Caution~ Artist at Work

I went there on the pretense that I needed time alone to write. Where else could I go on a Sunday afternoon? The library was closed and my favorite area restaurant was as well.  And let’s face it, that Chapter Eleven that I‘ve been putting off forever (I’d even skipped it to finish chapter 12) is not going to write itself.

I’ve recently found myself reminiscing about how many hours I’d spent as a young teen working alongside my mother. My father had once made a crude sign and hung it on the porch door while my mother and I were busy with some creative endeavor or other. It read: “Caution! Artistes (read with a French accent, please) at work.  Don’t enter these premises unless you are talented in some field. No peons please.”  

My mother and I often spent time either on the porch or at the table, companionably painting, drawing, or writing.  My Dad wasn’t mocking us. He enjoyed seeing both his wife and his daughter using their creative talents. More than once, he and my mother had discussed turning their land into an artist colony of sorts. My mother later gave me the wrinkled and torn sign. She’d written on the back; “For Mary, one of the artists on the premises. From Mom, the other one. “

What would it be like to work at her table, all alone?

Driving up the steep, but recently-plowed driveway, I felt the now-familiar lump forming in the back of my throat. Stepping over piles of snow and melted icicles near the back door did nothing to assuage my sadness. By the time I’d put the key in the lock, I was chiding myself for coming. It took everything in my power not to call out “Mom?” when I stepped inside the house.  I put my coffee cup and tote bags down on the empty table, then went outside to shovel some snow, knowing that a little physical activity could do wonders for a person’s morale.  The warm sun beat down on my shoulders as I heaved shovel after shovel of heavy snow to the side.  In less than ten minutes, I was ready to face the inside of the empty house again.

It was the first time I’d been alone in my mother’s house since her death in November. As I walked through the empty rooms I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. A message from my mother that no one else had discovered?  I rifled through some folders in the living room and was excited to find the original pattern of the wood sign my mother had given me for my birthday one year. She’d made the pattern on an old brown sack.  My mother never wasted anything, not even paper sacks.

 She’d burned the words to one of Neil Diamond’s songs onto an old table leaf. 

 I opened up the glass doors to the shelves that were between two rooms and reached for a tin that I’d never noticed before. A shiver went down my back when I spotted a folded note inside. I was disappointed when I realized that it was simply a description of the old marbles inside the tin. I studied my mother’s neat handwriting, missing her more than ever. Was it a mistake to come here and write? I wondered. Everything around me reminded me of my mother.

Then I remembered the note I’d found last time in the house and had forgotten to take home with me.

I’d been feeling guilty about not encouraging my mother’s writing. Let’s face it. I’d been wallowing in guilt. Then one Sunday afternoon my sister Angie and I went to my mother’s house and although we spent most of our time talking, we also wandered aimlessly through the rooms.  I noticed one of our mother’s books on the desk chair.

“Look, here’s another copy of Mom’s book,” I said to Angie, picking it up, then sadly added, “I wish I had encouraged her more.”  I flipped through the pages and a note fell out. It was from me, and it was dated 7-15-03;

Dear Mom, I wanted to tell you how proud I am of you. When I see all the work you are putting into typing out your book I realize how proud I am of you. Especially when I know you haven’t had a lot of encouragement, even from me. I guess it is a little awkward, when none of your children think it is good for you to concentrate on Dad’s death. And yet now I see this is something you feel you have to do. And so I am very proud of you for persevering and doing it anyway!

During pregnancy and while caring for a newborn I know I can be very introverted and wrapped up in all the emotional and physical that both pregnancy and new motherhood entails. (And of course most of my married life has included pregnancy and new babies!) I almost felt like I was in a “fog” last night at your house. So, I wanted to take a minute to tell you I love you!  Love, Mary

So I did tell her I was proud of her. I was glad of that.

I found the note again and stuck it in my purse, then continued wandering around the empty house. I lit a cinnamon candle and turned on some music. A beautiful melody filled the house. I reveled in the novelty of a quiet house with music playing. I wished for a Kenny G CD to play. Next time I’ll bring one, I thought.

Next time?  Why was I thinking I would come here alone again? I didn’t even know if the house was conducive to my creative spirit, without the presence of my dear mother.

I was determined to find out. I sat down at the table, spreading out my file folders and the printed pages of Chapters 10 through 12. I read a little background information about one of the women I’d be profiling in Chapter 11, and then started writing. And I wrote some more. I wrote for over an hour, past the roadblock this particular chapter had presented, and through the first several pages.  It was a start, a very good start to the chapter. I pulled out my laptop and then transferred everything I’d just written from paper to screen.

Then I just sat there smiling to myself for a moment, feeling like a very creative “Artiste” indeed.

And I was pretty sure I felt someone smiling down on me;

Mom, the other one.

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