Smock, smock, smock, smock, smock. I love that word. I love saying it aloud—give it a try. Your lips make a fun popping sound. Enjoy yourself for a moment.
Tonight as I was pulling my laundry out of the dryer, I grabbed one of my white button-downs by the collar in order to give it a good shake. This is my no-iron solution. Just give those shirts a good, firm, snap of the wrist and bank the half hour you spend dinging around with the ironing board.
So just as I was giving the shirt my customary thrashing, “rip!” A two-inch tear manifested along the back of the collar. “Oh real nice, J.Crew,” I thought to myself. “Sixteen years is all you can give me? Psssh.” But immediately, in uncharacteristic fashion, my grumble turned to vision: “Now this can be my smock.”
You are thinking, no doubt, what on earth do you need a smock for? What does anyone outside of first grade need a smock for? Some future finger-painting plans, perhaps? Well, maybe. Just maybe. Maybe we’d all be a little better off if we spent a little more time finger-painting and a little less time frying our brains in front of some screen. As I sit in front of ‘some screen’ right now, I believe it might be true.
Do you remember your own smock? Probably one of your dad’s old shirts that hung in the art room of your elementary school with your name written on it with a Sharpie, followed by the initial of your last name. I can’t remember my smock or where I got it. My dad was a bricklayer so he didn’t have any old dress shirts. But I do remember art days and I remember my art teacher with the wild hair who let us explore and create and be artists, without telling us we were doing anything wrong. If I wanted my clay bear sculpture to have teeny little arms and teeny little legs and a teeny little head and bright red lips and a big ol’ body, then that was okay. The next year my younger sister, in classic younger sister form, set out to reproduce my famous she-bear and created some messed-up monstrosity that only an art teacher (or a mother) could love. Amen to it. There was no judgment there.
But then something happened and we got older and there were no more smocks because there was no more messy, creative exploration that threated to soil one’s clothes.
I say down with it! My commitment to myself and to my mental health (there are the same, you know. I’m stressed out, not schizo.) is to put my smock to use. That means doing some art project that might get my jumper soiled. That means sticking my arms in the sleeves first-grader style, so the back is in the front and the front is in the back. It also means (probably) an expensive trip to the art store to get me some supplies. And it certainly means putting down some newspaper on the dining room table (my dad raised me right). But then it means letting myself go with it. With smock on and newspaper down, I am free to create and explore and think about the world in a new language. Sound fruity and strange? Maybe. I think it sounds delightful.