Shine On

A few months ago we took the girls to an Andy Warhol exhibit at the local university. It was all bright colors and queens and the promise of fifteen more minutes of fame. Viola was still crawling and she put one hand in front of another darting from corner to bench to stairs to pedestal to unsuspecting museum goer. That girl doesn't know fear's name and I don’t plan on introducing the two of them anytime soon. Zuzu was a little more circumspect, holding my hand and looking at the pieces of art like the pretend adult she sometimes is. I suspect that of the two, Mr. Warhol would have approved of Viola’s approach to the exhibit.

My favorite piece was an installation created by the artist in the sixties. A little white room with one window and a dozen huge silver balloons that float like so many pieces of sky hungry cloud. Just the slightest pinpoint of a finger and up they went, spinning, tumbling into one another until there was shine to the right and shine to the left and shine up above. It is the simplest kind of magic, but magic just the same. Viola adored it. She crawled into the fray, giggling when the balloons touched her head, cooing at the passerbys, chasing the ones that climbed the walls. Riley stood in the middle of it all and called to Zuzu to join us. She stood at the doorway of the room, shook her head once and walked around to the window.

“Here I am Daddy! You are right! It is fun! I just like it from over here.”

Zuzu lives in a world of order and those balloons had no path or purpose. I do not always anticipate her anxiety, but once it arrives I understand it. So I let her watch us from that window and she clapped when Viola laughed and cheered when we got all the balloons into the air at once. And then after a little while, when none of us had been bowled over by rogue balloons, she began to relax. Just a few more moments and she understood the shiny clouds only really moved when touched. Perhaps it wasn’t so scary, after all. She circled around the exhibit and came through the door.

I will never forget the sight of her smiling face reflected in silver.

I hope she learns to find the joy in the unexpected and uncharted. I suppose in many ways, we are born the way we will be and all the hoping and cajoling and relearning won’t change who we are. That is all just fine. I love that girl to pieces even when seen through the frame of a window. And we will always be here, playing in the clouds, happy to have her when she decides it is time to join in.