When I was younger I took private art lessons. Our dentist had beautiful paintings in his office that apparently his daughters painted. They all received art lessons from her, Mrs. B. She had a shed in her backyard that she made into a small studio and taught classes out of. From approximately age 13 to age 17 I went here once a week, every week that school was in session. Because she lived on the complete other side of town my Mother would have to pick me up for my art lesson after school. We would drive 30 minutes there and then I would go into class which lasted 2 hours. During this time my Mother really didn't have anywhere to go and so she sat in the car for 2 hours.
Right now I am the exact age that my Mother was when she had me. Crazy to think about. When my Mother was my age she was raising a newborn on her own. She was a widow in a foreign land and now she was a single mother. As if that wasn't enough not long after she had me she was diagnosed with breast cancer. I think about this a lot lately because my 35 years old life is completely different from her 35 years old life.
My Mother and I are very close. As I said she was a single mother and I am an only child so for a long time we only had each other. As close as we are we can get into a good heated argument too. But lately, if we disagree on something, I’ve been trying to make a conscious effort to imagine what the situation might look like from my Mother’s perspective.
So I decided to do my first performance piece ever, Art Class Car. Art Class Car was a contemplative and durational performance done as an act of empathy and prayer toward my Mother, and her role in my life, as someone who continues to support me in every way possible.
I estimated that over the years she spent approximately 208 hours in the car waiting for me. For five consecutive days starting March 19 to March 23 I drove to wherever my Mother happened to be that day (most days at church) to spend 2 hours waiting and sitting in the car. During this time I attempted to look at her with an empathetic eye and step into, as much as I could, what it must have been like for her as my Mother. I journaled through the experience and wrote down my prayers as I said them for her.
It’s hard I think for children to see their parents as not merely their parents but as human beings.
My Mommy was a baby, a first-born, a daughter, a student, a sister, someone’s friend, someone’s
crush, a model, a singer, someone’s girlfriend, someone’s wife, an in-law, an employee, an aunt
. . . It’s hard to humanize our parents and remember they are all these different things to different
people. That they had all these different relationships and lives before they were our parents. My
Mother had 35 years worth of hopes, dreams, hurts, broken hearts, happiness, hardship, tears,
joy, smiles and sadness before I entered the picture. . . Thank you God because you created my
Mommy in your image. Thank you God that she is your daughter before she is my Mommy.
I’m still processing through the whole act. I consider myself a deeply empathetic person but there's just no way I can understand raising a child in the situation she was in. But it has helped me to be more sympathetic towards her because I would never be able to walk the journey she has. Ultimately I think the process has helped me to love her better and deeper, I hope.
I may have more to share later but for now I wanted to share this. I welcome your thoughts!