Art is in the eye (and mind) of the beholder

At my house, you're never too old to have your artwork stuck to the fridge with a magnet.

Last Christmas, my granddaughter and grandson spent an afternoon drawing at my kitchen table. My sons sat there, too, chatting and watching Victoria and Liam color. After they left, I sorted through the big pile of pictures.

There, among the darling but primitive doodles one might expect from a 5-year-old artist and a 3-year-old one, was a dazzler. It was a picture of Victoria, the 5-year-old, featuring her blond embroidery-floss curls and enormous blue eyes. The artist had even captured the dimple in her chin.

Now, I'd always suspected that Victoria was extremely artistic, and our house is adorned with much of her work. But this self-portrait was extraordinary. I planned to frame it.

In the meantime, I stuck it high on the refrigerator door in a place of honor. Then, just in case someone should miss the masterpiece, I pointed it out constantly, engaging in quite the brag-fest.

My patient friends became well-rehearsed in their "Isn't it amazing?" and "A budding Rembrandt!" comments.

Several times during our long-distance conversations, I mentioned to Victoria's parents how impressed I was with this particular self-portrait.

"Well, she does like to draw," Aaron or Wendy would say vaguely. "I really don't remember that particular drawing."

"You must not have seen it," I told them. "You'd remember this!"

My other son, Tim, and his family came to visit. I was putting leftovers into the refrigerator when I caught sight of the amazing, incredible Victoria picture. I launched into my raving spiel: "Can you believe that Victoria? What incredible talent for a 5-year-old!"

"She's a good little artist," Tim agreed. "Hey, let me see that picture."

I carefully handed it over.

Tim looked at the drawing, frowned, and then burst out laughing. "Victoria didn't do this! Aaron did."


"Sure. We were talking, and he started doodling, just absent-mindedly. I watched him draw this picture."

Oh, boy. While it was a truly spectacular masterpiece when I thought a 5-year-old had created it, it was considerably less extraordinary drawn by a grown man.

From that perspective, it looked like an absent-minded doodle, all right. I tossed the picture into the trash and left the kitchen, trying not to think of how many people had been on the receiving end of my incessant boasting.

Late that night, though, I crept back to the kitchen. I retrieved the artwork and, in the bottom right-hand corner, I wrote, "Aaron, age 28."

Returned to the place of honor on the fridge, it lacked its previous dazzle. But it was good for a chuckle.

Besides, it had been quite some time since I'd had masterpieces from my own children up there. Who knows when it will happen again?

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