Wednesday, September 1, 2010

the boy who couldn't

i am a mess. i am a mess waiting to happen, contained inside a box, waiting for some unsuspecting person to stumble upon me, so i can spring out and yell gotcha as i drip down the front of their bleach white shirt. i am that mess.

on thursday, i made monsters. little monsters, all running around , howling and screeching, with fingers gooey from finger paint and little multicolor construction paper bits stuck in their hair and ears. i do art with second graders, on thursdays, and we were monsters, creating monsters, because creating is vital to our very existence.

each one got a piece of the body to make, to shape, to create & then putting them all together we would have our glorious monster, complete even with sound effects, as terrence, one wild little monster, was pulling his cheeks and his lips making wet smacking noises, so i could not even look at him without laughing, afraid he would pull them back over his head, at one point.

jenny's arm was three sizes bigger than tommy's leg, and it seems we ended up with too many heads, so they put one on his butt in case he needed to see behind. there were tentacles and wings and long pointed fingers and one little boy created all kinda confetti to speckle him with, if only art had not been cut to 25 minutes due to budgetary constraints and potholes needing filling in the governor's gated private subdivision.

then there was one, the boy that couldn't, that sat all quiet, back straight upright, prim and proper, but nothing he made, just sat and so i asked and he said, "i am not allowed to make a mess." no finger paints, never smashed a mud pie between his fingers, i was astounded. he had to stay clean and neat, as a hospital cornered sheet. i could just see him sitting in the middle of a room, afraid to breathe.

i wanted to grab him right there and a big box of broken crayolas and draw on the walls of the school like 64 color art vigilantes. we would write in big block letters, "YOU WILL NOT HOLD US UMBER!," because that would get the attention, at least, of the poor custodian, who gets paid far too little to be scraping up that peppermint scented saw dust they put on vomit and doodles.

how sad to never be a mess, to never create, for when you steal that, you steal a little of divinity, because cleanliness is further from godliness than you would ever believe. instead, i helped him cut out a wing, so our monster could learn how to fly away from misguided ideologies masquerading as theology and, as they walked out the door, i gave him a wink and whispered...

"fly, monster, fly."

they really should have vetted me better, before they turned me loose on these wonderful monsters. oh yes, i am a mess.


104 comments:

Jinksy said...

Heaven be praised for the messy ones! Long may they survive and create...I lived through a childhood where for the most part, I had to not make a mess. Boy, have I made up for it since!

Cheryl said...

Memories come flying back with reckless speed. Thou shalt not touch nor make a mess. The 11th commandment.

Sam Liu said...

A beautifully written and very moving story, Brian. This really struck a chord. All children should be allowed to explore and create, to get messy and learn about the world around them, to just be children. How sad that there are those not allowed to do so. In fact, the boy in this story reminds me of a character, Bertie, in a series of books by Alexander McCall Smith. He too is not allowed to be a boy and a child.

Maggie May said...

That was sad.
My granddaughters have recently had fun decorating the pavement in front of our house with chunky chalk. Street art! They get in quite a mess but that is half the fun!
Maggie X

Nuts in May

Monkey Man said...

So beautifully captured. I feel for the upbringing of the child that couldn't. How can one steal puddle jumping, fort making, mud slapping and utensilless pie eating from a child. Sad. So Sad. But bless you for getting him involved.

william said...

awe its all part of growing up, brilliant mate u did us proud :)

Tom said...

what a gas! of course there's always the odd kid out, always will be.

Bonnie said...

And what an inspiring, wonderful mess you are, Brian! You have so much to bring to anyone operating from 'misguided ideologies masquerading as theology'. Bravo!!!

TALON said...

God bless the mess. This was so neat, Brian. All that creative energy waiting to be born and released and to fly - yes! I hope that boy at least makes secret messes somewhere...sometime...

Maha said...

the first paragraph really caught my attention with its casual and at the same time poignant style. Needless to say, the rest of it was just as great.

P.S. I checked out the Imperfect Prose blog and I guess you'd forgotten to link yourself

Tracy said...

A beautiful mess, you are! xxoo

Betty said...

So good.
cleanliness is further from godliness than you would ever believe. - so true!

CM said...

