I opened my front-door to find this fucking painting. The same one hanging in my room since I was 10.
It’s one of those out-of-focus, ugly floral prints. You know the kind that litter furniture stores, to serve the purpose of selling lounge-sets?
Well… my dad had bought one home after one of many adolescent break-downs, over my room not looking like my friends. Instead, it was a grave-yard of mismatched furniture that he no longer wanted in his room along with some leftover childhood toys.
As a kid, I remembered my mum had this natural way of making things beautiful. A room; people.
She knew exactly what I liked before I saw it. And so my bedroom was always my and her favourite room in the house.
I was very vocal about not liking it from the start.
The painting was an obnoxious size and the high-saturation of bright pink, reminded me of the kid I no longer was. But it didn’t seem to make a difference. Whenever I took it down, it would pop back up a few days later.
I remember one day I looked around my room and realised I was alone.
Surrounded by all these loud memories of her. Pressed into that lamp; the white swirls of a frame, like whipped-cream. The baby pink of the cupboards she painted while I was away at camp and the crystal-shaped handles on the doors.
So being young and overly-emotional, I grabbed a plastic bin-bag from under the sink and shoved everything inside that reminded me of her.
And before I knew it, there was nothing left.
Only the heavy things I couldn’t pick up.
When dad saw this, instead of saying something reassuring he responded by physically trying to fix the situation.
He saw the floral print and instantly bought it. (Next was a pink spotted dressing gown which I still wear, 13 years later.)
However, what I could never understand was why he couldn’t ever buy me what I had asked for. What I thought would help.
He seemed to always think he knew best and I didn’t know if it was because he didn’t want me to become spoiled or if he was incapable of hearing women when they asked for something.
Other times I thought it was about the money but no it wasn’t that either.
So when he asked me if I wanted the picture for one of my bare walls I said a flat, unequivocal, fuck off, no thanks. Nope. No. Most probably not.
And I said it again and again.
And yet, here we were.
It’s almost like I had said nothing as yet again it tries to follow me into the next chapter of my life…
This picture was a reminder that he couldn’t hear me. And at 22, I still don’t know why.
However, it also reminded me of the irony that comes with divorce.
Which is that normal boundaries or what is deemed ‘acceptable behaviour’ in families, all but blurs the minute someone leaves.
And then everybody present or recently freed is forced to unwrap their very own layer upon layer, fresh, home-made, hard-to-slice chunk of grief.
The kind of sadness that takes years to leave your system. The kind that stains.
And I think it’s easy to forget that that not everyone is cut out to live with such intensity.
Grief removes the polite formalities that comes with titles like ‘brother’, ‘mother’ or ‘dad’ and instead shows us someone quite different.
Someone in pain.
And then invites us to watch them as they turn themselves inside out trying to remove it.
And this picture, this insult to the eye, encapsulates all that to me.
And yet, somehow I couldn’t toss it out, onto the street… The idea of some other Uni students picking it up dressing their bare walls with my memories didn’t sit right.
So I carried it inside and stuffed it behind the couch like the dirty, complex, ugly secret that it was.
I guess, it was the closest thing I had to a photo-album of the time, all so vivid inside my mind.
Years that no one bothered to take photos of, as no one wanted to remember. The lights were turned off and we were just trying to survive.
Later that night I got out of the shower and crawled into bed. Once sufficiently buried under multiple covers I called my mum. She talked for over an hour about mundane things like her day at work, who said what, what she has to do tomorrow and I just listened, almost adrift in sleep.
I felt calm hearing her voice.
I guess to our parents, it doesn’t matter how long our limbs grow or how many candles are counted for the cake.
To them we will always be kids.