My daughter, Melia, is two-and-a-half, and in that phase where she wants to do everything for herself. She is fairly convinced that she is a fully-grown human and not just a larva. She loves to open the refrigerator, and actually can be quite helpful at times, too. On the other hand, I’m sitting at a desk right now where she discovered a green marker yesterday. There are marks on the paper that was left out, the desk, and the computer screen. No serious damage done.
But three mornings ago, Melia was up and about before anyone else and found a bottle of nail polish.
With boys, the equivalent temptation to nail polish seems to be the hornet’s nest, which, when combined with a few nearby rocks, seems to provide a story for many a grown man. I’ve known as many women who remember getting themselves into trouble with nail polish or nail polish remover as girls.
Becky has painted Melia’s nails, both fingers and toes, on several occasions. She is training Melia to be a girly-girl, probably to make up for the 100% boy specimen across the hall in the form of our son Noah, but also because it really couldn’t be any other way. Becky loves to do her own nails, as well, and a couple of bottles of nail polish are often to be found on the little shelf about a third of the way up the stairs to our bedroom, on the opposite side of the baby gate from Melia’s room. We have never locked this gate at night, thinking that to have to fiddle with it in a fire might be dangerous, so it was only pulled closed, but not latched. Melia usually wakes herself up, and has lately been in the habit of just playing alone for a while as I work in the cool quiet of the morning. The door to her room sticks during the summertime, and she can’t always open it, so I usually come downstairs first thing to find her books, puzzles, and Barbie dolls scattered across the floor. She greets me with a smile and says, “I wake up!” and I change her diaper, and we eat breakfast, with Noah joining us as soon as he is ready.
All this will change soon, since Noah is headed to first grade in about ten days, but this has basically been the routine this summer.
On Saturday, I heard a few noises while I was working, as I often do, but I was making good progress in my composing, and so I didn’t come downstairs right away. When I found a stopping point, I shut down. As I came down from the bedroom, I heard water running in the bathroom. Melia had let herself out of her room, and was washing her hands, another of her favorite activities. She apparently hates sticky hands, and often tries to get up mid-meal to go to wash up in the bathroom. This particular morning, however, she looked at me sheepishly, and I could see that the first three fingers of her right hand were bright pink, bordering on fuchsia. I knew immediately what she had been up to. She gave me a sheepish look as I dried her hands, noticing the swipes of pink on the sink and the faucet. She had been caught with polish before, and knew that she had crossed a line. I just need to determine the level of damage done.
I went into her room, and saw the offending bottle on her bed, still upright fortunately, with the lid and brush in the bottle, but not screwed on. I closed the bottle up, and as I did, that’s when I noticed the quilt.
My mother has taken up quilting in her retirement. She selects the fabric and designs and pieces the quilts, and outsources the quilting itself, and the results are amazing. The beds at our house all have full-sized quilts on them, with matching pillow shams and throw pillows. We have the best-looking beds I’ve ever slept in, and the bedding provides a real incentive to get the beds made each day, at least for me. The time and effort and money that go into these creations is significant, and I view them as heirlooms to cherish, fancier versions of the crochet afghans my grandmother was forever creating as she sat in her recliner watching the Cleveland Indians on TV.
Melia is still not potty-trained, and after a significant nighttime diaper leak, we decided to put a store-bought comforter on her bed and fold her quilt from Grandma at the foot of the bed. It is a white floral pattern with pastels, and it serves as well as an accent as a full bed covering for now. I looked at where the bottle of nail polish had been on the bed, just glad that it hadn’t been dumped over. It rested on the comforter, but there was a spot of polish on the quilt, a half-inch or so of pink in the middle of a white patch. I knew immediately that it probably wasn’t coming out. Acetone (nail polish remover) is a solvent, not an emulsifier. It dissolves nail polish (or furniture lacquer, or Toons), but it doesn’t cause it to bead up and away from whatever object it may be stuck on. It needs to be wiped away, and a porous surface like fabric, is excellent for wiping, but isn’t all that good at being wiped.
Becky tried to get rid of the spot, but it isn’t going anywhere. Secretly, this doesn’t bother me, and I think there is a composer-type reason for this. My mother made that quilt for Melia–not for anyone else. It is, in a sense, a collaboration. My mother made the quilt, and it is up to Melia to use it, and now that it has a spot of nail polish on it, it isn’t good for anyone else. It is indelibly Melia’s quilt. A quilt demands to be used as a quilt, to cover a bed, to keep warm the person in the bed, to absorb the essence of that person. Two-and-a-half-year-old Melia loves nail polish, and now we will always remember that. It has become a part of the history of her quilt, and the history of our family. There is something beautiful about it.
I see my music in a similar way. I may work largely alone to create a piece of music, investing my time and money in a project. I then give the piece over to musicians, who must make it their own, and it isn’t truly a piece of music until they have done so. They complete and validate my work through their performance of it, through, what might be broadly construed as doing violence to my work, since they will come to conclusions about the work that I may or may not have intended or considered. At any rate, I need them to burrow into the piece and to live with it and to instill it with their essence in order for my work to be full-realized.
So I’m not mad about Melia’s quilt and the nail polish. It was inevitable and necessary.