When my youngest daughter Haley was 5 years old she became utterly infatuated with horses and fell madly in love. “Why”, I asked myself, would this small child fall in love with such a large majestic animal at such a young age? Haley was never exposed to horses and yet somehow she became fixated on a creature that was eight times her size and she exhibited no fear in their presence.
Funny how the natural beauty and ability to love an animal unconditionally in a person takes over… I suppose that’s exactly how cat and dog lovers are too. Gentle minded souls born amidst a world of other people who couldn’t fathom liking either animal, let alone adopting and living with one.
I was home back then with some time on my hands so I committed to painting a horse mural on the wall in her room when she asked. There I was happily using the gifts I had been given to create a blissful environment for her, a real stable, complete with lifelike roosters and hens sitting in straw up on a milk crate shelf. Next was the big red barn door adorned with a real wrought iron handle and a basket hanging from a saddle hook that held beanie babies in order to keep them off the floor when she wasn’t playing with them. Every detail lovingly put in place. I think this took me several weeks of shopping and cruising stores for just the right pieces. O.K., so maybe not everyone would scrutinize over every detail as I did. I suppose this is the creative genius in me gone a little awry. I also assume this is why my beautiful sweet child felt she could rely on me to create her perfect imaginary world… and of course I couldn’t fail her.
As I painstakingly crafted faux wood beams and completed each part of the mural, I started to connect somehow to why Haley loved horses, they were tranquil creatures in their own right. I placed a mustang out in a field of wild grass with her foal only a short distance from her side. I could feel the wind blowing and the calming comfort felt by the baby simply to be in the presence of her mother, much the same way that Haley felt about me. I stepped from my small ladder and took in the view around me. There was Haley, belly down on the floor with a pack of crayons drawing horses. I remember the look in her eyes as she lifted her head and scanned the room which was completely transformed into the images from her little imagination. I still remember the huge smile that swept across her face and how she jumped up to hug me. It’s a feeling only a mama can relate to…
Haley is thirteen now and recently she asked to have her room redone with a more mature look. For most people this would be fairly easy, for me, not so much.
Her request to paint the room chocolate brown and dark hot pink took me by surprise…this was not something I was prepared to think about let alone be ready for. I mean, I know she is a teenager now, but she is still my little girl…correction, she is my baby. Where has the time gone? Where are her crayons? Why am I crying?
I kept asking myself those questions all the way to the hardware store where I purchased the new paint. My heart was breaking at the thought of Haley growing up and leaving behind her the innocent years of her childhood that I adored so much…my baby crossed yet another threshold, she was leaping another hurdle and preparing for another part of the race.
Saturday came and we were up early. We dragged every piece of furniture to the hallway or to the opposite side of the room, laid down tarps, wiped the woodwork with a rag and cracked open the cans of paint.
We worked until late in the day layer by layer and wall by wall. Trimming, rolling and covering up her precious childhood as my heart tore from my chest piece by piece. By two in the afternoon we got to the far wall and I asked Haley to pass me the screwdriver to take off the plates that surrounded the light switches and plug sockets. She was a trooper and stuck by me chattering all day about life and just how great her new room was looking. I just listened with a lump in my throat and an awful sinking pain in the center of my chest.
Removing the plates was a job I had assigned to her for the other walls, something she could “handle” but right now she was trying her hand at rolling on the paint and honestly I was ready to be done with this project and thought my intervention would speed things along.
I listened to her stories as I unscrewed the plates one at a time answering questions and giving her my opinions about all the ”goings on” in her world, enjoying every minute of the banter…
It was then I unscrewed the switch plate by the entryway to her room.
Have you ever had a moment of complete enlightenment, a moment of true life changing meaning? For me, THIS was it. With the plate removed my eyes remained fixed on the multiple layers of paint that had once been on the walls of this room. The builders white from when we moved into the house 17 years ago was eventually covered by the tan that held posters on its back placed there by my now twenty-eight year old daughter Jackie, when she was just about the same age as her sister who now resides in the room. On the other side of the plate pale blue peeked out in the corner, the beautiful blue that was a canvas for white clouds that shrouded the ceiling and walls in anticipation of a new baby brother…the very same brother that she so lovingly gave up the room for because it was bigger and accommodated a rocker in addition to a crib and dresser, and now the wood grain of a horse stable beam being bulldozed over by a roller full of chic hot pink paint covering it all, marking a coming of age for yet another member of our perfect family. My eyes filled with tears as my heart swelled with pride and gratitude for having been given the gift of family and children but mostly for this brief moment of clarity.
With every layer of paint there was another chapter written on the walls in this home of ours, stories of the beautiful life we all had the honor of sharing for so many years. What started as a day of sadly ending one chapter turned into happy anticipation of what life was going to bring in the future.
I hope by the time I meet my maker my heart will be full and my rooms at least a half inch smaller from all the layers that have been rolled on over the years. I wish this for every person I know…more importantly I hope they are the ones wielding the screw driver and popping off the light plate, witnessing their life in a 4 inch by 6 inch square.
Today I sat at my dining room table and painted a two foot by four foot canvas with a scene from classic Pooh, an all-time favorite of my twenty-eight year old daughter Jackie, to fill the wall space over her daughter’s crib. Jackie created yet another colorful layer in my life by bringing Charlotte into the world. The shade of this layer is a lovely pink… little girl.
Life is layered with many things, good and those that are, well, not so much. All of these intended to mold us into who we are as human beings. This is the beauty of what the big guy upstairs does for us, he never lets us walk alone and once in a while shows us the layers of this magnificent thing called life to remind us of just that! I wish you a life with many layers of love.
My writing is a vehicle that allows me to reach out in my own small way and touch others. It is the paint that covers one chapter in life and reveals everything that is new when the wall is completely rolled over, a layer that holds stories from my heart…thank you for “ popping off the switch plate” and reading it. XO Kathy
A bit of humor…
For those of you that know me or have been to my house, you know my obsession with dishes…my whole garage is filled with large plastic boxes. I never miss an opportunity to entertain.
I decided to read this blog to Haley before I posted it. I stumbled through the whole thing, tears rolling down my cheeks, choking out the words as I read them out loud. A few times I looked up at her trying to gather myself only to see her eyes filled up.
Once I was done, in typical Haley style, she patted my knee and said, “I can see it now Mom, I come home from college and green paint has been rolled over the walls in my room forming another layer of the DISH ROOM! ” We laughed for about ten minutes…