Saturday, January 31, 2015
Twelve Red Roses
A tiny little girl climbs out of Grandma’s car with her little brother in tow. Glad to be coming home after a sleep-over with Grandma, she bounced her way to the door not a care in the world. She opens the door and stops dead in mid-stride, losing all the joy held deep within her just a moment before. Everything and everyone disappeared from view as the tiny little girl with her immature mind tries desperately to take in the picture of her home she stood now within. Once orderly and comfortable, it was now disheveled everywhere in utter destruction as if a tornado had torn through it in the night while she slept safe and warm at Grandma’s house. Her Father was there but she no longer noticed him as he rose from the kitchen table and walked with his Mother to the living room to talk in very hushed tones.
The little girl and her younger brother were left to wonder and wander about the home per usual only this day there was nothing usual about the place. Dad’s stereo speakers once hung ingeniously and proudly on the walls were torn down and shattered on the floor, a mess of pillows and papers and left-over fast food from the night before literally sprayed about the place. There were pictures on the wall now half hung and askew, beautiful trinkets and decorations knocked over on the floor or broken where they stood. It was obvious that Mom and Dad had a knock-down, drag out fight the night before. The curious little girl lost in her own world of converging but not at all understood thoughts walked about the rest of the house. She noticed the living room surveying the landscape and found her things covered in ketchup and pickles. Her little Raggedy Ann bank took the brunt of something very not good it seems. She picked up a napkin and tried to wipe off the mess unnoticed by her Father and Grandmother busily talking across the room. Pulling in all of her energy and bracing for what else she might see, the little girl entered her family’s kitchen.
It was late afternoon and the setting sun sent rays of beautiful golden sunlight in diagonal stripes through the window onto the kitchen floor. The dust in the room sparkled in the air as the light hit it. The little girl paused in wonder at the dancing sparkles in the sunlight. Feeling so sad about the obvious fight Mom and Dad had and noticing Mom was not at home, she grew sadder still. As she drew herself out of her own mind and noticed her surroundings again, just where the rays of beautiful sun light reached the kitchen floor, there were beautiful long-stemmed red roses in the center of a field of broken glass that once was the crystal vase that held them. She noticed again the sparkles as the sunlight touched gently each shard of glass. For whatever reason, it was this picture; this view that made time stop. The entirety of the room disappeared and all she could see were the beautiful red roses. With everything in her she tried hard to fight back the tears from feeling something she had never felt before. Her heart had been broken for the very first time at the first glimpse of the roses.
Not knowing what to do and seemingly invisible to all else, she walked to the roses and carefully picked them up one by one. Twelve of them lay scattered across the floor. As she gently picked up each one, she cradled them in her arms as she quietly cried not understanding why something so beautiful, something bought with such care and love would be so carelessly thrown away and destroyed in her home. The night before had been her Mom and Dad’s wedding anniversary. As the little girl remained silently weeping with the roses, the whole world remained quiet and time remained utterly still. In that moment of dire sadness the little one had no capacity to understand, a warmth enveloped her from some place and thing unseen and her tears stopped falling as she just sat there cradling the roses bound and determined to find a way to save them. She got up and laid the roses on the counter and searched through the cabinets her near 5 year old body would allow her to reach and she found a glass vase. Just then, Grandmother came in and saw what she was up to. Her Grandmother grabbed a broom and dustpan and swept up the remnants of the broken vase on the floor. She emptied the dustpan into the trash can and it echoed so strangely in the little girl’s ears. The sound of broken glass hitting the bottom of the trash can right next to her seemed as if it was heard through a tunnel, a very long tunnel that echoed and reverberated the sound in a way it wasn’t only heard but also felt in the core of her being. Grandmother patted her on the head and said, “Don’t worry, we’ll put these in some water. It’ll be okay.” Grandma filled the vase with water and helped the little girl put the roses back in the vase. For whatever reason, it helped the little girl end her tears and begin to smile once again. When Grandmother and the little girl finished arranging the roses in a new vase with fresh water, they seemed so very beautiful again sitting on the kitchen counter in the sunlight
A sound at the front door caught everyone’s attention as the little girl’s Mother came in with her Mother right behind her. The little girl felt so very sad for her Mom and her Dad and knew something big must really be going on because she couldn’t remember a time before when both Grandmothers had even been in the same room. They greeted each other with a seeming sense of helplessness, a sadness and yet a determination to help their respective children come to terms with the mess that they made. The silent exchange between the two Grandmothers had one Grandmother leading both of the little girl’s parents into the living room to talk while the other Grandmother lead the little girl and her little brother into their bedroom. She decided it might be good to take some time and clean up the room and then promised they’d have a little time to play.
They worked together happily and then played some games sitting on the bedroom floor. There was laughter again that eased the sadness in the little girl’s soul. The sun was setting fast and the room was growing dark but the love of a Grandmother and a perfectly timed diversion with a little extra help eased the heartbreak felt so deeply before.
Forty-four or so years later, I remember not one thing about the rest of that day. I was the little girl in the story. I do remember my Father moved out not long after that incident. It may have been the same day. I don’t really remember. I do remember that feeling of the world being distanced, pushed out and away and living in my own world safe and protected was all that I was left with. Looking back I now see what I had no ability to comprehend then. The heartbreak of the roses was a realization that our family as we knew it had ended. Picking them up and putting them in water was the moment my courage to face anything in life was born. I’m grateful for that moment. I had never looked at it before as anything but a sad moment of a child being introduced to a soon to be broken home in a different way. It wasn’t all that tragic. In fact, Mom and Dad had simply had too much to drink the night before and fought over the last Jack-in-the-Box Cheeseburger. It was really the straw that broke the camel’s back. My parents loved each other so much. Both were so passionate but it burned a bit too hot and rather than continue these little episodes, they decided to part ways. I didn’t know it at the time but they had been divorced a full year before and were trying to reconcile. But that day they decided they couldn’t do it. That day I learned that home is where your focus is, home is where your courage lives to stand up and face the day, face a mess and pick up beautiful long-stemmed red roses and try to restore order amongst chaos. The rest of my adult life was spent finding those beat up and broken roses over and over again, saving them only to have them trampled repeatedly often leaving me feeling like broken glass.
I don’t pick up roses any more. I love them with all my heart but I realized with the courage I gained that day that some times destruction is just part of life, that endings are beginnings even when you don’t want to see them and that there is light to be found in even the darkest seeming situation and if you gravitate towards that light and train your eyes to see it in every situation, you will. When you find the light, there is nothing that can stop you for in the light lies your true heart, your love, your courage and your strength. Everything else is just the shadow light that defines your brilliance. I share this story with you to show you that not every bad thing that happens will define you negatively but those defining moments will temper your perspectives in some interesting ways. You can choose to become a victim of this world and humanity or you can choose to be the light in the darkness; the hero with great unanticipated courage. It is truly up to you. May God bless you and keep you strong and courageous to face the trials of the journey of your life. I know you can do it. I know because I did and I was nearly a very lost cause.
© 2015 Jaie Hart