OUR LATEST CULPRIT
You know you have a mega healthy marriage when you can paint a gigantic 3-tier dilapidated deck, and never lose your humor, your patience or your mind together. How do I know, because my husband and I are doing it, and we are still standing. Not only that, but we are laughing.
Why are we laughing? Well, besides the fact that we are essentially two [now much, much older] city kids pretending to live in the country, we KNOW this task is beyond our capabilities, and we are too headstrong and determined not to make it work regardless. Our whole marriage has been based on the notion that together, we can do anything, and if it doesn’t work out? Screw it. We tried. Not an entirely bad philosophy I might add.
So here is the latest culprit, our deck. She’s seen better days, poor thing. Now weathered, missing railings, in need of plank replacements and a host of other goodies, not to mention gallons upon gallons of paint. But here’s the thing. It would be costly but much easier to replace her. Have this battered soul finally and mercifully put to rest, torn down and replaced with a magazine perfect better version, which would then require little upkeep, sweat or tears. So why haven’t we?
-Because frankly we are in love with her. This deck is the keeper of our family spirit. She holds upon her weather-beaten façade the memories of many family outings, celebrations, and conversations. She has heard much laughter, as well as heartbreak. She has allowed generations of collected footsteps to converge upon her with never a complaint. Yes, she is worn down, but that can be fixed. In many ways, she is irreplaceable because she represents for us the seasons of our lives, the regeneration of the mind and body, as well as the consequences of neglect. The well-established common meeting ground of loved ones, congregating together to share a part of their lives, even if only for the moment. But isn’t that what life is about? A collection of moments tied together by shared experiences?
The day we first pulled up to the house on our hunt for a home, I saw the deck and gazebo immediately, and knew that this was where I needed to be. This was the place I wanted to call home and raise my family.
Since then, I have spent countless hours sitting in the gazebo, watching nature grace me with her presence. Deer, chipmunks, birds of every kind, and the occasional visiting bear have all been welcomed visitors. We have a visiting cat dubbed Felix, who thinks the gazebo is his personal Townhouse. As I paint, he waits by a rock, snarling at me from afar with his accusatory beady eyes, impatiently waiting for me to be finally through with screwing around in ‘his’ home.
In the winter, I watch from my kitchen window as the snowflakes collect on this mighty deck, marveling at the amount of snow a single storm can dump. Measuring how high the pile is by the railings, I have painted countless times.
I have watched my husband, both physically and mentally exhausted from work, sit outside, staring out into the woods, stealing a quiet moment. Absorbing every morsel of peacefulness he can because he knows it will all be shattered to smithereens once he steps inside his nut house.
I have watched my children play, giggle, plot and scheme on that deck, and once, I even watched them figure out a way to ride their bikes off OF it. Don’t ask.
Whenever one of our children needed to “discuss” something personal or life changing with us, more often than not, it was out to the deck we’d go. Sitting in the gazebo, waiting for the proverbial ball to drop, comfortably out of earshot of the other eavesdropping siblings.
At one time, this deck even saved my sanity. Our oldest son was in the desert, Afghanistan. We knew he was troop support, but that was all we knew. Painting the deck had become my simple solution for blocking out the world, and my go-to method of coping with situations I had no control over.
One morning, just before picking up my brush, I heard on the morning news how a caravan of military trucks had been ambushed in a mountainous area of Afghanistan. A good portion of the vehicles destroyed. Many casualties. As I listened, I sank to my knees. I knew. My mother’s instinct knew without question that my child was there. I knew he was in insurmountable danger. Nobody had to ‘confirm or deny’ his whereabouts. My heart was certain and so far my heart had never led me astray. What I didn’t know was if my son was still alive. With nothing to do but wait for the news, I forced myself back out on my deck and continued to paint.
Like a zombie, for hours upon hours, under the sun’s hot, demanding rays I painted. My other children, who were much younger at the time, watched me, frightened that I wouldn’t know when to stop. Tears freely cascaded down my cheeks, running down my neck, soaking up my tee shirt as I tried to prepare emotionally for the news. I was unable to speak. Robotically I continued my task.
I remember praying. My conversation with my Creator was so raw, so pained, and so needy. With each stroke of the brush, I begged the universal mother’s prayer. Please- protect- my- child.
Finally . . . after what felt like a lifetime of waiting, the call came. I didn’t recognize the number, but with heart pounding in my throat, I picked it up before it finished its first full ring. Dropping my paintbrush, I gripped the railing. In the background, I heard static and an indescribable noise.
And then his voice.
AsSalaamu’alaikum! Ma! Ma! I can’t tell you what’s happened, but I didn’t want you to worry. A lot of mother’s are getting that call. You won’t be one of them- not today anyway… I love you.
And then the line went dead.
This deck of ours has held many celebrations, not merely as an appendage to a house, but as a marker of our family’s journeys together and a part of our home. Her existence catalogs our pains and our successes, our gains and our losses. Her exterior, while riddled with many cracks and splinters, and worn down over time, apply shadows my life and experiences. She is a gentle remembrance to the many tests and tribulations I too have faced and weathered . . . sometimes also a bit worse for the wear.
And so we paint, and we mend this old gal, trying to bring her back to her former glory. She won’t be perfect- far from it. But she will once again be the catayst to help beckon the blessed family we have- to merge, break bread, share stories and rekindle the spirit and soul that connects us through each voyage and storm, together. Ameen.