One girl, who I’ll call “Ericka,” stopped at my table and chatted with me for quite a while. An aspiring cartoonist, she had a thick sketchbook filled with drawings. They were excellent. Her mother was with her and was clearly very supportive of her daughter and proud of her work. She had at least 50 of Ericka’s drawings on her iPhone.
Before she left, Ericka asked me to draw something in her “artists” book. She pulled out another sketch book, turned to a blank page, and handed it to me. I quickly drew a man waving and saying “Hi Ericka! Good luck with your cartooning!”
After I drew it, I thought it looked pretty dorky. I handed it back to her.
“My mom and I have come here for every Cartoonist-in-Residence,” Ericka said. “This book contains sketches from all of them. You can take a look at the other sketches if you want.”
She handed the book back to me and I flipped through it. There were dozens and dozens of drawings done by all kinds of cartoonists. About 90% of the sketches were of various cartoon characters saying things like, “Good luck, Ericka!” and “Nice to meet you, Ericka!” It was neat that she had this huge collection of sketches from professional cartoonists (and kind of reassuring for me to see that nearly all of them were as dorky as mine).
Later, one of the volunteers came up to me and said, “You know that girl who was hanging out at your table for a while? She and her mom have come here for every Cartoonist-in-Residence we’ve ever done.”
I said, “Yeah, she mentioned that. How long have you been doing this program?”
“Nine years. She’s been coming here once a month for the past nine years.”
That blew me away.
A few minutes later, they showed me their finished drawings. Teri drew Snoopy and Molly drew Charlie Brown. As I was looking at Teri’s Snoopy, she said, “What do you think, Scott?”
“Very nice,” I said. “I see you made Snoopy brown.”
“Yes,” Teri replied. “I like brown dogs. Scott, you can keep it, if you want. Do you want to keep it, Scott?”
As I said “Sure,” Molly rolled towards me in her wheelchair and handed me her Charlie Brown sketch.
“It doesn’t look very good,” she said, “but I made his shirt yellow.”
“I think it looks great,” I said.
“Molly is my best friend,” Teri said abruptly. “We’ve been best friends for two years.”
“That’s good,” I said.
“I’m developmentally disabled,” Teri replied. “Do you know what that is, Scott?”
Before I could respond, Teri said, “Molly has Cerebral palsy. Do you know what that is, Scott?”
“Yes, I do.”
“People make fun of us a lot,” Teri said. “Kids at school make fun of us.”
“I’m sorry kids make fun of you,” I said. “Some people are mean. Don’t let them get you down.”
“You didn’t make fun of us,” Teri replied.
Teri saw me put the drawings in my sketch pad and said, “What are you going to do with our drawings? Are you going to treasure them forever?” She wasn't being sarcastic – in fact, I doubt Teri was capable of sarcasm. She sincerely wanted to know if I was going to treasure their drawings forever.
“I’ll keep them to remind me of today,” I said.
When I got home, I threw them in the recycling bin.
I’m kidding. I kept the drawings. They’re in my sketch pad and will stay there for a quite a while, maybe even forever.