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Picture of Roger graying

Roger Marolt

Do you remember the story about Dorian Gray? It’s pretty Wilde.

For those of you who slept through Irish literature class, it’s about young Dorian, who poses for a portrait. As he views the finished product, he makes a wish that it is he who will stay forever young while the face in the paint-

ing ages. Well, through the incredible advancements made in late-19th-century imagination, the author of the story was able to make this happen.

It’s a great read, but far-fetched, right? I thought so until I witnessed a similar transformation in a portrait drawn of me on the day of my daughter Jane’s fourth birthday.

This story begins with my sister-in-law Shelly, who shows up early the day of the party. She is an accomplished Aspen artist who recently took up the study of portraits. Eager and excited about this new facet of her art, she corners me to sit for a drawing. Slightly flattered, mildly stressed about the party, and completely curious at being immortalized in the pages of her sketch pad, I capitulate.

She begins sketching and creates an outline of a young-looking guy in nothing flat. About that time there’s a knock on the door. “I gotta get that,” I tell her.

“Okay, but come back. I have to finish the details,” she tells me.

It’s Olivia at the door, loaded down with a huge assortment of props she and my 10-year-old daughter, Lucy, are going to employ in party games and the decorating of our home. Bless their little souls, they planned this party for weeks. Bless my soul, I barely made it through the process.

I sit back down. Shelly looks at me and draws huge, dark semicircles below my eyes. “I didn’t notice them until now,” she says.

Then, my neighbor Erica shows up. “Salsa and Dip (their real names) are in the back yard playing. We’re going out for a while. Should I take Salsa or will you put her in when they’re finished?”

Never one to keep happy dogs from ripping fur off each other, and eager to get my portrait finished, I tell her that I’ll put Salsa in after a while. About this time, a gaggle of preschoolers shows up at our house. I mean, they’re coming in through the garage, the front door, the back door, and probably an upstairs window or two. That was my cue to light the grill and put some hot dogs on.

A few moments later I return to my seat and see that Shelly has added a few wild hairs to my head and a small wrinkle at my mouth. “Take it easy!” I tell her. “I’m starting to look old.”

“Perhaps you should take it easy,” she says. “I draw it like I see it.”

Glancing outside, I see my son Max surfing on a plastic wagon in the blow-up pool, to the delight of the toddlers gathered around. One gets too close and falls in. I call to my wife to meet me in the back yard with a dry towel. On the way she asks me to check the dogs.

I grab a leash and notice that Shelly has added a few crinkles to my brow. I hurry out and don’t see the dogs anywhere. I yell. Nothing. I run up and down the street, between houses, and past the park. Nothing. Exasperated, I hear a faint bark. Damn, it’s coming from inside Erica’s house. I dash over and find the front door nudged open. Salsa and Dip are wrestling on the couch.

I grab Dip, close the front door behind me, and hope that Salsa doesn’t get in too much trouble for tearing up the place.

I head back to our house and flop down on the sofa, away from the action, to gather my thoughts for a moment. I glance up and see Shelly staring intently at my face.

“Almost finished,” she says glibly.

“The picture or me?” I mumble under my breath. She adds more blemishes.

My wife asks me again how the dogs are doing. “Salsa’s locked in Erica’s house and Dip is in the laundry room,” I tell her.

“Hmmm, I was more concerned about the ones making all the smoke in the back yard.”

A few quick expletives that some of the children didn’t hear and I’m at the grill, trying to figure out how to convince the kids once again that the black part is best.

I can see Shelly holding up the finished picture at the living room window. She’s smiling. I look like I’m constipated.

We get through lunch and cut the cake. I’ve already promised the candy dolphin riding the waves of frosting to all 13 kids and two of the moms. Now everyone is mad. They won’t speak to me, but somehow communicate that they want seconds anyway.

Finally the party is over. We get the kids in bed and clean up the mess. I glance at the drawing of me. I look about as old as I feel. Thank God this day is over.

In Dorian Gray, the portrait ages as the man sins. The picture is a hideous reflection of the face the man has earned throughout his life.

My greatest sins are that I sometimes forget that my children are growing up, I only get one chance to celebrate a fourth birthday, and that this whole process is my children gradually saying goodbye to me.

I got ready for bed and looked at my portrait one last time before turning out the light. I don’t know how Shelly made that tear drop look so real.

Roger Marolt is old enough to remember how great his fourth birthday was. Give him your frosting at roger@maroltllp.com.


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