Clara Barton once said, “The surest test of discipline is its absence.”
I myself would like to add, that structure, authority and self drive itself does not ensure discipline, no matter how the intent of such lessons is forcefully put upon or even willingly accepted. For it wasn’t until I turned teen, that the concept of real discipline was grasped, even if such concept seemed far from reach. Which considering my childhood upbringing, seemed such a surprise.
While much of my childhood was meant to drill into me the importance of education and the betterment of myself, once turned teen, I seemed lost as to how to continue that same desire for myself. Where to begin?
Several weeks following my birthday, and after I drifted from day to day with no real accomplishment, my father sat me down for a real “man to man” discussion.
With my mother’s health in question, I had lost my compass to steer me in the direction I needed to continue on and complete my well rounded upbringing. A sure sign, that in my mother’s authoritative absence, I had failed under her attempt to teach me the discipline I needed. I knew in some respects I had let her down.
My father, being a very disciplined man himself, decided it was time to take up those reins to help guide me back onto the correct path. Under his tutelage, I would advance to differing techniques in art, sculpting and education. He also gave me the choice of one alternative skill I wished to learn, of either some practicality or just for fun.
More to the point, he said, it was time for me to learn how to take care of myself, the island and the family. For his time on this earth was slipping away, and he needed to know that I could do everything that needed to be done, when he was gone.
It was then, I truly saw my father for the man he was and through him, I saw the grandfather I had never known. In my head, a message came through in deafening tones and clarity; It was time to grow up and be a man. Yet even as I took the lesson to heart, I foresaw the difficulty ahead of me, working closely with a man I so often felt such hatred for, even though he was also so greatly admired. I believe I once read that described as a love-hate relationship and I understood, that saying this was going to be fun….well really didn’t mean “fun” at all.
Good intentions always come from the best of ourselves, but even though I wanted to make my father proud, one can’t completely ignore who they are. Before we had even begun, we already locked horns over what he felt was necessary and what I wanted to learn. My first lesson in art was to do some sort of block painting, which I had seen my father doing for the past few months.
He said that artists could draw a picture or sweep a brush across canvas, but it took real talent to take shapes and accurately portray a picture. I thought it was a waste of time and stood there at the canvas begrudgingly. In the end he was very right; it was definitely harder than it looked.
“You need to get out of your comfort zone,” he told me. “See art from a view outside the box, or perhaps slightly askew.” In my defiance, I completed the painting, but painted some nonsense cartoon character, instead of the still life he had originally wanted me to do.
Truth be told, I wasn’t sure art was how I wanted to make my way in the world. Dad made it perfectly clear, that contribute to the household I must do, as “money didn’t grow on trees”. Doing what, was the ultimate question. I had a real talent for painting, that we knew for sure. I hadn’t yet tried my hand at sculpting, but it was coming on the planned schedule, so we would see. I did however, really enjoy writing.
The issue? Famous parents who had already made a name for themselves in the world of art. Would anything I contributed be taken as seriously as any individual artist, or would I be known first as the son of Ian and Maya Bell? Nepotism and the arts? Was there such a thing? I was sure there was and if that was the case, how would one know if they were loved for the talent, or the name?
What I planned to do with my life wasn’t as big a question, as where. My love for the island ran deep, yet the unknown world drew me in with its mystery and the thought of everything I was missing, being sheltered here. I knew the expectation was to stay, but how could I make the decision after only seeing one side of the coin?
The phone calls to my father regarding the movie continued and eventually, the real world found us. Groups of paparazzi began to camp out on the island, hoping for a glimpse of the family or the opportunity to talk to anyone about our lives and the project. My parents forbid me from going outside, but from my window I saw a beautiful woman I desperately would have liked to get to know. She climbed into her boat to leave, but looked up and caught me looking down at her from my window.
The look she gave me showed surprise, then definite interest and I was considering sneaking out of the house to meet her. When from behind her back she pulled out a camera and snapped a shot.
