“don’t put this on your blog!”

December 8, 2011

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Dearest H,

I know, I know, you told me not to put this on my blog. I understand that you’re nineteen and a college student and all, and being written about on your mom’s little blog could be pretty embarrassing.

But really, buddy, who’s gonna know? I don’t use your real name, so anyone googling you isn’t going to wind up here.  And if any of your friends read this, you can ask them why the heck they’re reading your mom’s blog anyway.

How did you expect me not to write about this? I mean, you come home for Thanksgiving telling your dad and me about this big project that you needed help with.  You knew we’d jump on it—we’ve been helping you with your projects since you first encountered play dough at two and didn’t know how to roll a snake.  We’ve helped you make a trebuchet, a model of the Duomo, scale papier-mâché planets, a Lord of the Rings game terrain, endless costumes. To name just a few.

And we’ve always loved helping you on your films. Whether we’re scouting out the farm location you need, or making a costume for a boy-king, or hitting up friends to act, or doing nothing more than fetching burritos for your crew.

And this project was cool. You know how much I love The Royal Tenenbaums. I fell hard for that quirkfest when it first came out ten years ago, when you were just nine and still worked  up over the first Harry Potter movie.

Ten years later you’re filming a scene from the movie for one of your film classes. Specifically the scene with Ritchie and Margot in the tent in the living room. And you needed a tent.

Not just any tent, but a tent that could be hung from the rigging (is that the right term?) That would be tiny and tent-sized at the back, but would widen gradually at the front, to accommodate three cameras. And that you could fold up and bring back to New York in a duffel bag. No problem, right?

Hey, if we could make a model of the Duomo out of foam core with no plans, surely we could make such a tent. So off to the fabric store we went, with your sketched plans. Twenty yards of purchased muslin later, and we were back in the family room, moving furniture, rolling fabric across the floor and trying to decide where to make cuts. I said I’d sew if you pinned. (I hate pinning.) You thought I was nuts for insisting on a French seam for the back of the tent, but that seam showed up in your film, didn’t it?  Mothers know these things.

I loved watching you and your dad trying to figure how and where to hammer the eyelets. Felt like the old days, watching you build duct tape sabers together.

You went back to school, and we were all happy and hopeful that your contraption would work.

Still I wasn’t prepared for how much this texted photo would take my breath away:

It’s a blurry shot, taken with your phone in low light, but look at that thing! You can see the traditional tent lines at the back, but something about that splayed-open front strikes me as glorious. More impressive than I envisioned. Somehow a sea of muslin, some eyelets, rope and the right lighting came together into something grand.

That tent is some kind of metaphor to me. A metaphor for how people can come together and create something big with very little. Sort of like homeschooling: it’s really just a series of days made up of books and ideas and small projects, but somehow, over time, it becomes something more. It creates a mindset that says, I can make that winged tent that I’m imagining. I can dream something up, and I can make it real.

I’m being sappier than Wes Anderson, aren’t I? I’m sure this whole post seems a little ridiculous to you, but here’s why I wrote it (even after you asked me not to): Many of the people who read my blog are newer homeschoolers. And while they seem perfectly willing to come back week after week to read endless stories about your little brother–because he’s the only one who still lets me write about him–what really seems to inspire many of them are stories of what happens to homeschoolers when they grow up. (And dream up tents for films. And make them.)

Your dad and I loved helping you with your project. And now you’ve helped me with mine.

Thank you for indulging me, sweetie. I can’t wait to see your finished film.

Love, Mama

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristin December 8, 2011 at 7:34 am

How many parents would be willing to take on a huge sewing project over the holiday? Seriously, not too many. It just goes to show that your parental support has fostered the creative and intellectual growth of H from childhood all the way to adulthood at a fantastic film school. –And you are still “playing” with him while he’s learning! I guess at least one homeschooling parent should brush up on their sewing skills; it appears that knowing how to sew a French seam will be necessary and handy at some point.


patricia December 8, 2011 at 9:14 am

I don’t know about needing to know how to sew a French seam. Who knows where homeschooling will lead our kids, and what skills they’ll need? Maybe it will be more useful for them to know how to make a concrete sofa, or to de-feather a chicken! 😉 The good news is that whatever they come up with, they’ll probably be willing to tackle it. And if they ask us for help, we’ll be willing to tackle it too. ‘Cause that’s what we homeschoolers do, right?


