On my bedroom wall hangs a picture that has given me much pleasure over the years. When I walk by it, a smile automatically leaps to my face in response to the smiling boy in the picture. I’m so glad now that I let him talk me into having the picture drawn that hot July day at Six Flags.
The picture is a hand-drawn caricature of Josh, my youngest son, at age twelve. The generous sprinkling of freckles across his nose and cheeks match his bright red hair, or the part shows under the black baseball cap. His eyes are the bright blue of the sky behind him, and beam with excitement to be at Six Flags with his friend Jeremy and me. His full lips spread in a grin and he wears his Hard Rock Café tee shirt. A gold chain encircles his sunburned neck. The artist even captured his pug nose and the bit of shadow that drew a line in his hair from the cap’s bill.
Josh never grew weary of Six Flags. This impatient child stood patiently waiting in the long lines and the heat to reach the ride of the moment, be it the Scream Machine, the Parachute, the Ninja, or the Flying Dutchman. The tamer rides held no interest for him. When I tried to talk him into the swamp ride that took us in a boat and through cool tunnels, he declined. Too babyish. He craved the excitement of the tallest roller coaster or the breath-taking Free Fall.
Back in those days, and most of my life actually, I suffered from dreadful motion sickness. With Dramamine I could manage the Dahlonega Mine Train, the mildest of the coasters, but it was too tame for Josh. Every time we went to the park, I’d let him invite a daredevil friend to come along and ride with him. On this particular trip, Jeremy came. They rode a few coasters and then came to the Free Fall. That’s when Jeremy balked.
“Josh, I’m gonna sit here with your Mom and watch you. I am not going on that thing,” Jeremy said. “No way!”
Josh cajoled and begged, but Jeremy dug his heels in.
Finally Josh rode alone again and again. We always planned our visits on weekdays as opposed to weekends. Lines were shorter. On that day Josh must have gone on that ride about 30 times. When he finally tired of it, we roamed about for a while in the air-conditioned shops. That was my favorite part-the air-conditioned part. We had ice cream-probably five dollars each back then-and watched people stroll by. That’s when we first saw the artists at work.
“Hey, Mom, when we finish our ice cream, let’s go over and see what they’re doing,” Josh said, intrigued.
Under a large tent, several artists were sketching an array of clients. Other people, like us, watched. The one I was watching held up a drawing of a cute teenaged girl. She grinned and nodded, but I couldn’t see much of a likeness. I moved over to another easel where a girl was sketching an older man. Again I wasn’t impressed, but the man was, apparently. He handed her an extra five dollar bill.
Josh appeared at my elbow, with that look on his face.
“Mom, can I please have mine done? This guy over here is really good.”
“Josh, the artists I’ve watched aren’t very good. Let’s skip it this time. Twenty dollars is a lot of money for a portrait that doesn’t look like you.”
“But, Mom, that guy is great. Please. You can take it out of my allowance for the next six months. Please.”
And so I acquiesced. I’m glad I did. When Josh brought the completed drawing over to me, I gasped. The young art student had captured the essence of the day in his drawing. Josh was right. This young man was a real artist.
As I stare at the picture in its white frame, I often wonder if that man is making a living with his artistic talent. I certainly hope so. I’d like to Google his name, but unfortunately I can’t decipher his scribbled signature in the right corner. He might have become a doctor instead.