My father was furious with me to say the least, and he watched the tabloids and the news for the picture to show up, but it never did. My hope was that the darkened room behind me, distorted the picture, making it unusable. Even though I wanted my time off the island, being trailed by paparazzi who knew what I looked like didn’t seem like the ideal scenario. Once again I had to sit through the lecture about being famous and the trials of living with that status with the press. Nothing good comes from having anything to do with the paparazzi, no matter how nice they may seem to be. They are never just people, they are always the job. Never, ever agree to have your picture taken, for any reason…. Yada yada. All I knew is that something terrible must have happened to one of my parents, to have adopted such a strong opinion.
A few weeks went by and one by one the paparazzi left the island and didn’t return. Mom’s health remained a constant concern. She continued to throw up several times a day and spent much of the day resting.
Worried for her, I asked if it was possible she might be pregnant.
I was embarrassed to ask, but my mother assured me that pregnancy was not a concern. Then what, I asked. Just some bug she was having trouble beating, she replied. She was sure she would be fine in no time. I sincerely hoped she was right.
Dad planned an afternoon at the beach where we could enjoy our privacy once again and celebrate one of the last days of warm weather for the season.
We all spent some time basking on the sand, soaking up the rays and chatting about the events of summer. At least we did after mom woke up from her nap.
After a supper of hotdogs done on the grill,
dad surprised us with a fireworks show that lit up my moms face.
When he was finished, he saved a few for me to try, explaining the dangers of fireworks in great detail, while I impatiently waited to light the fuse.
All in all it was a really great day and a great way to end our first summer season on the island. Mom seemed better, brighter even and I hoped that we truly were on the other side of this sickness. Only time would tell.
Later that evening, we were all woken by the sound of the fire alarm ringing on the third floor. We rushed to the fire, but by then the fire had already begun to spread to the middle of the room. Dad struggled with the fire extinguisher to get on top of the flames, watching as they began to surround him. Luckily, we were saved by the firefighter who had once before appeared to save our home from the flames. It took the two of them, but eventually the flames were extinguished.
The damage was great, from the floor to the ceiling leaving my father and I quite the repair and cleaning job. The firefighter inspected the fireplace, suggesting that it was time to get rid of the existing unit and upgrade to one that wouldn’t catch fire, which my father agreed to do. How did the fire even start? The fireplace hadn’t been used in months since the warm weather had set in. The only reason we even had a unit on the third floor, was to keep the chickens warm and give a greenhouse atmosphere for the plants to grow vegetables and fruit all year round. Since we were currently in the summer season, there was no need to use the fireplace. In the end we just decided to remove the unit, since mom wasn’t well enough to garden such a large area anyway. Mom protested, but dad said he could always upgrade to a new unit later on, when she was well again.
Finally the day arrived when I was set up to carve my first sculpture. I stood there eyeing the clay, trying to envision what I wanted to create. Dad had suggested that I start off slow and easy, making something with clean straight lines. I chipped away at the clay keeping a clear vision of what I wanted to make in my head.
It was by far a master piece, but it was simple and quite acceptable for my first creation. I learned however, that sculpting wasn’t really my style. I could do it, but I wouldn’t ever enjoy it the way my father does. I was slightly relieved, as I was able to stroke one thing off my list. Sculpting? Not for me.
Dad honored mom’s promise to give me the summer off from my educational classes, but with the passing of the summer season, I was then expected to return to my studies. While my education consisted of all the regular classes one would expect to see, such as english and history, dad’s idea of learning appeared to be quite different. I still did a lot of this,
But instead of studying math, I studied a handiness book and logic, temporarily replaced English. I’m not quite sure if mom was aware of the changes, or was in agreement with my father, but I did my best hoping to make both of them proud.
By the way, the alternative skill I chose to learn. Remember the one that could be for learning or fun? Well guess what I chose?
Deep down inside, no matter how hard I tried to bury the need, I was still me. Annoying my father is one of the things I do best. Yes, this ought to do nicely, I think.
