own toenails? At what point did he stop taking baths and start showering? Wasn’t it just yesterday all three played in the tub together? He does his own laundry, makes his own lunches and breakfasts. His face has a sculpted look to it suddenly, emphasized by his braces somehow. Not only is he an avid athlete, he lifts weights at the gym. His hugs don’t melt into me anymore but hold a strength that never fails to surprise me. How can he be changing so much right in front of my eyes, and I don’t see it?
Last spring, we removed some low-hanging branches from a giant oak in our front yard. As if in protest, the tree shed boughs for weeks, blanketing the yard with acorns. One day, around noontime, a single deer stood there, sampling the fallen goods. Unusual, considering the time of day and its aloneness. I watched, fascinated, and noticed budding antlers on the creature—each a couple inches long. I gasped in awe—a young buck!
AJ still has some growing to do. One of the smallest kids in his class, it can be a sore topic in our house. As a mom, I’m secretly conflicted. Of course, I want him to grow and thrive and reach his physical potential. I would never want him to feel self-conscious about anything, especially something so temporary and superficial. Another part, perhaps shamefully, doesn’t want him to get any bigger. Part of me wants him to be a kid forever and live under my roof and eat my dinners and do his homework at our kitchen table—always. Doesn’t every mom want that?
Our tree stopped shedding after a few weeks. And the young buck stopped coming by. He’s probably fully grown by now, perhaps has found a mate. Or maybe some other young bachelors to help him find his way. I like to think about how he must look these days—regal against the snow, stately among the trees, with a big beautiful cradle of antlers.
I like to think about how AJ will look, fully grown, so much like his handsome father, staying true to his wise and generous spirit while navigating the maze of adulthood. It’s exciting to think about what he might do for a career and imagine all the amazing ways he’ll contribute to the world. Because he’s got so much to offer. Someday, I hope he’ll find a mate, fall in love and have a family of his own. Maybe they’ll all come and visit, on holidays and every day, sampling goods from Mom’s kitchen. He’ll always know we’ll be delighted for his visits, which will be a testament to our continued good luck.
My boy. When he’s a man, he’ll wear no antlers, no crown. But he will always be my prince.