Pammu and I are at dinner, someplace that serves chicken nuggets but also salad and wine. Our kindergarteners have long since launched themselves from our booth and are busy scuttling about and, we tell ourselves, charming the other diners.
I am leaning forward, still wearing my favorite black suit jacket from a day of endless meetings, telling Pammu a story from the past weekend. The story is about how Dora and I were outside drawing on the driveway with chalk.
In the story, it’s roughly six thirty in the morning and we are already on my third idea for Entertaining Dora.
“What should I draw, Mommy?”
“How about the teapot from Beauty and the Beast?”
Dora lowers the big, chunky kid-chalk to the driveway and what she draws — even the way she approaches the drawing itself — makes me set my coffee cup down in movie-style slow motion and essentially re-think most of what I know of our child.
She starts on the outside, drawing the outline of the pot in a single, continuous line. When she lifts the chalk, the outline is perfectly proportioned but not instantly recognizable as a teapot. She then adds the spout and the handle – again, just the outlines — in two separate single, continuous lines. She moves to the inside of the teapot, adding the face with full expression, everything perfectly proportioned. When she lifts her chalk, the drawing is a dead ringer for the teapot from Beauty and the Beast, right down to the pattern on the bottom. Years later, a doctor would remark that her visual memory is “off the charts”, something she had “never quite seen before.”
“Done”, Dora says. Then she drops the chalk like you would drop the mic and skips over to play with the hose.
Pammu, a dear friend — a “heart friend” –, listens well and asks questions but it’s clear this epiphany is mine alone. I can’t blame her. I mean, really , what is there to say when someone keeps repeating, “No, really. You should have seen the teapot my kid drew.”
This clip is stored like a movie in my mind — both the image of Dora drawing the teapot so effortlessly, my own disbelief at it’s sophistication, as well as the experience of trying to explain the moment to Pammu.
Telling Pammu was the first time I realized how impossible it would be to convey to others that I knew Dora’s artistic talent would be extraordinary.
Looking back, this was probably my first experience in failing to convey something inchoate but critical about Dora.