Drawing Memories

Photo w/ quote created at http://wordcandy.me/

Before I ever crossed the border into Louisiana, I scribbled words and drawings on the bedroom walls of a rent house in South Texas. But I stopped my wall art three months after my fifth birthday, on a cold Saturday in December after a frightening experience when the landlady paid us a visit.

I allow the memory to awaken in my senses. I first hear quickened footsteps, a door slam, and my mother instruct my two older sisters to empty ashtrays and dust end tables. I then feel the recollection in my body, in a shift of emotion from calm to fear of eviction if my graffiti is discovered.

To view the action, I close my eyes and see Mama’s slender, pink fingers wring a steam-breathing mop; my sisters rush about with white dust rags in their small hands. I sit with the vision a long time, and the clean smell of lemon oil bubbles to the surface of memory.

Before the front door is opened, the mop and dust cloths vanish. I’m hustled into my room and told to stay in bed and not come out until Mama says so. My final instructions: “Be quiet!” and “Don’t open the door!” I then hear my mother greet the rent collector and begin a tour of the tiny bungalow.

It seems I have a deadly virus and high fever, I learn, as the women stop in front of my closed bedroom door to chat. My mother is so convincing I feel chilled and my face flushes hot. I wrap up in a blanket and stare at walls covered in crayoned drawings of rotary telephones and words my sisters have taught me to spell, such as cat and dog and my proudest: Mississippi.

Sweating, thirsty, and confused, I wonder if I am doomed. Until today, my artwork has been a source of pleasure in our household. My mother never scolds me about it and seems to approve of my doodles, and my sisters cheer me on like the teachers they imitate when they slam in from school. Now, I may be dying.

Moments before my impending death, my mother and sisters swoop in to retrieve me from exile. It seems we have foiled the homeowner. As everyone cheers and giggles, I have one last glimmer of recall: I push my lips outward over a lack of concern for my “deadly virus” and touch my forehead in search of heat.

As I begin to handwrite the story’s details into a notebook, it occurs to me that as a grownup, not much has changed. I’ve simply replaced bedroom walls with lined sheets of paper to draw memories and write stories about cats and dogs, telephones and Texas. And a family that crossed the Louisiana border to settle beside her neighbor, Mississippi.

About Darrelyn Saloom

Darrelyn Saloom co-wrote My Call to the Ring: A Memoir of a Girl who Yearns to Box (Glasnevin, 2012) with world champion boxer, Deirdre Gogarty, but her pugilistic passions are confined to a keyboard. Darrelyn lives with her husband and various critters on a horse farm in south Louisiana, where she is working on a collection of personal essays and stories. To learn more, visit her website at http://darrelynsaloom.com or follow her on Twitter: @DarrelynSaloom
This entry was posted in Guest Posts for Word Candy, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to Drawing Memories

  1. Ron says:

    And why would you ever stop now? Keep up the magic……….

  2. cynthia says:

    Wow, I’m so relieved the homeowner fell for it. I was right there with you!

  3. syd webre says:

    Some things never change. Thank God!

  4. Jodi Paloni says:

    I love the way your mother protected your creative impulses, even as a young child. Once my daughter was sent home from a sleepover because she inspired her friends to decorate her bedroom door with political quotes and swirly flowers. She was shocked to learn that “beautifying” was considered vandalism.

  5. Ro Rainwater says:

    It’s wonderful that your mom and sibs supported your creative impulses! (Even if they were on the walls ☺) How else would you have done what you’ve done (so well!) in your life? I think they remembered the old biblical story about God writing on the wall, and knew it was good. As we used to say in the 60s, slightly modified, “Write on!”

  6. Thanks, Ro. I’ll have to call my big sis today and thank her. Doubt if my sisters knew any biblical stories (a post for another time). I will “Write on!” though. So glad you stopped by.

  7. llbarkat says:

    love, love, love this. Oh, the way we make things our own as children (poor dying you! 🙂

    This just feels like it needs to be reprinted at Tweetspeak sometime. I can feel it.

  8. Why thank you, Laura. Hope everyone clicks on the Word Candy link under the photo and takes time to play. It’s like drawing on walls, but the landlady loves it when you do.

  9. Dave Malone says:

    “I sit with the vision a long time, and the clean smell of lemon oil bubbles to the surface of memory.” So many gorgeous lines, and what emotion! I was swept away with you. And I second what Jodi said about how wonderful your mother was to protect you (and the family) in this situation. Your writing is so powerful. As always, I can’t wait to see more of it. 🙂

  10. I find it fascinating how these images surface in our lives. I’ve always called them my “memory bubbles,” so I was delighted when I read your “bubbles to the surface of memory” comment. Sometimes I wonder where they come from, why they have chosen to stay buried so long and why they choose a particular moment to surface, but isn’t it wonderful that they do! And in your case, it’s particularly wonderful that you then record them.

  11. Sally and Louis says:

    I just love this piece. It makes me wonder..if I had a wall just to write on, what words would collect themselves in my memory and demand to be written?!! Mary was right on in letting you create without boundaries. You take a memory and we breathe it in! Looking forward to more.

  12. Jeanne Strauss says:

    Perfect.

  13. Carolyn Patin says:

    Love, love, love it! I had a “long” chuckle. In fact, I am chuckling as I write this. 🙂 Thanks for putting a smile on my face. Your writing sets my emotions rolling (in a good way).

  14. Katy Richard says:

    I think I love your mother!

  15. deborah cutler says:

    I love getting to know more about my good friend! I love the image of the steam-breathing mop that a four year old can see and I love your Moms attitude. Thanks for sharing Darrelynn.

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