I’ve never been the type of person to make things. I made another human once but, despite how labor intensive (heh) that process was, I don’t feel like I did much by way of participation. It’s kind of like buying someone a birthday present and having it gift wrapped at the store. Sure, I went to the store and I ambled my happy ass up to the gift wrapping counter, but in the end I just handed off a cute package and said, “you’re welcome.”
Not being a visually creative person wasn’t much of a problem growing up. There was no Facebook, no Pinterest. Instagram would have sounded like a Harry Potter spell if someone had mentioned it to me. Now, however, there are dozens of outlets for everyone’s creativity. And I’m just sitting here being ever-so-slightly jealous.
This lack of creativity becomes painfully obvious around Halloween. Friends post pictures of the amazing, realistic costumes they’ve crafted for themselves and their children and I fight the ensuing panic attack associated with the pressure to pick a costume. A casual “What will you be for Halloween” results in me hyperventilating and shakily Googling “not too sexy but not too ugly unique Halloween costumes.” The result is nothing. I can either be a skanky witch or I can be a creepy witch. I throw my hands in the air and wind up jamming a pair of cat ears on my head and calling it a day.
I’m lucky because my son has learned to lower his expectations of me. When my son told me he wanted to be a werewolf this year, he knew that the most effort I’d put into that costume would be a quick internet search. He’s grown accustomed to waiting patiently for the UPS fairy to deliver what his mother couldn’t manage to create on her own. I imagine him conversing with his peers.
Kevin: My mom made my T-Rex costume using papier-mâché intricately plastered over a frame she constructed using PVC-free piping and reclaimed lumber. It’s 100% compostable and has been lacquered with fume-free glaze so the scales really pop!
My Son: My mom got my costume off Amazon Prime. She saved $7.95 on shipping. It smells like a tire.
Despite my ability to physically manifest anything, my son has managed to develop his own creations. Give him a ream of paper, some scissors, and a roll of tape and suddenly you’ll find yourself presented with an intricate sculpture that he’s made using his mind’s eye. I’ve decided that his art form is conceptual as it’s rare that I can discern what the fuck it’s supposed to be. “Guess what it is!” he’ll ask excitedly. “It’s a….um…it’s one of those…the—“ “Right!” he’ll say encouragingly. “It’s a Great White shark steering the Apollo 11 lunar module.” He knows I don’t see it, but I’m thankful he attributes that to some sort of artistic deficit on my behalf and not any lack of creative ability on his.
It wasn’t until about a year or two ago that I realized that I visualize things differently than most people. While everyone seems to be able to create or recall specific images in their mind, it’s rare that I can do this. Everything I see in my mind is a word or a string of words. When you’re picturing the White House, I’m seeing the words that describe the intricate details. The only thing that ever forms for me is a fluid paragraph describing an image. Think of it like a website—when you’re seeing the front page of a site, I’m seeing the coding. There are no pictures, just letters that somehow form together to make something understandable.
I don’t know if this is unique to me. It frightened me to think that this might be a handicap, but there’s not a whole lot I can do about it. Besides, how do I go about getting a diagnosis? Do I show up at my doctor’s office and blurt “I SEE WORDS” in his face? The only result I can imagine is him gently patting me on my shoulder and quietly asking if I’m still in therapy.
After a few months of anxiously wondering if there was something wrong with me, I gave up caring and decided to make peace with it. Maybe I’m not meant to be a person who can actually see things in her mind. Maybe I’m not meant to be a creative person. Surely there’s something that I’m good at, right? Sure. I just haven’t sorted that out yet.
I thought back to all the times my son had proudly presented me with one of his masterpieces and had patiently guided me to understanding what it was. It dawned on me that he probably knew. Kids are intuitive as fuck, and he had probably known all along that I couldn’t see what the hell he had made because I couldn’t find the words. Knowing that I lack creativity and inner vision is why he has made peace with the fact that his Halloween costumes will always arrive in a brown box on our doorstep.
Jealousy aside, I’m beginning to accept that this doesn’t make me less of a mother. I’m doing my best, even if my best is Kraft Mac & Cheese for dinner. We can’t all be awesome, so I’ll leave that to the other mothers who make Mummy Meatloaf that’s both fun to eat and doesn’t manage to poison anyone, as mine most assuredly would.
I’m leaving all the creative stuff up to my son from now on. He knows what he’s doing. And, in the off chance he ever needs to see something using words, I can help with that.
Now I’m off to get my Halloween costume on. It’s a white t-shirt that has “lizard” written on it in Sharpie. That’s about as creative as I’m gonna get.