Friday, April 18, 2008

Scraping the Foundations

I started with the cabinet in my bathroom. I went through my house, methodically and slowly. Room by room, drawer by drawer, thing by thing. And I got rid of everything I could; all the expired goods, the unworn clothes, the unread books. All the unnecessary furniture, the well-intentioned gifts, the once-critical collectibles. Stuck in a darker place than I have been in a long time, I was at a loss on how to manage my days. So I cleaned.

I didn’t know if it was to prepare to move or to prepare a new work surface for living. I thought about calling my mom to tell her I was considering moving back home. But then I thought I couldn’t take her relentless optimism about my life here.

I worked my way into a closet and the phone rang. Naturally, it was her.

“Guess what I grabbed from the old house last week,” she gushed.

We’d just shut down and sold her house of ten years. We’d spent an afternoon tersly shoving boxes at each other, crying for the past – and crying we were laughing so hard reading my sister’s first grade stories and plays. I read them aloud in her phonetic seven-year old spelling and sounded like Borat.

Like me, my sister came to her writing early, left it and only came back to it recently.

“I didn’t think we were both allowed to be writers and that was your thing. Our brother did art so I couldn’t do that,” she’d explained.

“So you became a dancer instead,” I concluded. I understood how she felt. After a thirteen-year swim career, I’d quit the team when her times got too close to mine. We both agreed we couldn’t be great in the same arena.

We’d both been infected by that thinking for far too long. Now with me talking of leaving LA, she wonders what will become of our sitcom we are developing together. I think maybe it’s time for me to step aside for her to be the writer now. After all, I came here because I wanted to be able to say I’d given it a shot. I didn’t want to go on living a small life and wondering what might have been if I’d only tried. Well, I’ve given it a shot and it hasn’t turned out. So far.

Then - back to scene - I’m sorting my closet and mom calls.

I tell her, yes, I know she saved some of my sister’s elementary school writing from the trash heap. The stuff we’d been reading and laughing about.

“No, no. Well, yes. But there was yours too.”

I haven’t told her about my current personal distress, what I am considering or what I’m in the middle of doing.

“You know what? You’ve got to never give up on your writing. Listen to this…” and she proceeds to read me my elementary school teachers’ comments on various stories I’d written. “Heidi, even then…” She concludes.

How does she do that? She doesn’t read my blog. She hadn’t talked to my sister. She had in no way been told that I was rifling through my belongings considering chucking this whole Tinseltown life and moving home where life would be “easier.” Yet here she was, answering the unasked question. Like a perfect Act Two turning point. Just when you thought all was lost for our heroine…

OK so it’s cheesy and overly sentimental. But so like life. And movies.

I grunt but otherwise don’t really acknowledge what she’s said.

“What are you up to?”

“Cleaning…” I find a stash of mittens. I’d need these back home in the mountains.

“Oh. Well I just thought you’d want to remember what Mrs. Walsh said about your writing when you were eight. I’m so glad you’re out there, honey. It’s meant to be and it was from first grade.”

My mother, the deus ex machina.

I can’t say my faith is restored but I do know that sometimes you’ve got to go on other people’s perceptions of you when your own becomes dimmed. So for now, I’m just holding onto the fact that I don’t want to have to wear mittens in May. At least not this year.

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