Monsters Under the Bed

Under the bed in our guest room/my office is a dark little secret.

All of my life I have been an artist, and for years I was an oil-painter. I made my living with commercial illustrations and graphic design, but my soul was in my oil paintings. It has been years, since before I had Jeffrey, since I have gotten down and dirty and really painted with oils, but they are still sitting in their spattered and stained wooden box, with the clay crock of well-used and loved brushes, on the top shelf in my sewing room. Oil painting is something you don’t do on the fly; it requires uninterrupted time and musing and strong chemicals and a singularity of attention that I just don’t have as a mama. Oil painting is a love affair I just don’t have room for in my life. Someday, oh, someday I will again, but for now…

So my secret. My secret is the cache of paintings hiding under the bed. Stacks and stacks of them- they actually don’t all live under the bed- there isn’t room. They are stuffed in the utility hallway, the closet and between the mattresses. They are hiding. I keep them hiding because they are really not suitable for wholesome or all-ages viewing, and therein lies my conundrum. These paintings are so dear to me, they are like my pre-children- I worked out so very many of my problems and questions about life in them. They are where I searched for God, for my own identity, for love and for sensuality, and where I found some of the answers I was looking for.

But… Well, they are the paintings of a young, wild, woman searching, and they are racy, and volatile and some of them are frightening and angry and passionate, and, well, I really don’t want my kids so stumble upon them. Ever. It may be something I decide to share with them someday, when they are much older, and can discern for themselves the value in them, but I am not even sure about that. It is not that they are bad- actually they are rather good, not to toot my own horn, but they are also dark, and not something you would hang over the sofa. ( That was actually a common complaint about my art from my mother) So what do I do with them??

There are people who would not hesitate to get rid of them, to excise that part of my life, to get rid of the evidence; I don’t think I can or want to do that. They are part of me, part of what got me here, where I am now, and I like where I am. Is removing a foundation stone of the life you built because it isn’t who you are now really a good idea? I mean, I am standing on the shoulders of the young woman who painted those paintings, should I cut her up? I love the woman who painted them- she is me, and I her. Even though I no longer need to explore the areas those paintings delved deep into, they are part of the road that brought me the peace and love that I have now.

So, what do I do? Do I keep them in hiding, like some sort of physical portal into my subconscious? Therefore risking my kids stumbling into mama’s underwater id? Do I burn them on the pyre of personal progress in the backyard? Do I do nothing? They are there, literal eyes under the bed, watching me, waiting to see what I will do.

10 thoughts on “Monsters Under the Bed


  2. It seems silly to me the idea that is something isn’t appropriate for children, then there is no place for it. What about the temple for one elephant in the room of an example? Just because your children aren’t ready to handle that kind of subject matter doesn’t mean that they won’t ever be. Think of the fantastic insights to your past self you will have to share with them when the time comes for them to confront their own adolescent demons? (Don’t think about that thought too much, you already sound overwhelmed).
    I agree that maybe finding an out of sight-out of mind place to store them for the time being is a good idea. But keep them!

  3. You should photograph them and post them on your blog!

    Just wrap them up good and hope your kids never stumble on them. Actually, aren’t you going to be moving? Get a house with a secret room off the master bedroom. One no one but you knows about. One stocked with a mini fridge, a stereo, and an art studio, that locks. And maybe a daybed.

    OK, so that’s my dream.

  4. Ooooooooh. Secret rooooom. I like it!! Do I ever have to come out?

    I do have photos of them, but like all paintings, so much is lost in translation. At the solo show I had back in…’95, I think, I got several letters from women who were offended by them, who didn’t even consider that I was working out my own issues, not trying to present a feminist manifesto. Probably not a good idea to post them here!

    Lost sisters of Eve… sweetie, I love you…

  5. Never dispose of your past because it discounts who you are now. Although it’s painful to read my old diaries and see my ignorance and how ridiculous I once was (and probably still am)- it’s still refreshing to read. Those paintings are your diary, and I would hide them the way you would hide anything of that nature. Under your bed!

  6. Keep Them!
    Someday, your kids will want to know who you are (or were) before you became a mom. Those paintings will help them see you as a whole, interesting, complex person, and not just a 2-dimensional mother figure.

  7. I agree with em. There are plenty of things that are not appropriate for children, but that doesn’t mean they should never be exposed to them. We introduce things to them gradually, slowly, at appropriate times. And who knows–this daughter that you might be carrying could very well go through similiar experiences, and how powerful one of your paintings could be for her. You will probably not be able to convince her, “I know what you are going throught”–after all, what young woman ever thinks her parents were once her age? But a painting could speak to her and make her realize, “Wow, my mom really gets it. She’s been where I am right now.” That could be such a comfort, and such a relief to a young, troubled heart.

  8. if i layover in jan, will you show me yours? maybe we can cull some out and you can find a coffee house that will show/sell them. a little extra cash.

    the kids will find them, ask, move on, no big deal, don’t worry. no one should be concerned about the human form. my mom “exposed me” at a very young age and look how great i turned out.

    love, —t

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