Day 15: The Perfect Canvas

 From left to right: brother, mom, dad, sister, me on sister’s lap crying with no teeth

“What’s a canvas?” my mother asks.
“Um…it’s a uh erm…” I stammer. What the hell? I know what a canvas is. I’m into Art. I’m an artist. Why can’t I explain it? “It’s um…basically what artists paint on.”
“Like paper?”
“Noooo. Like a cloth. Material.”
“People paint on CLOTHS?” I laugh.
“Well, er, sometimes.”
“Oh ok.” She’s still confused, but doesn’t want to press it further.
“Well, I’ve won a voucher for a canvas. So I was wondering what it was.”
“That’s nice. Are you gonna start painting?”
“No!” We both laugh.
“What are you gonna do with it then?”
“Mmm, I’m not sure yet.”

***

I try my best not to slam the door as I enter the house, but I live in a windy city so…My mother hears me walk past the TV room and calls me. I walk into a room filled with stacks of old photographs, most of them from a childhood I no longer remember.
“What are you doing?” I ask, looking around.
“I’m looking at photos. The guy at the shop said that I can pick a photo and he’ll print it onto the canvas.
“Oh ok.”

We spend the next hours looking through photographs. My mother tells me more stories about how I was as a child. How I was sad and in pain through one of my birthdays as I had been vaccinated the day before. Or how I decided to eat soup with a fork because curiosity…

After some time, my mom came across an old envelope. In it was a letter with photographs she’d sent to my grandmother while we were living overseas. We find the perfect  picture. All five of us are in it. I cried for most of that shoot. My dad tells me it’s because I didn’t like strangers. Thirty-one years later not much has changed.
“Yes, this is the one,” I say, holding up the above picture. “You should use this one.”
“Are you sure?” my mother asks. “You’re crying.”
“Yeah. Use it.”

Letter to my 16 year old Self

You said you guys should just be friends…

He came to the boarding house that evening and asked someone to call you. You were wearing your navy denim jeans and your brother’s red and white Michaelhouse top. He had come to talk about the kiss. You told him you didn’t want to pursue it further. This was a good move.

It’s ok that you told him you think you should be friends even though you wanted more. Granted, you’re suffering for your choice. You get to watch him take other girls to dances. You have to answer that “Why not you?” question over and over again. And your heart aches for what could have been. It hurts like hell. Let it. This is temporary. You’ll be fine. For one, there’ll be more guys… But when you’re in your mid 20s, you ‘ll say hi to a guy while sitting at the bar waiting for a show to start. He is one of the performers, but you’ll miss his performance. You’ll make small talk and you won’t think much of it. This is a pivotal moment. Thank me later.

A few months from now, someone will enter your life and make you question everything about it. She’s abrasive, but you’ll like her. Because she’s honest. She reminds you of what your life could’ve been if you’d had a different upbringing. She’ll make you reflect on yourself. You guys will grow close. You’ll get attached. She’ll be your best friend. She’ll leave after a year. You’ll cry over it. But you’ll email each other. You’ll lose touch. But you meet again years later and it’ll feel like she never left.

It’s not too late to change subjects. I know you want to do Art. Rather badly. But you’re scared. What if you suck? You’re reconsidering French. But you won’t drop it. Good move. As interesting as Biology is to you, you won’t use it. Along with Chemistry and Physics. I hate to break it to you, but…You won’t be a Medical Scientist. Or a doctor. In fact, you won’t even need the Sciences that you’re studying. But they’ll teach you planning, structure, organisational skills, logical thinking etc. You’ll need these later in life.

Your obsession with The Cranberries? It doesn’t die. Ever. It helps you form a life-long friendship with someone. You won’t realise this until your ten year reunion. She’s a great guitarist. She can sing. You believe this. She doesn’t yet. But you’ll play guitar and sing together. She’ll join some bands after high school. You’ll pay to watch her perform. It’ll be mad fun.

I’m not sure yet if you’ve started dancing. But when you do, you’ll love it! You’ll consider going professional. Because you’ll be that good. Or so you think. But life will get in the way and you’ll give it up. Don’t be too bitter about it.

Your relationship with your brother is changing. You’re not quite sure what happened. Maybe you’re outgrowing him. You can’t do anything about it. Let it be.

You envy your sister’s relationship with your Mom. You wish the 3 of you could find some kind of common ground. You won’t. Instead, you’ll develop your relationships with them separately. First your relationship with your sister will grow through emails about boys and phone calls and texts about balance sheets and income statements. [Accounting right? Who ever thought?] Then your relationship with your Mom will be built through fashion, beauty, accessories etc. Yes, this is the same mother who stopped buying you clothes because you would cut and resew them. But you guys did pierce your ears together that one time when you were 9/10. Remember?

Two years from now, your position in your family will change. It will start with a strange conversation in the sitting-room with your Dad about a financial decision he made. You’ll get freaked out. You’ll wonder where Mom is. This is the beginning. You’ll be given a lot more responsibility. This will make you angry. You won’t understand why. But you’ll grow into this role.

You have such a strong sense of self. I love this about you. You are also ahead of your time in many ways. Many people your age aren’t thinking the way you’re thinking. You’ll feel lonely a lot. Some of your friends are far away. But there are others in your school who feel just as misplaced as you do. You’ll befriend them. You’ll hang a banner on a roof with some of them towards the end of high school.

Keep finding solace in those novels. Keep writing in your journals. Keep your wit and sense of humour. You think it’s weird that you like to study maps, but you’re a dreamer. You need your imagination. You will go through so much. Discover so much. You are exactly the person you imagine yourself to be. All that and more. The time will come when you can express that freely. Your life will truly begin after high school. You will grow so much. It’ll hurt. People won’t understand. You’ll lose friends along the way. You’ll make new ones. But you’ll be ok.

Oh, and those girls in your boarding house that you don’t like all that much? Well…let me just say that something interesting happens before your 30th birthday. I’ll leave it there.

Sincerely,

Your soon-to-be 31 year old self

Downsides To Being The Youngest In The Family

[SO weird because I was thinking about this earlier today.]

Thought Catalog

I know, some of you first and middle born siblings clicked the link to this article and thought ‘Oh what does a last born have to complain about?” Well, let me tell you, there are grievances!

We last born kids have been poorly represented, and as a result have an awful reputation. It is almost as if there is a stigma attached to us. Apparently we get more freedom than our older siblings did, and our parents let us get away with all sorts of things. Some feel, that since the older children have paved the way, there is less pressure and expectations placed on the youngest child. Then of course, there is that nasty little rumour about how we are constantly pampered and coddled.

I am not trying to deny that there are certain perks associated with being the baby of the family. My favourite one has to do…

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