Last week, my second son arrived at my house with a movie crew. He did this the morning after a three day dance competition in Baltimore, which was a couple days after Patrick had surgery, which was a couple days after another dance competition. And there was soccer thrown in. And funerals. And crazy ridiculous professional challenges. But back to that movie crew. They arrived just as I was leaving to take Katie to the ER. And in the six hours I was gone, they transformed my house.
I think there were about 18 kids. They arrived early in the morning of our first 90 degree Virginia day. Christian wrote a screenplay that begins and ends with a little girl going to bed–he wrote it with his 8-year-old sister in mind. So, the movie crew needed her bedroom. Except that her bedroom didn’t work for lighting. So they needed to turn Stephen’s bedroom into her bedroom. And then they needed another room up there for a Green Room. And another for costuming. The dining room was for feeding hungry college kids all night long. (Oh, did I mention that this shoot required darkness outside? Yep, it did.) And the living room was for spreading equipment all over the place. One scene was shot in the family room. The kitchen was a command center for laptops and video playback and whatever else.
And by the way, we discovered the air conditioning upstairs wasn’t working. In the heat, under the lights, all night long, they went after the right shot, the right tone, the right nuance to make the vision come to life.
It was a kind of a crazy night. Crazy wonderful.
Karoline worked with the crew beautifully. Stephen and Nick helped with whatever they could. Kristin scooped up Katie (she’s fine) and Sarah for a sleepover. Mary Beth made a quick exit for a friend’s house. And Christian--my boy who spent his childhood creating sets out of cardboard and duct tape and watching each movie more critically than the next—was the director he’s always known he was born to be.
I waved off the last of the crew around 4:30 AM. I rose at 6:30 to claim my bit of quiet time.
All things considered, they’d done a wonderful job cleaning up. Still, there were little remnants of creativity everywhere I turned. Intermingled with Christian’s movie things were the creative pursuits of the littlest girls. And in every corner, reminders that we never really finished unpacking and putting away after the dance shows.
My sewing machine still sat on a center island, paying homage to frantic, last minute sewing before leaving for dance and a little midnight adjustment of a flannel nightgown on a summer-hot night under movie lights.
I have educated all these children at home, all these years. Four of them are high school graduates. One is a college graduate. Two more are on the brink of graduating university. And one is 3 credits shy of finishing her first year of college (before her peers finish their senior year of high school). We wedged senior prom in with semester finals. That alone took considerable creativity.
It occurs to me that this home education thing doesn’t really look much like the ones so carefully outlined in the classical education books I devoured when these big kids were little and I was super idealistic. It doesn’t look much like those well-organized plans I loved to make. It’s always looked more or less like a bit of a mess. The education is real and it's purposeful and it's always been more about their passions than my plans.
This is who we are. We are a sunroom store to sell “Quotes and Cliches,” embellished in glitter glue. We are cardboard sets and YouTube videos. We are painting a favorite saint. We are writing a screenplay. We are creating websites. We are Bibles and paper everywhere. We are dancing, choreographing dance, teaching dance, and costuming dances.
Some of us write.
We are creative.
As an aside, we are also very serious about soccer –which actually requires a hefty dose of creativity if one is to succeed on the field. There is an NCAA Championship trophy beneath the Emmy. But that’s likely an essay for another day.
After they left us, the movie crew went to shoot in an old church. My father and stepmother showed up on set to deliver boxes of donuts to sleepy, hungry, still enthusiastic moviemakers. The creative support system runs deep in this family. From there, they went to film in a cave. They ran into some trouble logistically and Friday found me more than a little worried about the success of the project.
Kristin was over with Lucy. She had a pattern in her hands and some thoughts about baby dresses and hats and as I fell apart a little worrying about the Director, I took out fabric and made suggestions and envisioned sweet baby outfits. Kristin set to work at the dining room table and I –in the midst of so many more pressing things to do—pulled out every bit of fabric I owned and refolded and stacked. And prayed.
By the time those shelves were back in order and I’d promised myself to attend to some of my own creative impulses very soon, Christian texted to tell me he’d solved his problem.
I know my house won’t always be full of the ideas of my children. But I have a hunch that this will be a haven for artists for years to come—whether to bounce a script idea, or find a willing editor, or raid the fabric stash and then let little aunties teach the toddler to pirouette while someone sews on my machine, the heart of my home nourishes the heart of the artist. It’s likely I will spend many more years picking up the pieces left behind by children who know they were created in the image of the Creator.
And I’m glad.