"My Art is My Baby"

I’m standing at my book table in Lincoln City, Oregon on a cold, rainy October Saturday. It’s the “Plein Air” festival, expected to be a happy mix of painters painting, sculptors sculpting, musicians playing, and crafters, artists and authors selling their wares, but it’s just miserable. I’m already tired of the MC making wisecracks about enjoying our Oregon weather.
Despite the rain, quite a few people have come, many with toddlers in pink and blue jackets and tiny dogs in little raincoats.
A pretzeled older woman wanders into my skimpy shelter and says she’s trying to think of what to paint. An all-gray canvas? “How about a sea of colorful raincoats?” I suggest. She nods. “I was thinking of that.”
A while later, two younger women wander over to check out my books. The tall dark-haired one says she’s from Latvia. They ask what I’m working on now, and I tell them I’m writing about childless women. They look at each other and grin. “We’re childless,” they say.
“Really,” I say. “Are you childless by choice?”
“Yes,” they chorus.
“About once a year,” says the Latvian lass, “my husband and I ask each other, ‘Should we have a baby?’ and we say no. My art is my baby.” She makes intricately shaped and painted ceramic vases.
“Well, yes,” I agree. “It is hard to be an artist and raise a family.”
“I just have too much else to do. I don’t have time for kids,” says her curly-haired artist friend in the yellow slicker.
“But someday,” I suggest, “you might be lonely.”
Immediately comes the standard answer I have heard at least a hundred times: You can’t count on your children to be around when you get old. They move away. They’re too busy. “Look at my family,” says the Lat, “My mother’s all the way in Latvia. I hardly ever see her.” Then she twists the knife. “What about your momma and daddy?”
“Well, my mom is dead. And my dad lives in California, which is far away.”
“You see!”
And they go back to their art. Yeah, I see. But if I had kids, it would be different. Of course, everyone says that, too.

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