chicken dada

Chicken told me he wanted to color a picture. As luck would have it, I wanted to leave my life for a minute, so it was pretty much a win all around.

I set him up with paper and markers (washable, of course. I'm no sucka) and perched at the computer with a cup of coffee, ready to read the news. And by "news" I obviously mean "trending Facebook topics."

I looked down at his paper a few minutes later. A mad hurricane of black swirls and scribbles lurched and spun across the paper.

I immediately saw a train, hurtling through a dark forest. 

Me: woah! Cool picture!
Him: I know!
Me: tell me about it!
Him: it's just a picture.
Me: but what are you drawing?
Him: it's not anything. It's just a picture.
Me: so, you're just drawing shapes?
Him: no! I'm not drawing shapes, mommy. It's just a picture.

I tend to be skeptical of the tendency to assign wisdom and insight to a toddler's simplicity. I don't really buy the idea that children possess mystical powers and zen-like perspective.

This is, after all, the same creature who falls to the ground in psychic agony if someone unwraps a Hershey's kiss all the way before handing it to him.

But at that moment, I felt like Chicken was channeling Marcel Duchamp, his picture an invitation to strip away the extraneous construct of meaning and give permission for a thing to just be what it is, no more, no less. With his "Just a Picture," Chicken challenged me to let go of my adult desire to categorize, characterize, expound, moralize.

I'm the worst about that... for me, every daily event is a day-maker or a day-breaker. It's quite the roller-coaster in my head. And I know I'm not alone here.


I'm not the only one who takes EVERYTHING personally, who heaves heaping shovelfuls of meaning onto every single fucking moment of my life? Right?


Chicken has a meltdown while I'm writing, and it's a personal attack on my desire to live an independent life.

pweese mommy
it's not enough bibs
just one more
nooooooooooooooooooo hooo hooooo

His train whistle shriek means that I'll never be a complete person again. My life is over. For real. The last spark of my independent spirit is snuffed out, doused into eternal cold blackness by the tears of a toddler who just wanted to dress as Louis XVI for breakfast.

But then Buster gives a piece of cheese to Chicken, who smiles and says "thank you, Buster!" And THAT, right there, is validation for literally every single choice I have made in my life.

Private school tuition to become a stay-at-home parent? JUSTIFIED. OBVIOUSLY. Did you see how my kid just shared? Only a six-figure education will yield that level of compassion in the very young.

Nope, now that you mention it, I didn't floss last night. But clearly that was the right move, because it brought me to this place, here and now, where my children USED MANNERS.

At what point in our lives do we learn that everything has to mean something? Is it the first time we watch Sleepless in Seattle? Is it the first time a teacher writes the word "metaphor" on the blackboard? (Do they have blackboards anymore? Wait, are you telling me that not only are blackboards out, but also that kids don't wear bonnets to school anymore? I strongly disapprove of this newfangled indecency. And that rock music! FEH.)

Sometimes the peek at profundity is a welcome balm; it's important for all of us to believe that our lives matter. We have, as humans, an instinct to seek connection and a greater sense of order and justice. We want to be unique threads in a tightly woven cloth. And sometimes you see a flash of the glorious pattern, the flash that you feel great artists witness daily, and you feel elation, true joy, a high even higher than four cotton candies can give.

But sometimes it just makes you feel like shit. Like how Cormac McCarthy must have felt writing "The Road." Sometimes you need a shit to just be shit, and not a symbol for your youth. OR WHATEVER.

Well, anyway. I think I could stand to embrace a little more Dada in my days.

It was just a tantrum.
It was just cheese.
It was just a picture. 

this bridge is life
eeeeasy girl
it's just a bridge
has perished
just a sunken bridge
nothing lasts
it's just
the sunken bridge
of ozymandias
look upon my works
ye mighty
and despair
just high tide
right now


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