The lazy days of summer had quickly turned to the chilly days of fall, which saw the trees turning to beautiful autumn colours, and the packing away of all things summer. Before we knew it, winter was soon to be upon us.
Winter was an elusive concept for me, as I had never truly experienced it, or at least had retained no memories of it. My first actual winter we spent in Paris, where it was sunny and warm all year round. The days here were already incredibly cold, and my parents informed me it was going to get much, much colder.
I came to find great comfort in the crackling of wood burning in the fireplace, while I listened to the wind as it howled against the windows. I was finding it hard to imagine just how cold winter really could be and I began to feel claustrophobic being locked up inside. I decided I just wasn’t built to be a fan of cold and snow.
My worries about the upcoming weather were only shadowed by my concern for my mother’s health, which seemed to change day by day. Some days she seemed brighter, healthier, yet other days she lacked energy and she found it difficult to keep any food down. On the good days, she insisted on spending time with me, playing ping pong or working on art.
Then her health would decline and I would feel guilty for making her over do, even though it was she herself that would come up with the activities we would do together. She continued to assure me, it would pass and all would be well again. Dad spent most of his time with mom, relaxing or reading on the bed while mom took her naps, which left a lot of the running of the household to me.
Lucky me, everything on the boat decided to start breaking down almost all at the same time. My handiness skill grew in bounds completing one repair after another. I was also becoming a much better cook. As long as no one minded living off of simple foods like grilled cheese and spaghetti. Luckily neither of my parents complained.
A good portion of my daily routine involved the animals on the property. I always started my day with the chickens, trying to make the rooster lose his cool with all my really bad chicken jokes. So far, I hadn’t succeeded, but I would, it was just a matter of time.
Aria and I had become quite good friends and she followed me around the house mewing at me trying to get my attention for a bit of fun.
She continued to sleep in my bed, while Sophie slept in hers.
I gathered that Aria was missing my mother, so I tried to give her as much love as I could in between chores and school work.
With all the attention I was giving Aria, I inadvertently created a war between Sophie and the cat. Aria had decided that I now belonged to her and wouldn’t let Sophie anywhere near me. The animosity between the two became very intense at times, and I really didn’t know what to do about it.
My mother suggested that I kick Aria out of my room and force her to sleep downstairs again. The suggestion did work and things seemed to calm down between the two, although they were a long way away from being the friends they once were.
After about a month of watching my mother struggle to feel better, we began to see a change. Then as quickly as the illness came, it went. A few days later my mother resumed being caretaker of my school work and I began working with the drafting board for making art.
I rather enjoyed it, as I sat by the fire feeling the warmth, creating one after another. I spent entire days at the table, forgetting everything else while I let my creative ideas flow onto paper. I knew that if I had any real plans to live off the island, this would be my calling. Of that I had no doubt.
It was still the question bouncing around in my mind. Where to live? What to do with my life? It wasn’t something I could sit down and discuss with my parents for I knew what the expectation was; to always live on the island. I felt trapped to be honest. Trapped in my father’s expectation to want to continue on living in his ideal world. What prompts someone to want to live completely cut off from society? What kind of mate would I find that would want that same thing for themselves? It all seemed impossible and completely overwhelming each time I tried to work it through in my mind.
Then, like they had been reading my mind, my parents came to me with a surprise. In their hand was a round trip ticket to Paris! Finally, I was going to get off this island!! My mother was sending me to Paris to further my education, she said. While there I was to reconnect with all my parents friends they had made during our time there. I was under strict instructions to visit the art gallery and study the work displayed there. She expected I would be ready to make a full report when I returned.
Three full days in Paris! It could have been anywhere as far as I was concerned, just as long as it was off this floating house! I was definitely going to make the most of it and lucky me, my parents were sending me on the first day of winter. I was hopeful that I would miss the worst of the season. When I returned we would be celebrating snowflake day.
Must remember to buy gifts for my parents.
Paris HERE I COME!!!!