We went to a restaurant after a long week of rushing around after altered plans. As usual, I ordered a meal that I could share with Flowergirl who is 16 months old. Flowergirl sat in a highchair between my husband and I while I diligently cut up my meal and she quickly ate it. She was eating quite a bit, and I was having a harder time than usual keeping up with her. I was barely getting a bite or two in my own mouth. Meanwhile, my husband was helping our 5 year old son Sunboy with his food. After a few minutes, Sunboy said he needed to use the bathroom, so off they went leaving me to cut up food for Flowergirl.
While this was happening, I noticed that an elderly woman in a red sweater approached and sat at the table next to us. She appeared to be writing something on a pad of paper. I didn’t have a moment to really see what she was doing, and I assumed that she was somehow associated with the restaurant. Perhaps she was doing inventory or writing up tomorrow’s specials. I glanced at her a few times while scraping small bites of food on to Flowergirl’s plate. The woman didn’t meet my gaze but continued to focus on her task. Soon, my husband and son returned from the bathroom as we continued to eat.
Suddenly, the elderly woman stood up. Her shoulders were hunched forward and her hair was gray and short. She handed me the piece of paper that she had been working on. “You didn’t pose”, she said. On the paper was a lovely line drawing sketched with perfect perspective. The drawing showed me cutting food for Flowergirl in her highchair with Sunboy facing us. I was stunned at the random act of art and kindness. I managed to thank her as she shuffled away.
I wish I had pursued her and asked her name. I wish I had asked her why she had chosen to draw us. In retrospect, the man accompanying her was likely her son whom she was visiting for the holidays. In my mind, at least, this is true. He did not seem at all surprised by her actions, and I suspect this was not the first time she had sat beside strangers and drawn them to share her precious gift. Perhaps our little family reminded her of her own family in earlier days of mothering. Maybe this is why she didn’t include my husband in the drawing; perhaps that wasn’t the point. In a few simple, skillfully-placed lines she told our story: a mother preparing food and focused on caring for her children more than herself.
One mother gave another a random gift on multiple levels. I was singled out and made special. I was given a drawing of me caring for my children. Perhaps greater than these is the gift of the seeing myself literally through the eye of a stranger, unsolicited.
Another Random Act of Art can be found here.