Thank You for Imagination, the Harbinger of Living

Before the duplex burned down, it harbored all my experience as an individual, as a nine year old girl, and a real person who could actually dream of something more than being a robotic child reacting to her unpredictable environment.

The day we moved in, the place was filled with trash from the previous tenants. There was garbage piled up in the pantry and broken furniture in the living room.

In the empty dining room, between the dirty kitchen and that living room, hung torn yellowed curtains haunting the double windows like plastic backed ghosts.

The curtain ghosts reminisced on how uninspired living can be ugly from the outside as well as on the inside.

Upstairs there were two more rooms.

My three younger brothers and I ran up the wooden stairs while my mother went into the dim living room and sat on the broken couch to get her head on straight after being dropped off in our new home by a relative.

The room at the top of the stairs had a metal box spring on the floor and a tiny window that overlooked the neighbor’s lawn leading up to a lovely white house. 

I went to the window and looked out at the nice house next door while my little brothers ravaged through more trash that was left in the adjacent bedroom of the Furnished Duplex  (which was actually just a house with the doors locked between us and the other side of the Duplex.)

I claimed the small room immediately. I decided I was old enough to have my own room now, and this would be it. 

In my mind this was my portal to independence and territory to think about my future without the distraction of the endless needs of little brothers and a crazy woman who thought she was the mom.

I went into the next room and addressed my brothers in the most authoritative voice I could muster “Okay, you guys can have this room, but the other one is mine.”

They  looked up from their rummaging just long enough to respond with three different replies “OK.” “You’re not the boss!” and  “So?” 

Then they allowed me to squeeze in to retrieve a tablecloth and my first exposure to Art  from the pile and return to my own room.

I put the table cloth over the springs and created my own bed. Then I took the other precious item and hooked it over a nail in the wall.

It was a needle point picture on a piece of cloth with half finished embroidered words. Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord My soul to keep. If I should die be… The Embroidery stopped there. The rest was penciled in. It was the only art on my new wall.

I never quite understood it and it stayed there until the duplex burned down.

Over the next few months I would go up to my room and reclaim it, even though I never slept there.

We all slept downstairs in the living room with my mom. That’s where the relative had dropped off a bed and that’s where it stayed —in the living room.

I usually ended up on the floor because I was too big to fit on the bed with everybody else.

The little room upstairs was my sanctuary, my window, the harbinger of hopes, dreams and a better life. 

I learned that imagination was comfort and freedom.

 And my imagination could not be left sleeping on the floor, downstairs.

I started with the lovely white house next door; 

I  live in that house and my name is Veronica. I got the name from Archie comic books.

My imagination expanded from there to houses I would build in my head, to places I only read about, and countries I only heard of in school.

The duplex burned down (that’s a different story) and my imagination burned up, up and away.

I have been to many of those countries now.

I have lived in a few lovely white houses.

And I sleep in a super comfy bed with my kitty cat—who sometimes, accidentally ends up on the floor.

But you don’t ever have to call me Veronica.

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~ by leakelley on March 15, 2009.

3 Responses to “Thank You for Imagination, the Harbinger of Living”

  1. Your words draw as artistic an image as your paint brush. I can see that duplex and the charming white house. That charming house was always belonged to someone else when I was growing up, too. Mother’s hobby, I believe, was moving. You could be describing so many of the houses we moved into. One had to be shoveled before Mother Lysoled the whole house. Did she look inside before she rented? I often wonder. Good post. And I think you have grown into “Veronica.” The name suits you now.

  2. she wanted a window….

  3. What a powerful, poignant post. I thankfully had better digs than you growing up, but “a crazy woman who thought that she was the mom” was exactly the same. So was my imagination, which saved me.

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