Heather December 8, 2011 at 8:06 am

Dear H, your mother is right. My kiddos are young, but so full of ideas. I love hearing of someone who has followed this path and still dreams big ideas. I love knowing that you still enjoy working with your family to see your idea come to fruition. I appreciate your permission to share this piece of you. It helps me more than you know. good luck in your pursuits. It appears that your interests and passions are taking you far.


patricia December 8, 2011 at 9:19 am

Hi Heather,
The honest truth is that I still don’t have permission. I figured that I’d post this, and if H comes around and reads, he’ll get a big surprise. I’m just hoping that I (and now you) have made enough of a case to convince him that my posting about this was worth it.

Thanks for helping me!


By Word of Mouth Musings December 9, 2011 at 3:46 am

The forgiveness over permission stance ….
This may be one of my very favorite posts you have written (she says wiping a tear)
Love seeing where our journey is taking us!


patricia December 11, 2011 at 4:46 pm

Thanks, Nicole!


Julie December 9, 2011 at 7:22 am

Yes, this is just the kind of posts that new homeschoolers like me need to read! We need some evidence that these “series of days made up of books and ideas and small projects” will indeed turn into something beautiful! Thanks, Patricia and Mr. H, for the inspiration. This brought tears to my eyes.


patricia December 11, 2011 at 4:48 pm

Hi Julie,

I remember that you have young ones. Probably seems like they’ll never be nineteen, but I’ll tell you, it goes fast!

Thanks for saying hello!


CathyT December 18, 2011 at 3:56 am

Loved the post! I have been homeschooling my kids since day 1 and my kids are following their dreams wherever they take them. My job is to help them find the needed resources and the courage to explore. One son, age 17, works at two different museums and the other , age 15, works as an interpreter at a living history museum. Both kids are not at 9-5 jobs five days a week but are pursuing their dreams as they can. My younger boys are early elementary ages and they know the world is at their fingertips — the older kids were and are family experiments. Meaning we are doing the best we can with what we know. We didn’t know how homeschooling would round them out as individuals, just know the traditional route wouldn’t work for us. When I share stories like yours with them, they know that (not all) adult homeschoolers ended up total misfits (they know this but to read it is nice too). Hmm, not sure if this sentence makes sense to others but to me it does…


patricia December 19, 2011 at 9:41 am

I always love hearing what your boys are doing, Cathy. I especially appreciate the line about your kids being “family experiments.” Ha! That’s sort of how homeschooling is, isn’t it? There’s more focus on the day-to-day than some ultimate goal. At least that’s how it goes around here!


molly December 19, 2011 at 8:46 am

the royal tenenbaums came out at a very impressionable time for me – avery was 2, i was pregnant with aidan. it certainly inspired me as a parent. the game closet especially. h’s tent is wonderful, but the best part is that you made it together. makes me look forward to many more years of homeschool (and college) projects.


patricia December 19, 2011 at 9:46 am

Loved the Tenenbaum’s game closet! I just re-watched the film, with Wes Anderson’s commentary. The game closet was important to him too; he wanted to put it in the film because most families have some version of one. My favorite detail was the little monopoly house dangling from the light chain…


Annie Mueller August 3, 2013 at 9:18 am

I love many, many things about this post, but the part I love most of all isn’t in this post.

I LOVE that my husband can – and will – sew. Because honestly, I suck at it.


patricia August 6, 2013 at 8:02 am

How fabulous to have a husband who sews! I never understand why boys and men typically aren’t more into sewing. It’s done with machines, after all.

Nice to have you stopping by, Annie!


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