Thursday, April 4, 2013

Graffiti, Tagging and other Unauthorized Behaviors

 When I first read "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" at the age of ten, I immediately labeled Edmund as the bad one. I knew he was trouble before he ever entered Narnia and spoke with the White Witch. 


Sure, he was a little snarky in the opening pages,  and I suspected he was going to be a nuisance like my little brothers; the kind that stole your Barbie right off the pink plastic couch on the third story of her Townhouse and ran around the house laughing maniacally when they were bored or hyped up on red Kool-aid.  
That first day in the Professor's house, before they play hide-and-go-seek, what was Edmund doing? He was using his penknife (the ubiquitous tool of English boyhood) to carve into the underside of a chair. 

The nerve! The naughtiness! He was the Troublemaker!

My pre-adolescent moral compass was whirling with righteous indignation. 
I was such a girl!

When I watched the movie adaptation a few years ago, I was absolutely THRILLED when Edmund ducked out from under the chair and slammed his penknife onto the trunk/coffee table when the kids decide to play hide-and-go-seek. He was doing it then, during the argument! He was vandalizing the Professor's furniture! 
I was ready to high-five director, Andrew Adamson. 

He hadn't "sanitized" Edmund 's character. He let him shine in all his frustrated, sneaky, cheeky glory.

I thought it was awesome!

Then, my own son vandalized my dining room table.

Yup. A skull. With an eye patch. With another skull sketched on that.

And it wasn't on the underside like that weasel Edmund chose. 

Or in the middle where I can cover it up with a centerpiece or basket of rolls. 
Nope. Right along the curve of the oval in all it's glory.

I bought a tablecloth. A few of them.

Not too long afterward, it was time to wash said tablecloth. (Did I mention I have five sons? Lots of opportunities for laundry with five boys)
When I lifted the tablecloth away, guess what I found...This:

In case you can't tell, (I couldn't at first,) this is a smiling robot head.  

I yelled at my skull-carving boy. He was eight and had just barely unburied himself from the heap of trouble this graffiti had brought down upon his head. (No Old English or Pledge has yet to cover this baby up!) The kid should know better than to do it again! Right?

"I didn't do it." Straight face.

I yelled some more.

"I didn't do it!" Indignation.

I demanded who he thought did it.

Finger pointing at the next brother down the line. Typical.

"But Mo-ooom! I carved a skull! This is a robot. A smiling robot."

Okay. Point taken. 

The five-year-old did that.
He got in trouble too.

Its been over a year. Guess what. I hardly ever use a tablecloth anymore.

I look at those carvings and I shake my head. Then smile. 
When no one is around to see.

Each is so totally typical of the boy who drew them. The skull was the product of my sweet-but-sometimes-rebellious middle-child after I had placed a ban on all skulls in my household...not on shirts, hoodies, shoes, sheets, posters or even doodles. 
So, why was I not surprised. Sigh!

And the next son in the pecking order is curious and daring. If his brother could get away with only that much punishment, then maybe he should give that enticing naughtiness a try.

My dining table, though once a dignified piece of furniture, was third-hand when we received it...with bits of irremovable green glitter on one corner and lots of dings and scratches. The deeply-carved illustrations of my boys only adds to its character (I tell myself anyway).

Then I cringe at the motherly thought: What if they move on to other surfaces? 
So I do my darnedest to teach my kids respect (for themselves and others). 
And I pray their penchant for permanent art doesn't migrate to other people's property
...or their own skin.  
* suppress a shiver*

But having a house full of crazy boys does have its upside.

As I was writing a scene for a new Work-In-Progress the other day, I was fleshing out a character and suddenly I mischievous, thrill-seeking hero was a bit of an Edmund. He had a hefty slice of rebellion and longing for naughtiness just like a particular son of mine.
He would defintely be there with a penknife scratching away on the underside of a chair or making his mark on a table top.
He was perfect! 
In the circumstances, I needed a daring fellow who wasn't afraid to thumb his nose at authority. The heroine needed a guy who wouldn't just shut up and sit down. The story needed a hero who would make the Hail Mary pass and then take the consequences, win or fail, with equanimity.

Such a rush! 

Weaving a story and sculpting a character out of words is absolutely the best fun! 
(Revising on the other hand is a monster. But a thrill in its own way.)

Well, folks, gotta scoot. 
There are some tablecloths I need to pack in mothballs.

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