A NOTE BEFORE READING: I began sharing weekly excerpts from my novel, The Somebody Who, on June 26th. If you want to begin at the beginning, go here. If you want to read more sooner, head over to Amazon and purchase a copy. (There’s a button on the left that will take you there).
Evelyn stands before a closed door that once was the portal to Patrick’s room, and it strikes her how this door’s fortitude has changed over the years. In the mid-70’s, it stood between her world and the world of her teenage son. She dared not enter without permission. Now, it stands between her present and her past. She doesn’t want to enter, and yet she knows she has to face the spoils of her pack-rat self.
Once filled with a boy’s life—an unmade bed, dirty clothes strewn about, trophies and certificates modestly displayed among a few posters from Charlie’s Angels—Patrick’s former room is now an organized storage facility. Filled with clearly-labeled boxes identifying family members and their ages, the room is all about clothes.
Relieved to see an unoccupied wooden chair, Evelyn sits down, and she stares in self-conscious amazement. What was I thinking? she wonders, perusing the clear descriptions on the side of each box. Why didn’t I give these away? Why are these still here?
Evelyn remains in the chair for a few minutes. On the one hand, she is overwhelmed by the stacks in front of her, by her inexplicable desire to keep so many articles of clothing. On the other hand, she is impressed by how extremely organized she was at one point. How she labeled everything so accurately—as if doing so had a purpose.
Knowing the risk in channeling a mythological Pandora, Evelyn nevertheless stands up and approaches a box marked MARILYN, AGE 7-10. She carries the box back to the chair and places it on the floor. She takes a deep breath before opening it. It isn’t that she doesn’t know what to expect. She knows there will be clothes in the box. She knows they will be clothes that Marilyn once wore. She knows furthermore (because this is why we label boxes) that the clothes will be those Marilyn wore between the ages of seven and ten. She knows all this. But, at the same time, she doesn’t know what to expect…
The first pattern her eye catches is a blue and white liberty print, and she doesn’t need to unfold the piece to remember the beautiful cotton dress that Marilyn, then in the third grade, wore to her piano recital. She unfolds it anyway. And while Evelyn’s memory of the recital itself is dim, her memory of the post-mortem returns with clarity.
“I ruined it!” Marilyn cried, unconsolable. “I was awful!”
“Honey, no. You were not awful. You were beautiful up there.”
“But, Daddy, I made mistakes!”
“Sweetie,” Davy responded, cradling her in his arms, “ you can’t think of them as mistakes. You can’t. It’s music. Music goes wherever it wants to go. You hit some notes that weren’t in the script, but that’s okay! So much of music is improvisation, and it should be.”
“What’s improvisation?” Marilyn then asked, her nose running with her tears, her blue irises a contrast to the redness surrounding them.
“Improvisation,” her father explained, “ is making it up as you go along.”
“But, that’s not what my teacher wanted me to do!”
“I understand that, sweetheart. But, is your teacher here right now?”
“No,” Marilyn said.
“Is your teacher going to tuck you in tonight?”
“Then I don’t think we should worry about your teacher. Your mother and I thought you were fabulous today.”
“Did you really?” she asked incredulously, using part of the beautiful dress to wipe away the remnants of her self-doubt.
“Yes, we did,” her father answered, squeezing her more tightly and kissing the top of her head.
“Yes, honey, we did.”
Evelyn carefully folds the pretty recital dress and places it back in the MARILYN box. Hmm, she thinks. Marilyn. I wish I could help her. I just don’t know how.
She sits back and cradles her wineglass, perusing the stacks of boxes. As her eyes settle on the names—PATRICK, MARILYN, JOY, ADAM—she begins to think about what she might do with all these clothes. Yes, they are old—most of them, very old. And while the teenage entries might appeal to the interest in yesteryear among twentysomething waifs, what about the kids’ stuff? Do children today look for “vintage?” Probably not.
Such a waste. She should have donated all these clothes years ago. What was she thinking?
Then, Evelyn remembers her spontaneous purchase at the bookstore on Friday. The book about quilting. She again peruses the room, but this time she does so with a smile on her face.
“Hmm…,” Evelyn says to no one. “That’s it. I think I’ll make a quilt.”
* * *
to be continued on September 18th.
In the meantime, if you want to read a short piece about the back story, click here.