That was awesome!!! I loved it! Go, go be a mess!

My fav, "64 color art vigilantes"! So cool, rock on!

Tina said...

You've made me tear up before, but never actually cry. Until now. How unbearably sad for this little guy. I remember vividly having my brother-in-law over one afternoon and he asked me incredulously, "You just let them use the garden hose whenever they want?" Well, sure. Not like they're spraying it INTO the house...He sighed and said, "You're a great Mom. Back at my house it was a CRIME to get wet." Sweetest thing he's ever said. I hope the wings you helped him make will let him fly one day. And I hope you helped the regular teacher clean up ;-) JK.

The Retired One said...

Well told, Brian...I know such a child...but when his grandmother (not me, really! but another relative) takes him to babysit, she purposely exposes him to fingerpainting, etc.) It is their little secret...thank goodness she is in his life...his mother is OCD, I am SURE of it, so the poor kid cannot be a kid and "make a mess". How sad...I am so glad you were there for this child too!

Betsy said...

misguided ideologies masquerading as theology....

Boy, did this one hit home.

I bet that class loves you, Brian! :)

TechnoBabe said...

Stifling kids is an ego thing for the parents I think.

Everyday Goddess said...

having the freedom to make a mess is pretty thrilling. i'm not much of a neatnik.

5thsister said...

Oh wow...the poor, poor child...He was not allowed to make a mess. I know a child that had to be perfect at all times. The pressures.

Caty said...

How fun! Kids are so much fun to hang out with...though I feel so bad for the poor little boy who couldn't be free to make a mess :(

Joanna Jenkins said...

I am a firm believer that all kids should be allowed to make a mess-- it's how they grow and learn. Beautiful but sad story Brian.

I'm back from vacation and missed your stories and poems. I'm off to catch up.

Hope all is well with you, T and the boys.

jj

Titanium said...

This one tugged my heartstrings completely loose of their moorings... poor little man.

Messes and monsters and mistakes are best experienced as a youngster. Life gets so much scarier when you're afraid to make a mess of things.

signed...bkm said...

Beautiful post Brian...fly monster fly, love it -- our monsters must breath and fly as high as our angels - together we are whole....blessings..bkm

natalee said...

so true about cleanliness..you have to love and appreciate messes especially with boys!!!!! great post

Angie Ledbetter said...

That was lovely and magnificent! Especially this: "how sad to never be a mess, to never create, for when you steal that, you steal a little of divinity..."

Thankful there are still a few monsters and messes around to teach others the arts. Hugs from a former teacher of young special needs kids.

Nancy said...

Children are messy - that is how God intended them.

Lauri said...

amen for messes and teachers that encourage them! thank you for being one who stretches the imaginations of growing minds.

Misty said...

art vigilantes and the theology of mess. LOVE it.
i hope he learns to make a mess, to be a mess, to go to the messmaker and messgiver and messcleaner. and that's about as theologically unclear as i could get, yet somehow, it makes crayola sense to me.

Wandering On Purpose said...

Thank goodness there are teachers out there like you!!
A dear friend and I often discuss how life is messy - and we might as well embrace/enjoy it. My heart hurts for that little one who isn't allowed to enjoy the mess and all of the beauty that a mess can create.

Kathy's Klothesline said...

Poor little guy. We lived across the street from the beach for two years and only went once. What torture it was to watch families crossing the boulevard with all their gear in tow. Mother did not like sand, sun, or water ......

Jen said...

I still color outside the lines every chance I get. Way to go Brian! Art and music should be required, just like reading and writing.

The Girl from Cherry Blossom Street said...

Oh you and your beautiful mind!
One has got to go through mess in order to learn how to clean up...

Magpie said...

I'm so glad you at least opened his eyes to some fun and creativity in the end. It is so very necessary to our growth and renewal.
"fly, monster, fly"
What a wonderful way to share the moment.

Brian Miller said...

just to keep everyone straight, i do counseling...i volunteer to do the art...but i do love it when i see them create...

Lori said...

Oh Brian this brought tears to my eyes...all children should know the beauty and joy of mud between their fingers and toes...of painting a masterpeice and having the paint all over themselves...of jumping through mud puddles.

