No electronics for the entire day.
That is my son Shawn’s consequence for back talking to me. No Fortnite and no iPhone to watch Canadians from Nova Scotia play Fortnite.
“What am I going to do all day?”
My son protests and reels at the unimaginable reality of having to talk to his parents or do a chore or actually venture outside and breathe fresh air.
“Want to help me cook breakfast?” I try to detract the drama only to poke at the festering boy.
“Want to walk the dog?”
“How about we take the dog for a walk together? We can go to the reservoir.”
The extra inflection to the word “way” clinches our Sunday morning plan.
The day is sunny and the temperature a high of forty, just hours away from spring. Our walk is a gravel path that circles around a giant reservoir. Pine trees and reed grass shush the wind quiet. My hope is that the wind flutters open Shawn’s eyes to see a beautiful Sunday morning. Instead he is doing math out loud.
“I spend over 35 hours a week at school. Nine months of school is a total of 1,260 hours of school. Why can’t I spend one day a week playing video games?”
It’s true that Shawn’s schedule is booked solid. When he’s not at school he has drama club or volleyball practice, or doing homework and every Saturday morning he works five hours at a barbershop, sweeping floors and fetching coffee.
“I know your busy Shawn. I know you want a break. You just can’t talk to your parents the way you do.”
I wonder if he notices the leaves rustling, the moss greening on the fallen tree stumps, ferns sprouting through the damp, brown leaves. I wonder if he sees that a walk is a better option than sitting alone in the basement playing video games. I wonder if he feels badly about his back talk.
We are home from our walk and Shawn’s attitude hasn’t adjusted.
“You know what we should do this afternoon? Today is the last day of the Edward Hopper exhibit at the Wadsworth. We should check it out.”
“A museum? No way!”
I ignore his protest, “Edward Hopper is an American artist. He did a lot of landscapes of scenes from New England. I have a book of his art somewhere.” I wonder to myself where the framed print of Nighthawks is. It hung in my house back when I was single, long ago before husband and son.
I don’t admit to Shawn that the museum is another form of punishment for him.
“You know Shawn. Doing chores every weekend isn’t what I live for. Sometimes I like to do things. I like walks and art and plays. You want to play video games, Dad has his shows and projects and then there is me and the dog. Maybe it’s nice to do things other people like to do. You might find a new interest.”
“Yea, like looking at old art is interesting.” Shawn rolls his big green eyes.
In six years Shawn will be in college. The twelve years have gone by so fast I have to squeeze my eyes shut to remember what the three-year-old, five-year-old, eight-year-old Shawn was once like.
“I just want to spend time with you. I want you to talk nice to me. You’re my family Shawn.”
We walk through grand parlors of the museum. White walls showcase Picassos, Monets, Salvador Dalis, Warhols and more.
“Look Shawn, Pablo Picasso’s signature. Imagine him signing that 90 years ago!”
Shawn shrugs, unimpressed with Still Life With Fish. “I can paint a fish just like that.”
Shawn’s art work is all over our house. There are no more required art classes in junior high school. I miss the anticipation of all his art work coming home in a big manila portfolio and choosing which masterpiece to frame and hang on the wall.
Shawn stops and studies one painting.
Finally Shawn is moved by a piece of art, it is the Portrait of Toks Adewetaan (The King of Glory) by artist Kehinde Wiley. I read the curator notes on the side to Shawn.
“The artist did President and Mrs. Obama’s formal portraits. Both works of art hang in the Smithsonian’s’ National Gallery. “
“Wiley’s paintings are imitations of Old Masters, but the aristocratic European subjects are replaced with contemporary black and brown men and women. This painting is imitating a 14th century Russian icon of Christ.”
Shawn shrugs his shoulders, “I just think it’s cool.”
“It is cool.”
“Can we go to Ben and Jerry’s?” Shawn asks.
“What, you having a good time with your mom and no technology.”
Suddenly a bit sheepish Shawn responds, “Maybe.”