Sunday, July 30, 2006

Scrapbook House

Through my daughters eyes...

I guess you could say I was eavesdropping. I was in the next room chatting away on the computer. In the kitchen, my Mom and her friend sat opposite each other sipping hot coffee and chain smoking. Conversation bouncing back and forth between them like a volley ball game. They were good at this. They had been having kitchen-table-talks for years. They knew when to interrupt, when to change the subject, when to sit quietly and just nod. They were friends. Old friends. Honest friends. Most of the morning, their words just trickled by me, nothing more than background static, like the continuous hum of the ceiling fan. I wasn’t even aware that I was listening until the words that casually tumbled out onto the kitchen table began to break my heart. “You know, sweetie, if you ever sell this old house, someone will have to spend a fortune gutting it”. My Mother laughed aloud and their continuous bantering once again became background noise.

Very quietly, I gazed around the room. Gut it? Did she mean tear down the walls? Rip out the cabinets? Take down the doors? Gut it? Peel up the floors? Yank out the windows? Pull down the lights? Yes, I thought, that is what she meant. Craning backwards now, I peered down the hallway toward the bedrooms. Thousands and thousands of pieces of broken tile danced and swirled up the hallway walls, then snaked around the corners….a meandering mosaic that crawled up my bedroom walls, around the windows and back out my door again. Deep mysterious symbols are concealed in the intricate patterns. My Mother’s art. Grouted for eternity into the walls that divide our home.

My eyes are hurting. I have a headache, right there behind the part of your heart that you see with. I want to put on sunglasses. Rose colored sunglasses. Because I do not want to see our house the way other people must see it. I want to see it the way my Mother sees it. There are nineteen cabinets in our kitchen and seven drawers. There are green doors, lavender drawers, pink cabinets, yellow shelves, blue cupboards. Every inch of every surface intricately embellished with flowers and ribbons and cascading designs that either flow perfectly or abruptly end…as if she were stopped mid sentence. Pastel Pointe shoes , painted in honor of my first solo ballet, are tangled into the quirky design. The ratty satin ribbons blending into the background.
Our kitchen door is psychedelic. As is the laundry room door. The steps are painted. The doorframes are painted. The baseboards are painted. The cobblestone porch is painted. The garden gate is painted. Some of our windows are even painted. Carefully executed in reverse, with the good side to the world. Tiny voids of paint…the center of a flower, the eye of a storm…act as peep holes. At first sight, it looks as if someone has gone mad and collaged the entire house. There are archways of a zillion shells, all priceless treasures the tide was kind enough to share with my Mother. And amidst it all, there are words buried everywhere. I suddenly remember a remark a friend of mine once made: “Be careful what you say around here, her Mom will paint it somewhere”. It’s true. It’s called Graffiti. Our entire house is like the back page of a children’s Highlights magazine…find the hidden objects. I wonder now, if she envisioned this concrete scrapbook as one big blank canvas when she first discovered the “For Sale” sign in the tattered front yard. I take a slow breath and wonder if she’ll live to fill every page with color…if she’ll still be painting when I’m forty…if my children’s first heralded birthdays will be recorded here also.

I have grown up here. I turn around and my life is splashed onto every surface. The summer at Ballet Camp. My first boyfriend. Homecoming. My Mother’s tiled, glued, painted house are proof we have survived it all. I run my fingers down the baseboard.

Storyteller house.
Scrapbook house.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Leopard Skin Tan

Artwork (c) Singleton 2006

The blue lagoon is vinyl and blows up and is balanced perfectly on the edge of my world. It cost exactly $218.00 and is worth a million lotteries. The hurricane tarp, draped over the leaky roof for months, is the perfect palette for paradise to plop on, and I have an orange and green sponge wedged under the PVC ladder to “prevent tears” in the liner. Ahhhh….cheap and tacky….and peaceful…. The lazy round river, 3500 gallons of water in a giant fishbowl in my back yard. You see, I am a mermaid. An old dried up one, but a mermaid nonetheless. Kind of like when you have a party and accidentally leave the can of open sardines out on the counter overnight. They’re not quite what they were the night before. Neither am I.

The backyard is private (not as private as it used to be), but it’s mine. There is a fence all the way around it that says “holler over” or “stay out” depending on the time of day. And back here, I can parade around anyway I like. That’s the law. (I think) So back here, I roll my tankini up to become a makeshift bikini and I bask in the Florida sunshine. I float in lazy circles in the blow-up pool, padding off the vinyl walls. I hold my breath and open my failing eyes and stare at my underwater toes….I used to have a mermaid tail and these forty something toes with red polish look silly on this temporary ocean floor. I try it with my glasses on. Big Bad underwater Blur. I float. Eyes to God. Rump drifting vicariously close to the river’s floor. I am a mermaid. And when my fingers wrinkle and the phone rings, I plod up the ladder and park my “out of water” body on the deck. All washed up. Periwinkles and sandspurs at my feet.

By night, the only tell-tale sign of the real me is the leopard skin tan. Mermaids tan evenly. Old ones don’t tan in the folds.