m wood pen

illustrator of books, cocktails, travel + more

we didn’t go out to restaurants very often when i was growing up.  so on the rare chance that i found myself at a freshly set table staring at the myriad of goodies listed on a menu, i wowed at the chance to order a club sandwich.  something about those layers fascinated me: i’m sure i thought i was getting more than only one persons share of food.  and as someone who eventually became adept at space planning and design, i’m certain that the sheer tidiness and structure of the thing called to me: quartered, stacked, tidy triangles assembled ‘just so’ on the buffalo china place of all restaurants in the 60s and 70s, and finished off with a jaunty festive bedazzled toothpick!

i took my children on an overseas adventure last month, their first. (i don’t know how else to refer to them: they’re not really children any more…2 in college, 1 nearly out of high school…’big kids’ sounds crass and conjures up images of overfed baby goats…)  i’d been to the uk, europe, italy, et al two previous times, quite ages ago, and found that i’d fed my wanderlust and longing for those aged, wonderful cultures through the meals i’ve created; music that has been my personal soundtrack; films whose subtitles we’ve all labored through; stage i’ve set in my quirky house; and most vividly, the sketches that i’ve conjured up.

this morning, i popped over to my europe sketch file and took a long look at this whimsical sketch of the champs elysee.  brimming with busy little cars as they skedaddle up and down the famed boulevard. (all of the cars, of course, are quite small in europe: my friend last month shrieking that a hired hyundai compact suv was ‘gigantic’ as she dodged oncoming motorists and at one point, a cow!).

but like that club sandwich of yore, this little sketch layers so much within it’s tidy frame.

years ago, flash back to my little house in the village, a paris wind blew through my window and sent me imagining on paper.  i’d always wanted to write and illustrate my own children’s book, and this little french vignette was meant to inspire me further in my story development. one thing or another, most likely life with some grade schoolers, a middle schooler, soccer, school performances, earning a living, tending to a series of adopted senior citizen dogs…i never finished the book.

but in between those dashing cars and swaying trees, i hear the back gate swing open and a posse of boys calling through the kitchen window for my son.  i see my two younger daughters tugging their chef hats onto their earnest, lovely little heads to conquer a new baking project in our italian-bistro-esque renovated farmhouse kitchen.  i hear the brakes of the ups truck pull up to our front sidewalk and the thump thump thump of tom’s brown boots trailing down the steps with his arms filled with packed and labeled boxed notes.  the creek, slam of the corner blue postal box interjects most of the day with it’s cymbol-like clang.

accordian music wafting through the air, i’m cuddled on my great big couch in our newly built country barn loft kitschy house, watching my son leap and hide behind the barn and trees outside, chasing his high school friends as they carry on yet another airsoft battle.  next to me are two adolescent gals, getting zippier and more beautiful by the minute, yet never tired, ever, ever, of popping a vhs tape of some of our ‘let’s take a trip for free’ movies:  hip teen favs, “passport to paris” and “what a girl wants”; classics, “charade” and “to catch a thief”; quirky, “8 women” and “the valet”…and i can hear them, their voices slightly higher, half a decade younger, earnestly talking about ‘some day’ when they see paris, london, europe…some day…for the first time.

then, turning away, i look again at this little painting.  i’m in a mercedes taxi, cause that’s what they do in france, racing past the parisian lighted treasures, tucked in tidily between two young women, my view the brilliant and majestic arc de triompe and the back of my son’s head, now a man with a trimmed beard and sparkling, all-seeing eyes…as he and the taxi driver ferry us home after a hilarious and unforgettable night all together along the seine and clambering down the steps of the eiffel tower.

and now, i’m stalling in getting my work day started, caught in this self-imposed reverie of the magic that whirls through me as i sit and stare at a silly sketch that i whipped up, gosh, probably ten years ago.  memory is one powerful sorcerer, it’s mate, imagination.  they’re my constant spirit guides, best co-pilots and sweetest bedtime story tellers.

this is my life, my own club sandwich, impossible to think of something as only being ‘one’ thing with this mind of mine, i see the layers, a game with time travel that costs nothing, and offers everything, happily swirling past, present, future, maybes, what ifs, all together tidily stacked and sandwiched, held together by those brightly colored toothpicks, i pull my chair up to the table, relishing the menu.

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