49: Art Lessons

49: Art Lessons

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Home Sweet Home

Art Lessons

He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.

~Clarence Budington Kelland

As a child, I loved coming home from school in the afternoons. While I was the studious type from an early age, there was a different kind of world waiting for me at home that enthralled me even more.

After throwing my backpack down on the living room couch, I would help my mom prepare our afternoon tea, pouring the aromatic Persian blend into the little golden teacups my dad had brought back from his last trip to Iran. As the cups gently rattled on the tray I carried, I could hear the sound of a voice gradually growing louder as I approached the door to the studio. There before me was the moment I had envisioned since waking up that morning: the sight of my dad standing over his canvas completely absorbed in his painting, as Maria Callas greeted me with her lament over lost love.

I was in awe of my dad as I watched him paint. At first, he didn’t even seem to notice that I had entered the room. He was in a world distinct from the one that encompassed him, fueled by his imagination and the tenderness of the soprano’s voice as it resounded within the studio walls. As I saw how intensely he concentrated on his work, I often feared that my presence might disturb him. Sometimes I even felt compelled to leave before he could see that I was in the room. Yet, his delight at suddenly noticing me standing near his table always kept me by his side.

“Hi Golrizie! How was school?”

“It was really fun, Daddy! I wrote two poems today during writing time. And I got to paint, too!”

At the mention of painting, out came a small blank canvas from under his worktable.

“Then let’s paint together.”

For hours, we would work diligently, my dad with his large canvas at one end of the table, and me with my little one at the opposite end. As he worked, he told me stories. He told me how he first knew he wanted to be a painter when he was six years old and how his family never supported his passion for art. He told me how he used to draw on every surface he could find and often got into trouble for it, as pages of textbooks and the walls of his house were his early canvases. He told me how he designed my mother’s wedding dress and ring and how their shared passion for art convinced them to come to America for a college education shortly after their marriage.

As I listened to his tales, I was not aware at the time that I was receiving an education I could never truly find in school. As a seven-year-old, I was mesmerized and entertained by his often humorous accounts of his childhood antics. I could not see back then, however, that his words were more than just a retelling of his personal history. He was not merely sharing his thoughts with me; he was showing me how to dare to dream, discover, explore, and become the closest thing to what you are. Passion, he would repeat, is what keeps you going in life. To settle for anything less than what it takes to fulfill your dreams is a disservice to yourself. As the hours passed by and we finished the cookies my mom had brought for us, I learned how to live.

These days, his words echo in my mind more vividly than ever as I try to navigate my way through the working world, through my dreams, through life. At every fork in the road I remember these words and feel a little less afraid of taking the journey. And whenever life becomes hazy, I know what to do.

I park my car, walk toward the house, and hear Plácido Domingo’s voice soaring above the surrounding valley. I see a figure crouching over a table and another holding a little golden teacup. A smile spreads over my face. I am home.

~Golriz Golkar

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