My boy Jack came home from LA for a visit recently. It was the first time he’s been home in almost a year — I say ‘home’ but New York isn’t his home anymore. He’s an Angeleno now with a home and dog and a lovely girlfriend.
In between carousing with his former high school pals, he spent time going through all the stuff he’d left behind in his old room: paintings, books, clothes, a few battered toys. It was the final pieces of a collection curated over almost a quarter of a century, now getting its final edit. Much of it went in the trash and the remaining few boxes I’ll ship to him via UPS.
I watched him a little anxiously. When Patti was alive, we’d always been highly sentimental, holding onto everything Jack touched. We stored boxes full of stained onesies from Baby Gap, worn out sneakers, report cards, and four volumes of The Collected Art of Jack Tea Gregory full of every scribble he made.
Jack binned all the paintings he made at RISD that have been gathering mildew in our basement, most of the half filled sketchbooks, the rumpled story books. I was sad to see his old pal naked Tintin buried in the kitchen trash can. He was thoughtful and not too cavalier about the selection process but Jack made a lot of choices way too tough for me.
I have always been fetishistic about my own childhood relics. I have three dog-eared exercise books, a shoebox full of black and white photos, an old teddy, and not much more. We moved so much when I was little, went through so many divorces, that all I have left are those few scraps. But Jack has so much more of a sense of who he is and where he comes from so, despite not having his mom anymore, he doesn’t live with a huge sense of loss.
That’s a good thing.
I love my boy and am immensely proud of him. Every time he messages me snapshots of his latest drawing or painting, I download them immediately and addd them to my photo collection. I look back through them often, marveling at his creativity and his progress. I think it probably bugs him, having such a doting dad, but I don’t care.
But here’s the question this raises for me:
While I am willing to glorify Jack’s every accomplishment, to trumpet his progress, to forgive his carelessness, to gloss over his mistakes, to whip out my phone full of scans of his work, why am I so much less supportive of my own creativity? What if I could encourage myself more, cherish what I make, celebrate my accomplishments, instead of being cynical, off hand, dismissive of compliments, self-sabotaging, unforgiving of mistakes, dogged in my self-criticism, never really satisfied with what I make and do? What if I could love the artist I am — as much I love my boy?
What if I could be my own biggest fan?