I knew a little girl just like this in my daycare...or I should say when she first started at my daycare. Even though I had told her parents how I ran my daycare and all the messy activities we would do each day,which would require their daughter to come in play clothes(and actually would need to have an extra outfit at my home) they brought her the very first day in a very nice dress and shoes. I was speechless. I reminded them and they said she would be fine. Even her extra outfit was an outfit one would wear to church.

This poor little girl refused to do anything. I made a hard decision and told the parents when they came to get her that she could not come back because it just wasn't going to work. They asked me why and I was honest with them. Come to find out that neither of them had been allowed to get dirty as kids so they didn't really know how to dress their daughter in play clothes. They asked me to help them and they agreed to allow their daughter to get messy. It took some time but eventually the little girl felt free enough to get messy and her parents relaxed about it. Later, they thanked me.

I totally forgot about this until I read this tonight. Thank you Brian! XX

kkrige said...

Next time bring in an extra old shirt or two Brian. He can still go home in his pressed shirt, but will have the memory of paint squishing between his fingers to last him a while.

Jill said...

Boy are those monsters blessed to have you!

Oh the FUN to make a mess!!!!

ELK said...

i spend my days among preschool age children singing and dancing...there are those that are a"mess" and those that cannot...even at that young age!

Kris said...

I thought that you'd be fishing.

Percy Bisque Silley said...

Ah!

sage said...

good to know that the governor's dinner guests won't have to have their front-ends realigned... I liked that dig!

ladyfi said...

I recognize this all too well. There are always a few kids who don't want to splash in puddles or play with paint or roll down that hill with us because they are scared of what their parents will say.

The motto in our household is: It's a child's job to get dirty and be noisy.

A lovely piece of writing.

Sophia said...

...."how sad to never be a mess, to never create, for when you steal that, you steal a little of divinity..."


I think these are the best lines of a great piece here, Brian. I wish ALL children could have that wonderful experience of creating. It's such a good and healthy thing. Kudos to you for what you do!!

Cloudia said...

Glorious!!!!!




Warm Aloha from Waikiki

Comfort Spiral

Bernie said...

More money should be spent on creativity instead of bricks and mortar......let a child be a child, have fun and that includes puddle jumping....:-) Hugs

emily wierenga said...

wow. i feel like standing and applauding. can you hear my hands clapping? well, well, done. not only in writing, but in freeing that boy up to be... a mess. a glorious, sinful, mess, because that is what we are, and that is what grace came to save. oh, how perfect for imperfect prose :) thanks, friend.

Cinner said...

Brian, the best fun is making messes, as a child, as an adult, forever. smiles. loved it today.

Kay said...

you have just validated the look of my apartment... :) so, thank you.

oh, and did i forget my frame of mind??? haha

must be related somehow.

what fun to be had by all!

adeeyoyo said...

Gee Brian how you can change from hilarity to such pathos in the blink of an eye. I can't imagine anyone doing that to a child! Messing is part of growing up. Well done for drawing him into the activity, even such a little bit is better than nothing... Poor, poor child!

Zuzana said...

There is nothing like the creativity of a kid and being messy equals exploration and stimulation of their minds and their imagination and eventually intellect.;)
I recall to this day one moment in my childhood, where we played at a construction site (dangerous, but that was the reality of a communist upbringing - no playgrounds) and the best thing we knew was to throw large boulders into mud; it would splash all around making us all messy. We would laugh like loons and kept at it for hours.;)
Great writing dear friend, as always,
xo

slommler said...

And I am so glad you are a mess for the sake of all the children. We need more messes!! More creativity!! More art!!!
Now I make messes every day!! I love art! And so do my grandchildren. We always made messes and I have glowing examples everywhere in my home!! Love it!!
Great post Brian
Hugs
SueAnn

Pauline said...

of all the things I've read that you've written this is hands down my favorite for every reason you list as viable for being a mess!

California Girl said...

And a very nice mess indeed.

Vicki Lane said...

Wonderful! But how sad for the little boy who isn't allowed to make a mess. All of childhood should be about making wonderful glorious messes. And boo for a 25 minute art class. Of course -- you're lucky to have art at all.

Daniel said...

Hooray for Brian and his wonderful imagination and spirit. Hooray for his tender care and love of those he comes into contact with. Love this one.

annell said...

