Love in Blue Boxes

There is authentic Italian cuisine, and then there is Kraft Mac ‘N Cheese.

There are masterpieces hanging in galleries and cathedrals and palatial estates. Downtown lofts, uptown penthouses, yachts on the riviera.

Then there’s me and my arts and crafts.

All these bits and pieces of me made for my children, they’re taken for granted. Tossed out when they break or they become clutter or they’re just super embarrassing, mom.

And that’s how it should be.

They’re not museum pieces. But they are acts of devotion, they’re letters of love written not in ink but images, and the love remains long after the remains have been tossed.

They are displays of affection voiced from the deepest recesses of my soul up through my psyche and out through my hands. Sacred. Like prayer. Infused with humor, joy, their voices and our memories intertwined with every line, every stroke, every placement of tiny glass. Infused with time. Infused with my DNA.


I am making a wedding present for my daughter and new son-in-law, and there’s been some blood. It’s a mosaic design embedded in a kitchen tray, as requested.

I cut glass and place it carefully, laboring for long hours at a time – my actual blood and actual sweat, and even some tears mix with the glue that binds the tiny squares of glass to wood.

The tears are from knowing how woefully inadequate I am.

No handmade gift could ever be enough, no matter what I put into it. Not because I’m not enough, but because they are so much.

There will never be enough beauty, enough talent, or enough skill to craft a thing that can do them justice.

And it’s so frustrating, working away, “trusting the process”, waiting for the piece to open up and take over from me, to create itself without my interference. I cry because I suck.

But not really. This is my thing.

This mosaic tray for Courtney and Jeremy.

It began with baby clothes for my children and the puff paint craze of the early 90s. Then the walls of their toddler bedroom. Then all the years of hand-painted Christmas Eve shirts. Then bowls and platters for their new apartments. Next, murals in my grandson’s nursery. And now, this wedding present.

I am tickled. Surprised and delighted to be included. This part of me, included.

Standing at a tall table, arranging triangles among rhomboids to fill the negative space against the main design, I suddenly understand how Doctor Who’s TARDIS works; bigger on the inside, traveling across time and space, delivering the power to heal, repair, and celebrate entire worlds.

This wedding present had humble beginnings. 15 x 23. Flat. 
The clean slate.
The bare canvas.
The virgin page.
The womb of creativity.

7.99 at IKEA.

I transform it, one piece of glass at a time, working with a palette of blues.

Like the TARDIS. Like Courtney’s eyes.

Blues like the bay where we live. Moods like Monterey, where Jeremy took her on their first night away. Where they go every time they get away. Where they went when Jeremy came home from 9 months in Japan.  

Blue-green like Facetime when their schedules aligned; sweet and sorrow with an ocean between.

Sea-green like his favorite color. Iridescent shades and oil-slick rainbows of bright blue and green, vivid and alive like the way her joy bubbles up when she speaks of him. Quick and warm and sincere, like the flash in his eyes when he steals a glance at her. Fresh and sharp and soft and fluid – easy, natural colors of motion and comfort and life embraced in life.

My little arts and crafts project transports me from my world into theirs. I pull from their love and I weave mine into this wedding present, struggling to be okay with the flaws that make it lasting and livable.

I started with mirror. One hundred and one hundred tiny pieces sliced and shaped from the whole, for the one million and one million ways Courtney and Jeremy reflect love back to each other and out into the world, for the way their laughter and affection intensifies the light in the universe itself.

I want every piece to be perfect, but I have to let go and let there be broken edges and chipped pieces and deep shadow and dense gray as well as light green. Without the rough, what is the whole? Boring. Beige. Not the truth of Courtney. Not the truth of Jeremy.

This mosaic tray may be a love letter from me, but it is not about me–or so I remind myself several times an hour. This wedding present is about them. It is not about my OCD tendencies and the screaming, ranting need to dictate pattern and design, precision and perfection.

I shake it off and trust what comes when I’m mesmerized, transported in this TARDIS experience of mixing colors from their joy, from their hope, from their humor and sass and depth and momentum and past and future – this overwhelming universe of emotion. Bigger on the inside. True across time and space.

Once, more than once, when I was a different woman, I begged to know why I had never known love, how it was that I always got it wrong, and why I couldn’t just love like everyone else.

Why was I such a shit mother who never fell in line with good cooking from scratch and regular, healthy bedtimes, and only ever wore pajamas on the drive to school?

I get my answer in layers when I lose myself in arts and crafts for my kids. Today, the TARDIS wheels me back in time to dancing with them to Britney Spears and NSYNC while the mac ’n cheese cooked itself on the stove, and to staying up late for one more story about a magical flying swan and her journeys across the night sky.

And to the way pajamas in car pool was the best I could do on three hours sleep. I worked my deadlines after bedtime for a reason.

When I step back to look at this present in progress, I see what’s going into it and what’s going to come out of it.   

One million million pieces of my heart. That’s what Courtney’s always had. And now Jeremy, too. I hope he’s ready. His present and his future as my son will have smooth edges and rough. Things will line up perfectly and they won’t. There will be hues of closeness and shades of distance. Bright cheer and dull irritation. But life-time relationships are grand mosaics. Magnificent works of art, too much for galleries and cathedrals, palatial estates.

Of course I feel inadequate to the task when I focus on the wedding present in front of me! This tray, this 40-50 hours of picking and placing glass wedges of color, this tray is just one tiny piece.

The wedding present is the blending of Courtney and Jeremy and our families and our pasts and our futures, interwoven into a better whole, and still bigger on the inside, and so very beautiful to behold splashed across time and space and the universe.