Bouguereau and Bunkers

It’s the first week of school! It occurred to me we hadn’t been together as a family almost all summer, between camps and trips and work, so last weekend we squeezed in a mini-vacation up north, just the five of us. It was so delightful. My kids are at an age where they are fun and funny and they still think I’m fun and funny. That I’m fun and funny is no surprise to anyone, but I’m still surprised and delighted when they say or do something that actually makes me laugh, real authentic laughs.

Plus, they’re competitive now. They can hang. We had a no-holds bar shuffleboard tournament and it was an actual nail-biter, because they’re good. It never occurred to me that this day would come! That we could play games and it wouldn’t be a lesson in how to lose gracefully. It still is, I guess, but now I’m often on the receiving end of the lesson. 

What I’d like to do is take these moments, in the summer, in my favorite place, with my favorite people, doing things we love and vacuum-seal them. I want to package them up like beef jerky, freeze dry them like astronaut food, can them like the Ingalls getting ready for the long winter, then put all my preserved moments into a bunker. In a few years, when my girls are 12, 14, and 16, I know what will happen. Teenage Armageddon. Surly behavior, eye-rolls, not thinking their mom is fun and funny (it seems impossible, I know!). But I’ll be prepared! I’ll retreat to my bunker of memories and feast on their jokes and compliments and giggles, and it will tide me over until the worst of it has passed. 

I love how French artist William-Adolphe Bouguereau depicted young girls. It’s how I would like my own to be painted.

“The Nut Gatherers” This is the most viewed painting at the Detroit Institute of Arts!
“The Elder Sister” Meet Henriette and Paul. They are model children. 
“The Difficult Lesson” Ohmygoodness. Is this a little Hermione Granger, or what?!
“Shepherdess” Insert a hockey stick for the staff and that could be one of my girls.

I love that he painted girls as nurturing, academic, powerful, and adventuresome in a time (late 1800s) girls weren’t normally seen as such. He also really loved his work, which makes me happy. There were so many suffering, depressed artists (which he probably was- his family had horrible luck with tuberculosis), but it sounds as though his art was the source of his sanity and even joy when he lost four children and a wife. He said, “Each day I go to my studio full of joy; in the evening when obliged to stop because of darkness I can scarcely wait for the next morning to come…”

Friends with teenagers: when the door-slamming and hormones and attitudes get you down, you are welcome in my bunker. Bring your snacks. The pretzels, chips, and salsa, yes. But also your portions of memories of your kids being cute, silly, funny and when they thought the same of you. I’ll have some wine chilled and we will feast! Also, I promise to decorate the bunker with lovely paintings like Bouguereau’s.

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