The Forest for the Trees – A Mother’s Day Tribute

As the Mother’s Day/Father’s Day season rolls around, I have a renewed sense of just how fleeting the moment of connection is for both for parents and children. Though the days are long, as the saying goes, the years that we run to our parents – or shelter our children – are painfully short.

I tried to capture this feeling in my May illustration for the 2020 YEAR IN THE CITY calendar, partly because of the two special days that we set aside yearly to honor parents. But also because of the fact that St. Louis actually has a Mother’s Day place!

On so many levels, Laumeier Sculpture Park is a metaphor for the family. It’s a haven, first of all – a place where we can be ourselves, but also stretch our limits, letting out the proverbial leash to discover something new. It’s a place with deep roots that connect us to one another and branches that define us as individuals. Finally, it’s a place to reflect on the beauty of creation, with massive sculptures tucked into the woods or standing bravely out in the open. Either way, the backdrop at Laumeier is always part of the picture.

When I started creating A YEAR IN THE CITY calendars, I was attempting to showcase St. Louis’s favorite places. But I soon discovered that I was painting backdrops for people to live in. In the case of Laumeier, for example, I dropped this idyllic family in front of Alexander Liberman’s iconic sculpture, The Way. But then that family took over the plot. They created their own story.

The young mother in the picture is getting her day – finally! She has purchased a much-loved piece of art and is sipping a glass of wine. Her mother is patiently strolling alongside her, just grateful to have the time with her daughter and grandkids. And the children – whose job it is to be nice to Mom today – have retreated to their own thoughts. The boy is less than excited about his trip to the sculpture garden, but he’s at least gotten a yo-yo out of the deal. His sister tugs at her grandmother’s hand, ready to flee at the first opportunity.

In other words, this is a real family. And this is a normal day, because that’s what it means to be part of a family. We don’t always realize what a treasure that is.

My own mother did not require much pampering on Mother’s Day or at any other time. I always got the sense that she was just there to keep us from falling in a hole. As a child, my only obligation was to grow up – in a way that made sense to me.

And yet. I know now that Mom was standing invisibly by – a sprawling tree to my puny sapling – as I discovered my universe. I couldn’t help but think of her last Mother’s Day when I visited Laumeier. She’d have loved it. Not for the sculpture, necessarily. Just for a normal day with her normal family – those people she had watched spring up from the earth to change the forest forever.

 

A YEAR IN THE CITY calendars, notecards, and prints are available at ayearinthecity.com/shop and in several St. Louis shops, including Union Studio, ArtMart, and The Missouri History Museum Gift Shop. The new 2020 calendar will be available in June.

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