Thank you for forty-two years of sobriety with only one night of insane drinking.
Thank you for the church that you led my body to because as you know, it blesses my spirit, even though it was 1800 miles away from my house at the time.
Thank you for every breath that I take and for every day I wake to find another chance. Amen.
My old table and chairs have been freshly painted and they’re adorable, but that’s not all there is to it.
They have traveled a long, rough road to land pretty on my front porch.
I’ll start with when I first remember seeing them in my mom’s living room. They were brand-new white.
I was thirtysomething with three young kids and my sister, seven years younger, had four younger kids.
My mom had a small basement apartment underneath my aunt’s house, but she had one closet full of blankets and pillows that we would use when we slept over. We would just spread them all over the tiny living room and it would be wall-to-wall kids.
Mom never cared how small her place was, she always had room for all of us.
We would cook huge Sunday dinners in her little kitchen, and then we would all stand there together doing the dishes.
In the evening, after the kids would settle down, my sister would put a table-cloth on the little table and a candle. She would say we were in a French bistro.
Then she would ask me to read some of my poems, which I always just happened to have with me.
For an hour so, we would all be transported to a little café in France and I was the entertainer.
My mom was my first reader and fan, but they were all my very first audience and their love for my writing carried me on waves of encouragement.
I didn’t find out until many years later that my sister also wrote poetry, and I was stunned when I read it because it was so much better than mine. She always gave me the spotlight.
My mom passed away in 2009, and I don’t know when my older sister acquired the table, but she graciously gave it to me when I asked her for it last spring. She also gave me the round cushions.
The little set traveled eighteen hundred miles with me to my new home.
My husband spent days painting it and repairing the metal binding around the table. Butterflies surrounded him as he worked, even landing on his hands.
I scrubbed it down before it was painted and butterflies were landing all over it then too.
My mom is a butterfly, so I believe the restoration made her happy.
Now that it’s finished, just looking at it makes me smile, overcome by the flood of memories it invokes.
I had my coffee at it this morning and as butterflies flitted by, I could feel my family, young and unscathed by the heartaches yet to come, unburned by the tragedies and the pain we would all go on to experience.
Those were innocent days. I just didn’t know. I am thrilled to have the table to remind me.
I sat down that night and I wrote you a letter so that you would always know, no matter where you went, if we were together or apart, that you were a ray of sunshine in my life.
The boxes are just stuff that can be lost.
The Princess was sitting in her castle and she swore no man would she let woo.
She turned them all away as she said, no, not you, not you, not you, to myself I will be true.
She danced with her butterflies, she twirled in her flower gardens like when she was two.
She whispered to her flowers, confessing, I love you and you and you.
So happy was this woman that she vowed never to wed and then a Knight in dazzling armor appeared at the castle gates, the sun shining on his head.
She was blinded by his beauty, aura like spun gold and this one Knight she invited to her bed, visions of together growing old.
Prince Charming was his name and wow, that man tickled her fancy with his soft kiss and even if he just walked by, she would stumble and a step she would miss.
Well, we all know about no such thing as happy endings and soon the Princess gave up her other loves, like her writing.
She was busy twisting and turning and bending to keep the Prince happy, looking in her mirror-mirror and often sitting there silently for hours.
The Prince started kissing her less and less often and his voice for her…he no longer softened.
Many nights she cried herself to sleep, under so many full moons…she would weep and weep and weep.
Many moons later, she came to her senses, had the guards toss the Prince out and around her old gardens she built stronger fences.
This is a true story and you know it’s true, because I was the Princess and you, you were the Knight I gave my heart too.
Silly Princess, Stupid Boy, hard lessons, me and you.
I dreamed of the farm-house again last night.
When I saw the numbers match the numbers on the ticket in my hand at the end of the 10:00 o’clock news, when I learned that I’d won the lottery, before I even had the money in my hand, before I took the tiny slip of paper to the Lotto office to be sure it was really the single winning ticket for the $90 million dollar jackpot, I threw my cigarettes, a tooth-brush and my Master Card into my purse. I ran out to the driveway, tore open the door of my blindingly yellow Dodge Hemi truck, turned the key, felt the thunder as the engine roared to life and I flew out of the driveway.