I like that mess. You do wonder about the one that didn't....how did he grow up?

annell said...

I like that mess. You do wonder about the one that didn't....how did he grow up?

darsden said...

Messes are the bestest, I believe strongly in letting them be little people :-) in all their creativity

Kim Hyland said...

"misguided ideologies masquerading as theology" this line is profound.
Thank you for the reminder that messes live where life abounds! Reminds me of Proverb 14:4.

joanny said...

The only way to creativity is to be as free as child -- messes and all.
If you have children you will love this story. What a sheer delight to read.

Joanny

Lorraine said...

I can pray, and I will, that more teachers with heart of ofyour calibre, startpopping everywhere....beautiful read, always a heart squeeze

Carrie Burtt said...

Brian this is simply an amazing piece of prose. I love the message here...:-)

transparentnow? said...

I was the kid who couldn't make a mess. I even took names of other kids who talked when the teacher was out of the room. Over the last few weeks I removed all the symmetrical paving stones that lined my flower beds. I smashed many of them and built a dry river bed in my yard. It was great! No borders to the beds anymore---just nature running free. My geometrically symmetrical neighbor just hates it....I just smile and let my grandkids draw chalk figures on the brick walls :)

JStar said...

I LOVE this Brian! I miss my lil ladies when they were monsters :) Now they are too busy looking cute teenagers and one almost an adult....These were the good ole days :)

Slamdunk said...

Good message Brian.

We make lots of art messes at the house--fortunately, we have learned to have the proper cleaning supplies nearby and not to wait to tidy up.

Valerie said...

I wasn't EVER allowed to make a mess and if I did woe betide me if I didn't clear up every speck. I now know the error of Mother's ways....

Captain Dumbass said...

Next time, maybe make him a little bio-mess suit out of giant orange garbage bags and let him do his worst.

keLi said...

i love that you let them put the extra head on the butt ... that speaks volumes as to your character, sir.

having worked in public education, and having become burned out by public education, it is awesome to read and remember that there are still finger-painted messes happening out there.

how i would love to smear goopy red paint across the endless "bubble tests" that we're forcing on kiddos today, but i'll say "great post!" and leave off there.

Candie Bracci said...

Let the little monsters make a mess!Nice post Brian!

drybottomgirl said...

When our son Sam was a baby I taught preschool. I was in charge of the entire art curriculum. We had so much fun being creative and the most fun came when we could get down and dirty with finger paints. I also let my own children play with playdough everywhere. They would create this enormous mess in the kitchen and I just had to vacume up the pieces. I guess I love creativity and hard work, so being messy doesn't bother me. So glad you were able to permeate that little boy's invisible shield and show him that creativity doesn't come in neat little packages but rather big, bold, moves that require you to roll up your sleeves and dig in......:)

Leslie said...

Only 25 minutes for art. So sad. Yet it seems you made the most of them!

So many have gone before me, here, and said it better than I could. As you said, we are all "a mess." And only God can make us fly.

SuziCate said...

What an inspiration you are! How lucky are these little ones to have you to teach them it's ok to be messy and creative...we are all too often stifled at an early age...imagine if we hadn't been!

Claudia said...

i love when you are "a mess" - when you get angry about people who treat others in a wrong way and when you step in for them!
So go ahead brian - be a mess - be angry - fight for what you think is right - fight for those who are entrusted to you - tell and teach a little boy to fly - and write about it..because i just LOVE to read it and i just love what you're doing for this kids...

Natalie said...

Oh how my heart sank for the boy who couldn't! Thank you for encouraging him to fly and showing him how!!! Btw, I am a mess, too!

deb said...

love.this.
kudos to you for knowing this.
and for actually doing it.

those children need to know.

we did and do mess.
it's life right?

Baino said...

Very sad indeed. I knew a kid once who wasn't ever allowed to eat junk food, he came to one of Clare's birthday parties and dunked carrot in chcolate dip intended for strawberries. He made up for years of not being allowed to make a mess. Sounds like awesome fun actally. Love the idea of a face on your ass! You never know who's sneaking up behind!

Hilary said...

A messy child is a happy child. That's what soap and water is for.. later. Nicely done, Brian.

