Made in the Shade

We left Minneapolis in June of 1989 headed for our new life in Maryland. The back seat of our little Honda was filled with two slightly nervous 10-year-old girls – one mine, one his – and lots of the necessities required for a 3-day drive from Minneapolis to Montgomery County. 

It was an exciting time for our family, but a challenging time too. My husband and I had married only a year before, and our blended family was just getting used to what the new reality meant for us all.

After accepting a job in DC, we decided to move to Rockville, close to Montgomery college, the girl’s middle school, nice open spaces for play, and close to the metro that would take my husband and I downtown to our jobs in DC.

What we didn’t know though, was how difficult it would be to manage that blended family. My husband and I were in love and we thought that that’s all we would need. But we soon learned that we needed a lot more. We needed patience, we needed understanding, and we needed to figure out how we could work together to move our lives forward.

So one day after piling the girls in the car, we stumbled upon Lake Needwood. It was summer and the lake was beautiful! There was lush greenery all around and, wow, we discovered they even had a little boat shop where we could rent a canoe and go out into the lake and just talk. It seemed idyllic and we were excited about the prospect of “talking it out” on the lake since we were having quite a few troubles getting along.

So we gave each person an oar, and we aspired to make our way out to the lake and back in. But because we were having so many disagreements about how things should go in our newly established household, once we put our oars in the water, our little canoe simply went around and around in circles. It was a crazy time, and the more impatient we got with each other the faster we went around in circles. That was, until we figured out what it would take to cooperate. What it would take to understand each other. What it would take to trust. That message seems particularly important especially right now during this time. When we finally stopped going in circles and figured out how to get in a relatively straight line, we got to shore and stumbled upon this wonderful whimsical bronze bear sculpture. It’s called Made in the Shade by artist Ann LaRose. And we felt that we had been through it together but now, had it made in the shade.

Made in the Shade has become our metaphor for pulling our family together and working things out knowing that we have it, made in the shade when we do that.

When we first shuttered into the pandemic, I went to Lake Needwood to walk around and gather my thoughts. Every time I see this wonderful bear I think about how it was a symbol for the start of our new life together as a family in Montgomery County. The sculpture reminds me that people gather around the good stuff and the impressions that are made around public art bring people together, make people happy, and serve as a central point from which we all can have a base of understanding. Over the years, that is 30 years later, we may not know what is next, but I am an optimist. Once again, when people want to gather around the good stuff, the good stuff will be the enduring public art that lifts our spirits, brings us together, and offers us hope. This sculpture exemplifies that.

Happy International Sculpture day!

Suzan Jenkins