Drawing for Jan is all about the details, each piece the summation of a thousand decisions, minutiae really, a line, a shade, a gesture. Drawing is the only part of her life that captures her attention this way, the only thing for which she has the energy for this level of detail. She cannot stay at it long, and she cannot be interrupted. It’s an unusual and fragile zone. 45 minutes go by in a flash and then she is spent. Done. Batteries dead. Drawing is slow and difficult work, an endurance event, her specialty. She starts with broad strokes, the easy part, then ever so painstakingly fills in the details. She cannot let anything slide, cannot get sloppy. Once she feels sloppy, she stops.
Today she’s drawing a kitchen. She’s been working on it for two weeks, and it’s starting to take shape. The kitchen is inspired by the Avadecian’s house: two professors, one International Relations, the other Mathematics, and two sons. She’s never seen the kids but guesses from photographs hanging around the house and artwork magneted to the refrigerator, that they’re maybe 2 years apart, 6 and 8, 7 and 9, something like that. Her own kids are in that age ballpark so she knows the signs. Little soccer balls and cleats in the mudroom, Annie’s mac and cheese cases stacked in the pantry, Legos in the bedrooms. These boys are evidently Star Wars fanatics. Just like her own.
She was cleaning the house midmorning a few Saturdays ago, the family gone as she insists, presumably at a soccer game. The light coming in through the kitchen window over the sink stopped her cold. She stopped and stared at the dishes in the drying rack, the white board calendar full to bursting, the stuffed animals on the table, the bookshelf strewn with homework and library books. The light seared through and blessed it all, illuminating the scene and taking her breath away. She didn’t want to clean the room, didn’t want to touch it. It was perfect as it was. Why this obsession with cleanliness and order? Why not let our lives spill out of the frame? She walked away, cleaned the downstairs bathroom and the living room. When she returned to the kitchen the moment had passed. Only then would she disturb the scene to do her work.
She scrubbed the counters and the floor, de-cluttered the table, put the dishes to rights. She sun was well past the window now, the room desolate as an empty church. She had been the only witness to that illumination. She feels it’s worth preserving. Maybe she’ll give the picture to the Avadecians if it turns out well. Let them see their kitchen with fresh eyes.
This morning Jan is drawing the stuffed animals on the kitchen table. The table itself in just a series of lines she’ll fill in later. The table doesn’t matter so much. It’s the animals she’s focused on. The bear’s arm is raised as if he’s making a particularly difficult point to the cat who is turned to the window, oblivious or perhaps pushed beyond patience. Hard to tell with a stuffed cat. A little brown cocker spaniel with floppy ears and curls on top of his head stares forlornly into a bowl of milk, a few bloated Cheerios languishing at the edge.
Jan imagines the boys. These stuffed animals mean the world to them, the kind of made up world only kids seem to have access to. These boys in their family photographs are beautiful. Big dark eyes and dark hair, half Armenian, half …. what? … American? She doesn’t remember seeing them but she must have, swimming lessons, grocery store, surely someplace. It’s not a big town. She imagines the rush to get out of the house that morning, the soccer game or wherever they were off to, the animals quickly abandoned, then waiting in the boys’ room where Jan eventually placed them on the beds. How she’d hated to move them.