Tapestry of Reflection
Lately, I’ve been feeling, for lack of a more delicate way to describe it, older than dirt. Many of my friends and most of my family are either dying or dead. I no longer leave home often for work because I am the sole caregiver to my eighty-six year-old mother. My children are busy living their lives, following their dreams, and are preoccupied with relationships. I should have listened to my grandmother when she told me “Child don’t ever grow old.”
My lawn has become my reprieve from daily negativity and my escape from the rooms in my home that seem to grow smaller with each passing day. I have entered a new phase of creation and perfect maintenance. I work with the soil, I plant seeds, I cultivate flowers, and sometimes while digging up a plot of ground for a new rose bush or Hibiscus I find a treasure trove of memories. I found one of those today.
I stopped to allow a few tears to flow when I found the old rusted out coffee can buried about a foot deep in my back yard. When it was placed there the boys had called it a time capsule. When I first hit the can with the shovel and stopped to see what was keeping me from digging into the soil, I was aware of just how much time had gone past. I gently scrapped away the dirt around the can and with trembling hands lifted it from the burial spot two young boys had chosen about fifteen years ago.
Inside of the can I found two empty shotgun shells, a piece of old pipe, an old porcelain insulator, one Batman figurine with a broken arm, one Spiderman figurine with a missing foot, one black checker and one red checker, and about four of my daughter’s N’Sync dolls. Her dolls, I’m pretty sure, were not meant to be any kind of clue for historians. There were meant to disappear and never reappear where the boys would have to see them.
Children enter the house wrapped in blankets, snug in the arms of anxious parents. Before long they are drooling and spitting up on everything they come in contact with. They learn to run almost before they learn to walk and it seems like only hours have passed before you hear, “Mom, he just hit me with that rubber chicken!”
I wish I could remember more of the concoctions the boys put together when they thought I wasn’t paying attention. The youngest boy once painted the bathroom walls with a mixture of toothpaste, mouthwash, and spray bathroom cleaner. “You said you didn’t like the color anymore and wanted to paint it,” he said in self-defense right after I cut loose with a high pitched scream that broke the next door neighbors drinking glasses.
Once the two boys, determined to have revenge on their older sister, decided to cook her some pudding. She had used the boys as make up experiments when she had friends over and the older boy was left with a strange shade of blue on his eyelids while the younger boy looked like he had a permanent case of Fifth's Disease on his cheeks. The pudding was a vanilla pudding base (leftover dessert from lunch that day), mixed with balsamic vinegar, red food coloring, and plastic ants that were strategically placed in the bottom of the serving dish. Thank goodness the first bite gagged her and she never found the ants!
Then, before the mess from the pudding was even cleaned up, my daughter appeared in designer blouses, pierced ears, and painted nails. A telephone seemed to be growing from the side of her head because it was always attached to her ear and she was always with a friend. They giggled when the rest of the house was quiet and sat sulking over God only knows what when the rest of the house was alive with noise and movement.
The boys were wearing pressed shirts and tight fitting jeans, brown and blonde locks (respectively) either plastered down on their heads or sticking up in the air as if they just stuck their finger into an electrical outlet and the voltage escaped through their heads.
The girl loved to shop, one boy was artistic and the other boy loved to play basketball. Then one boy decided he must be in dress clothes at all times while the other boy wore jeans and sweatshirts with hoods. All three children were enthusiastic when report cards were due from school because they knew they would receive an extra allowance for each “A” they received. One time I thought I would have to take a loan out on the house to pay them for the perfect marks they brought home but I didn’t care. It was worth it. THEY were worth it.
The boys sometimes made their sister cry. She sometimes made them laugh out loud. Somehow it all balanced out and they learned from each other. “You retard!” she said to one of the boys. “You nerd!” one of the boys replied.
“You’re brats!” she said loud enough for me to hear. “Well, you’re like a bad apparition that won’t go away!” the oldest boy replied.
“Mom! What’s an apparition?” she yelled out to me. (Keep in mind she was almost ten years older than the oldest boy.)
They all entered the house, kissed me, sometimes argued, sometimes pulled pranks, but always went to sleep in their own beds, safe, well-fed, exhausted, eager to face the next day.
Now the house feels empty. One teenager lives in the house, though not one of the original three children who grew up here. The youngest of the Three Stooges, my nickname for my children, has already died and the other two live in separate cities. If I put my car keys on the dining room table and come back two hours later they are still there. If I buy three boxes of cookies at the market only one box gets eaten the same day I bring them home. I thought I would enjoy this time in my life but in all honesty, it’s just plain weird. The years went past way too fast for my liking.
I mow the lawn. I plant seeds and plants. I hoe, I mulch, I cultivate. I tenderly pluck withered petals from the roses and attack weeds around my flowers as if they were burglars invading my home. My flowers beds are lush, filled with green plants and potted flowers. I tend to them with love and dedication just as I once tended to my children.
I placed the rusted coffee can and all of the contents back into the ground for someone else to find sometime in the future. I will keep the memories it brought back to me safe within my heart. Life is really a tapestry of moments shared and moments spent wishing you were sharing them. I just wish I had more time to spend on weaving an even more elaborate tapestry.
© Dianna Doles-Petry