It’s hot and it’s August and our fifteen year old labrador Hannah, died this week. She couldn’t stand up any more and had lost interest in food. We knew it was her time, but that didn’t make it easy. Ben was up in Hingham. So Elliot and I carried her in her bed out to the car and drove her to the vet to be put to sleep. We said our goodbyes to our elderly companion, and stroked her head, and held each other, sobbing. When we drove home, Elliot said, with tears streaming down his face, “well, that wasn’t so hard.”
I was so distracted when we got back home, that I left the keys in the car. I left the car running all night long and didn’t discover this til morning, when Rene Campos came to trim the ivy and the hedges. He said the car was running. It’s dangerous, he said. Be careful.
Elliot owes me money, and since he hasn’t been able to get a summer job, except for the odd neighborhood lawn mowing, I hit on the idea of having him pose for me. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been sculpting a bust. I purchased two blocks of clay with more grog in it, a more textured clay than the clay I work with in my classes. It holds its form better, and is stronger once it’s fired.
We work on the sculpture every day, about an hour each time. I’m looking at the youth shining out of Elliot’s face – the smooth contours of his cheek bones and his forehead. This is my beautiful son. I’ve loved and mothered him for eighteen years, seen him grow into a young man. And yet he is still so young! Hannah the dog had been in our lives almost as long as Elliot, but she died in old age, and Elliot is my youngest, and in two weeks time he’ll be going off to college.
My older children tease me. Alex suggests I put this bust in Elliot’s bed after he's gone to college, resting on his pillow. Rozzie jokes that I am like Judith Starkadder in Cold Comfort Farm, and that I will mourn the departure of Elliot as Judith mourns the departure of Seth for Hollywood! But Elliot and I know better. He’s excited and I am thrilled that he’s going off to college. He knows that Ben and I are sure he will do splendidly.
After the death of one of our beloved dogs, I’m grateful to lose myself for an hour each day, in sculpting Elliot’s face. I’m trying to capture subtleties. It isn’t easy, I tell him, to sculpt someone you love. You’re more picky about the likeness.
Elliot is patient and he makes a good model. “Want to get in some sculpting now?” he’ll ask, coming into the kitchen. Then he will sit, and he will turn when I ask him to, and hold the expression and thought in his face.
Since he’s going into theatre I believe it’s a good skill to have. He might find modeling to be a good paying gig when he’s a struggling actor. Most of the models I work with during the year are actors or artists of one kind or other. And most of the actors I know have often modeled. Even I have modeled.
So here I am, immortalizing Elliot in clay.
When Ben returned from Hingham, we buried our dog’s ashes in the back garden – down near the apple trees and the blackberry bushes. Hannah used to gorge herself on blackberries. How we loved Hannah; we got her in Brussels when Elliot was a toddler and now she’s gone. Elliot, in his own way, will also be leaving us soon.
We must look for continuity...