I'm sitting here gazing at the opposite wall, and I remember the steps that have brought me to this one spot in time and space.
"You're too young to get married!" Those words stated repeatedly began to reach the far corners of my brain. Maybe I was too young. Eighteen years are not many, but I felt I'd lived a lifetime in the three years previously.
After having left home at 15 and making my way in the world by myself, I was tired of being alone. I wanted stability and a family who loved me unconditionally. I wanted it all--the white picket fence, summers at the lake, a show place home with matching towels in all the bathrooms.
Ha! My brain screams at me. Get real, I told myself. What I have is an old mobile home on less than an acre of land, faded wall paper, and cracked linoleum. My home looks so much like the way I feel, it is almost terrifying.
A single tear slowly follows the contour of my face. What have I done to deserve all this? I have always been kind to others--never cheating or backstabbing as so many acquaintances do. I pay my taxes, look after my aging mother, and help anyone who needs it. I look after my kids and do the laundry, so what is the problem? Why hasn't life given me my just rewards? My pale green eyes scan the yellowed wallpaper and come to rest on a wooden plaque. The tag on it glitters in the morning sun. A slow smile passes across my timeworn face as I sink deeper into my reverie.
Congratulations! I have the genuine pleasure of notifying you that you have received the Outstanding Adult Learner Award from the Province of Alberta and the Minister of Advanced Education and Career Development. The rest of the letter was a blur. Finally, I had completed the first stage of my educational goal and now this prestigious award is to be presented to me at graduation ceremonies. Amid the masses of balloons, I walked up and proudly took possession of not only my certificate and award, but also a $1000 scholarship to continue my education. I was soon to find out that the scholarship would not go far. After three courses, I was out of money and broken again.
My eyes move across the wall and come to a stop on a gorgeous framed print. A lone, gray wolf stares back at me with soulful eyes--a Christmas gift from my husband. The two by three foot piece of art evokes a feeling of pure grief from deep within me. I am haunted by the memories of the night I took my children and fled to a friend's home, leaving behind a bewildered husband. What could have possibly made me go? There had been no violence, no alcoholism, no drug abuse. Still, my mind raced to get me away from this place and him.
The snow blew across the December landscape. The children huddled together in the back seat of the car, listening to the sobs that shook me as I made our way to safety. At my best friend's home, I collapsed in her arms with overwhelming relief. She held me for what seemed like hours as I babbled about what a horrid life I had. I spoke of my unhappiness with my home and family. She did as she always had and simply listened. The only words she said were, "Do whatever you have to to be happy."
Unable to dwell any further on the memories of that heart wrenching winter, my eyes move forward and settle on a simple drawing. It is of a house--simple in its construction. It is a child's rendition of what home is and it includes a picket fence and a doghouse. More tears course down my face as I look at this masterpiece in Crayola. It reminds me of a simpler time--a time when all my dreams could come true.
As I stare at that fading picture, a sudden feeling washes over me. It is like a rush of cool wind on a muggy day. My tears stop and I scan the walls again. They are good walls, strong walls. They keep the cold out in winter and the rain out in spring. They have been neglected for some time, but with some tender loving care, their beauty can be recaptured.
A thought bursts inside my head. If anything can represent the soul in the material world, it is the voice of the walls. It speaks of family and joy, of loss and heartache. A picture of Dad brings such warmth and such pain. His smile reminds me that I was his souchka and that my time with him was all too short. The yellowing paper holds safely the laughter that filled the room the day the girls and I put it up. It whispers to me "Please, please look after me. I need a lift."
That was it! The source of my unhappiness wasn't coming from anything external. It was swirled deep inside me. Just as I had neglected my walls, so had I neglected my soul. I forgot that I had to nourish it, encourage it, and allow it to come out everyday in all its shining glory. I didn't have a broken-down trailer in the middle of nowhere. I had a beautiful home, paid for with hard work. The more I thought about what I had, the richer I seemed to be.
I rose from my spot on the crumb-scattered couch and went to the wall. Placing a finger along the edge of the paper, I dug in and ripped a piece right off. A smile started to play on my lips and I tore at the paper faster and faster. I laughed as I walked into the kitchen and pulled open the fridge. My hand played over a can of pop, then moved to a jug of juice. Sipping the cool juice I looked at my handiwork and smiled.
The faded flowers spoke of a soul that was young and vibrant--a soul that wanted a lush garden indoors. It was time to give that tired soul new flowers. For only with fresh flowers could my soul sing once again. I also knew that as I took that old paper down, I would leave behind all the sorrows and pain it reflected. Just as I could make my walls fresh and new again, I could revive my soul to its former radiance by re-wallpapering inside.
Artwork "The End" by Karen Musick.
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