The commission was for a hand-painted mural on a dining room wall. Pam wanted a tree with bright green leaves that would serve as a Family Tree where she would display family photographs from its branches. But designing and painting the mural over the course of several weeks became much more than a simple commission.
It became a wonderful opportunity.
An opportunity to create for and while in the company of a dear friend. A confidant, an ally, a mentor, a playmate, a supporter. A soul sister whom I have known for almost as long as I have been on this Earth (but rarely make the time in my life to visit.) Someone who can make me laugh at LIFE and at myself. Someone who can bring out my inner 8 year-old while at the same time making me feel talented and wise. A beautiful woman who never judges - who always accepts her many friends just as they are and is always there when you need her most.
|Pam and Nita (with 2 of Pam's brothers)|
You see, Pam, is still my best friend, my only real close friend besides my Mother, Sister and Husband, and was my kitty-corner neighbor for 21 years when I lived in the big brown and white house at the end of the gravel dead end road named Stockman Court. So painting this tree, which was a first for me, was really a gift. A gift from Pam. Her gift of a blank 8' x 12' wall where I was set free to create and explore. A gift that brought such JOY into my heart. Talking with her while I painted - visiting and sharing a meal or a snack with her after I was done for the day - whining to her about my little aches and pains - helping her work on her card projects - brought such PEACE to my soul as I rediscovered the value of our friendship, our shared history and our power as women.
Another opportunity occurred when I needed a boost of confidence and some painting tips so I called in my Foamgineer (see 11/19/13), Jeff. It was just a few days before we were set to celebrate our 30th Wedding Anniversary
so I asked Pam about the possibility of us posing for a photo in the sideyard of the old Galligan homestead on Stockman Court where our wedding ceremony took place in 1984 under the canopy of several gaily-colored tents filled with family and friends (and food, music and booze!). Pam told us that the house was vacant. There would be no one to ask for permission from - we could just go over there.
I was hesitant to return to the house that I hadn't been to since my parents moved out over 16 years ago. I was glad to have Pam's son, Craig, and Jeff with me as I walked through the gate behind Pam's house and looked again upon my childhood home. Proud and lonely - 2828 stands empty and neglected - but not forgotten. Gone are the lilac bushes at the edge of the drive, the rhubarb patch behind the back porch, the majestic white pine in the side yard, the hedge between the houses, and where there was once a flagstone-edged garden on the south side where Pam and I would play "pool party" with our headless Barbies (their hair would get weird if it got wet!) while using my mother's roasting pan as an above-ground pool - all that remains are scattered stones, random trash and thick dense weeds.
Memories flooded over me with every step I took. The front porch, the backdoor, the basement window, the yard....all triggered numerous and powerful memories spanning the decades. The celebrations, the barbecues, the illnesses, the parties, the friends, the fights, the car-washing, the frisbie and jart games, the many beloved pets, the Mother's Days and Father's Days...on and on and on. But it wasn't until I actually touched the house to peer through a dirty window into the living room that I felt overwhelmed. That beautiful glazed white brick fireplace with the huge mirror over it was still there. This was where our Easter baskets were filled, where our stockings were hung, where I posed with my Peter Max puzzle on my 8th birthday, where Dad displayed his panther statue and where Mom decorated each Christmas with the same Santa doll and flocked red and green reindeer.
Do you remember me, 2828? My heart beat within you for so many years. You were with me when I cried alone in my room as a teenager, when I laughed and played with my friends as a tween, when I disappointed my parents and when I made them proud, when I sat on the stairs as a child -gazing into the mirror on the landing- pretending to be a movie star acting out a dramatic scene.
You know my secrets. You knew all of my cats. You had real plastered walls, archways and ceilings. Heavy wooden doors with glass knobs. A cubby for an old-fashioned phone. A built-in milk box and swinging doors. From Roxi's flowered room with the canopy bed where we would talk for hours and cry over "Born Free" to the laundry room in the far corner of the basement where I was always afraid to go alone...I loved you. You not only provided my parents with many ways to spend their hard-earned money, you also gave them a great place to raise their family and spend their precious leisure time.
As I clutched a souvenir flagstone in my arms - we headed back over to the house of my life-long friend where I would soon put the finishing touches on her Family Tree by adding a couple of little red birds to the heart-shaped trunk. So it is here - in the middle of our 5th decade that we are both looking to the past and to who we were and are. Rejoicing in the value that our lives have had. Reflecting upon the people and even the places that have made us who we are. Being comfortable with our years. Embracing the past, reveling in the present and accepting the future.