Rachel said...

"how sad to never be a mess, to never create, for when you steal that, you steal a little of divinity, because cleanliness is further from godliness than you would ever believe." I especially like this line. Great perspective!

Tony Single said...

A humane story for monsters everywhere! Hallelujah! This was wonderfully told, Brian. And you got the point across without being preachy or hammering it home. You have a lightness of touch that I wish I possessed in my own writing. Fabulous!

Just Be Real said...

Moving and inspiring Brian. Blessings.

gayle said...

Love this!! Kids don't get dirty enough these days!! Even as a little girl I would dig a hole in my backyard and use it for a Barbie swimming pool......now a days they have to buy one from Wal Mart!! I tell my daughter to let my grandson get dirty and she does but not dirty enough for my liking.

blueviolet said...

I'm thinking that monster was so very perfect in its imperfection.

Linda said...

It sounds like a wonderful, glorious mess!! My heart aches for the little one who couldn't be part of it all. You have told the story well.

Laura said...

Oh, my goodness, I'm a mess too. And this sounds like the most wonder-fullest fun ever.

Fly, monsters, fly...

Bethany Ann said...

Genesis tells us that God SPOKE the "good" stuff into existence, but that He FORMED the "very good" stuff out of DIRT. sounds messy to me... almost doctrinal-statement-mention-worthy.

emmalynn said...

that monster will fly
what a lovely post
so glad you shared
i still fingerpaint from time to time

Stafford Ray said...

I just wish I had you as my art teacher. I was the little boy who could not make a mess, imprisoned by 'misguided ideologies masquerading as theology'. I had nobody to say 'fly, monster fly', until I stumbled upon Charles Darwin. But it still took another thirty years, and now I don't know how to stop! :-)

Heather said...

:) best to know we're messy.
Wonderfully written - grateful and encouraged to read. Thanks!

elizabeth said...

Love your word pictures very much!
Thank you for your kind comments over at my place!
Elizabeth
http://www.justfollowingjesus.com

Dianne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dianne said...

Oh Brian! This is my absolute favorite, the connected lines, the imbedded half rhyme, the descriptions so real and in such a flash.

observant to say the least.
this one should be published.
keep it up.
clean and neat, as a hospital cornered sheet.
Dianne

Jo@Mylestones said...

"how sad to never be a mess, to never create, for when you steal that, you steal a little of divinity,"
I couldn't agree more, although I fear I am sometimes that mother, the one who tells "the little boy who couldn't" to stay out of the mud, to put away the glitter. I hold back too often myself, so afraid to make a mess of life that I almost miss living entirely.
Loved this post.

Syd said...

Nice to be allowed to make a mess. I hope not to be a mess again.

Nessa said...

I now have the title to the piece I am going to do that was inspired by your "beyond the see"

only a movie said...

This makes me a little more excited about going back yo school... Love it.

Hold my hand: a social worker's blog said...

Very touching. Beautifully written. *sighs*

Doris

mama-face said...

awesome-but you are NOT a mess. well, if you are, then we should all aspire to be so messy.

does this mean that a messy room or a cluttery counter is a sign of a creative mind?

Marla said...

... so they put one on his butt in case he needed to see behind.

LOL....love it!

This is a beautiful mess.

Pat said...

I have a feeling that there is a lot of truth to this story! I can imagine you in a classroom with little kids! How sad for the little boy who couldn't get dirty. Too bad he couldn't have his own wings to fly away from all the cleanliness!

Mighty M said...

The Monster - what a great craft idea! I bet it was one awesome looking creature. I hope that boy learns to get messy!

Goofball said...

the most fun things I did as a kid was digging a sea port next to the road where I lived and filling it with water and self-made boats


or making mud pies on the middle of the road (it as a quiet road) & decorate them to sell to the neighbours was a big hit too

Deborah Carr said...

I feel young again.

Birdie said...

I knew there were many treasures waiting here for me :-) wonderful post Brian, I so feel sorry for the little boy ... but we don't know how his parents have been brought up, maybe they didn't know better neither ... and they cannot teach the little boy how to enjoy life ... what a complex world we live in ...

Anonymous said...

hilarious piece. just loved reading the pranks you played.

trisha
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