I’m taking a class

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A couple of weeks before she died, my mom asked me to make a collage. Her instructions were extremely specific, if somewhat addled from the morphine. She wanted me to create a poster using photos of the family from the summer that she could then hang on her hospital wall. It took me days, what with collecting the materials and designing the layout and making sure all 21 of us were represented, but I did it. Then it took me another day to make the fixes she requested (too much white space here; imperfect lettering there).

In the end it was a crammed collage of cut-out photos of her four kids, our spouses and her 11 grandchildren. There’s a giant photo of all of us in the center. In the corner is a profile of her husband, our dad, picking his nose. She stared at that poster for hours in the week before she died.

When she asked me to make the darned thing, I scratched my head. She was dying. Surely there was something more useful I could do with my time. She explained: “It’s what you’re good at.” That confused me even more. What the hell did she think I did for a living—make scrapbooks?

But then I remembered that, growing up, I loved art. Her assignment taught me that, as grown-ups, we tend to limit our own talents. We come to think of ourselves as magazine writers or clarinet players or homemakers or bond traders. We forget that once we thought we could do anything. That once, we could do anything.

That’s why I’m taking a class. It’s a TV script writing class given online by a journalist collective called Mediabistro. TV writing isn’t something I know anything about, but it sounded like fun, plus my company has this tuition-reimbursement plan. I’ll let you know how it goes. And there’s a new craft shop in my town. Maybe I’ll try scrapbooking next.