I sped to the Tulsa airport, disregarding the speed limit because I was rich now. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t thinking that money made me above the law, but I could definitely afford to pay a speeding ticket.
I parked the truck in the long-term parking lot, ran inside the terminal to the first counter I saw and walked away with a ticket for American Airlines Flight 144 to Boston.
After a take-forever walk through security, I raced down the chintzy red carpet, catching the flight attendant’s attention just before he shut the door.
I was going home. My husband always told me that it wasn’t home anymore, that home was where we lived, in our 1986 trailer home set on two acres of Heaven in Owasso, Oklahoma.
I always said, “You’re right, honey.”
But he wasn’t.
As the many plaques will tell you, home is where your heart is and I had left mine on the cold, wet sand of Plum Island, nesting in the sand dunes I had crawled on before I could walk and then when I was older, I’d left more of me on the hot, sandy beaches of Hampton and Salisbury.
The last pieces I can remember seeing were hidden in the tunnels behind the walls of the farm-house, the tunnels where I had stashed my baby sister, playing quietly with her on the dusty floor so dad wouldn’t find us or hiding with Mom when the bill collectors pounded on our door.
When the wheels came down as we flew over the water of Revere Beach, I held my breath. I didn’t breathe again until the plane’s wheels touched the runway.
As the familiar seat belt ding sounded, everyone rushed to their feet.
I grabbed my purse and I pushed along with the crowd of people who also wanted off the plane, now.
I headed straight for the Avis counter and rented a luxury car with no idea of where I wanted to go or why I had flown eighteen hundred miles on the very day the lottery had blessed (or cursed) my life. All I knew for sure was that I was going to kidnap my Mom out of the nursing home and she was coming with me for one wild ride.
The car almost drove it self as I left the Avis parking lot. I think that the auto pilot of my soul was driving.
I sped along Route 93 with my feet driving and my heart dancing.
Suddenly, I knew where I was going! My urges were taking me back to the farm-house on High Street, to the house that my dad had bought for $8,000.00 only to give it back to the bank several years later.
So many times, I had dreamed of that familiar front door opening to me.
The present owner would throw open the solid white, wooden door with red trim, welcoming me home. The dream varied, probably depending on what I ate before I fell asleep.
Sometimes a woman, sometimes a man, but the answer-er always allowed me to wander down the hallowed halls of my dysfunctional, childhood home. Well, one of many, but the first real house with running water, walls, doors and a roof the rain didn’t ping off.
The farm-house that I’d been forced to leave behind when I was still a young girl.
In my memories, the curtains that my mom had sewn on her push pedal Singer sewing machine still hung in the living room windows.
I remembered the day she’d made them. I remembered the scent of the hot, damp cotton as she’d ironed each panel and hung it. I remembered the look of pride on her face as she stood back and smiled at what she had created.
I’d left a shard of me behind when I’d left that farm-house while taking a fragment from the walls. A sharp; yet, comforting splinter and it was still tucked away safely inside my heart’s vault.
A splinter that led me home, if only in my dreams, over and over.
Somehow the wood and the mortar had become entwined with my soul, an intrinsic puzzle I could not solve.
Finally, I could buy that now declared historic house, no matter the cost.
Panic pulsed through my veins and I asked myself, what am I doing?
Did I think that I could move back to the farm-house and did I think that I could start my life over again?
I guess so because I had dreams when my mind went back there, so I figured my body could too.
If I went back to there, could I go back to then and start my life over and change my now?
Could I hide in the secret tunnels and let time remove the stains and the hurts I had gathered in the years since I had left?
These were the questions searing my brain as I drove toward Billerica, doing forty miles over the speed limit.
I had to buy the house before I went to get Mom.
Money could bring my mom back to her house, the house she’d lost so long ago.
I dreamed of the farm-house again last night.