56: The Dinosaur Wallpaper

56: The Dinosaur Wallpaper

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just for Preteens

The Dinosaur Wallpaper

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.

~Pablo Picasso

I don’t know how she got the idea, but one day my teenage sister Karin unrolled eight feet of old wallpaper, spread it out on the living room floor backside up, and began a mural that would change my life.

With almost seven years between us, she always seemed so grown up and distant. We didn’t have a lot in common, since she was in high school and I was a preteen. I suppose that’s why I nearly exploded with joy while sitting across the rug from her, watching her concentrate, totally absorbed as her new world unfolded. First, she sketched the scene in pencil. I saw a tyrannosaurus take shape and attack a duckbill; a volcano in the distance spewed lava; lush plants seemed to move in an unseen wind while a pterodactyl floated on the same breath of air. A body of water shimmered in the distance with a brontosaurus eating nearby.

It didn’t matter that these creatures didn’t all belong in the same time period. What mattered was how dedicated Karin was to the vision — how each day and week she added more, and it came to life before my eyes.

Her hands skipped lightly as she added charcoal lines. The mural was mostly black and white, with red accents for lava, fruits, and the suggestion of a sunset. When it was complete, I beamed with pride for her as Mom hung it in our guestroom where it stayed for years.

I spent many hours gazing at the dinosaur wallpaper, lost in awe at the magical way she came up with thoughts and transformed them into something real with only her hands and some chalky sticks. I wanted nothing more than to do something like this amazing thing she’d accomplished, but I didn’t have the natural talent she had. Still, my sister would look at my misshapen attempts and tell me they were good.

I didn’t believe her, but hearing her say it was enough to keep me going. I only wanted the chance to sit on the same floor or at the same table with her while we both sketched.

Karin created many beautiful drawings that were added to the guestroom display. A few of my better attempts went up too, but I knew they paled in comparison to hers. “I couldn’t draw that well when I was your age either,” she’d comfort me. Her words kept me practicing feverishly in her company and later alone when she went on to college and then moved out on her own for good.

It was strange to be without my older sister, but I still had the love of art which she’d given me. Sometimes, I could imagine her sitting across the table working too. It was a comfort in the now emptier house. Over the years, I became more skilled. I still wasn’t a natural, but my persistence was paying off. I looked forward to Karin’s holiday visits so I could show her what I’d accomplished.

As Karin moved further into adulthood, her own art projects came fewer and farther between until new interests consumed her, and she left art behind. She still encouraged me, though. She sparked something inside me that remained for good. Now I paint, carve wood, sculpt marble, and use art when counseling children in schools. I sell some works and keep some, and offer others to family as gifts. It is my relaxation and my meditation. It’s a safe space when everything else seems to be in turmoil.

Karin moved back to Vermont and bought a home where she displays my artwork in several rooms. We don’t need art as a bond anymore; now well into adulthood, we have other shared experiences that provide much more in common than that. Seven years doesn’t feel like such a big age difference now. Still, the art is one of the most precious gifts she gave me, and she beams with pride at my creations the same way I beamed with pride at the dinosaur wallpaper so many years ago.

~Tanya Sousa

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