People always said I was lucky, but just because you’re lucky doesn’t mean you’re happy with the way things are.
Despite the fact that I am only eleven and a half, I have a surprisingly good idea of what it means to be “lucky”, and whether or not someone might consider me to be lucky, my life has been far from easy.
My mother had left Dad and I when I was just three years old. Dad, overtaken by his grief and anger at my mother for leaving, pawned me off on my Uncle Tom and Aunt Susan. Sure, Dad came to visit me a couple of times a year, but I knew that he didn’t want me back with him. He wanted to forget about me.
Every time Dad phoned and told me he was coming to see me, I would hope that the reason for his visit would be to tell me that he had found a steady job and was bringing me home.
That was never the case, despite my wishes.
Dad always had some sort of excuse about why I couldn’t come home. One Christmas, his excuse was that he had lost his job. Another year, he claimed his house was too small. No matter how many excuses he made, I knew the truth – he missed Mom and wouldn’t let himself get attached to anyone else, ever again.
But still, no matter how many times he lied about why I couldn’t come back, I still loved him.
Every Christmas he would ask me what I wanted most, and every year I would reply that I wanted to come back home. He would gently explain that things weren’t how they should be, or how he didn’t have enough money to take care of me.
The excuses grew in number as time wore on, and I remained in the same suburban house that belonged to Uncle Tom and Aunt Susan.
I can’t complain about their house – I have my own room, a big backyard to play in, and I’m allowed to get a lot of things that I want because Uncle Tom and Aunt Susan make a decent income.
Because I love art so much, Aunt Susan frequently takes me to the store in her red VW Bug and buy me paints and brushes, or anything else that I need for my artistic creations. Basically, if I am to ask for it, she will get it for me as long as it was a reasonable request.
Aunt Susan has medium length reddish-brown hair and brown eyes that light up when she laughs, while Uncle Tom has short brown hair and sparkling blue eyes. Aunt Susan is usually wearing at least one hand-made item, such as a crocheted shawl, braided bracelet, or knitted hat, in addition to jeans and an artistic blouse. Uncle Tom is an architect and usually wears classy looking clothing, like white cotton dress shirts and black dress pants.
It would seem that I had everything. If I told someone how unhappy I was, they’d probably go on and on about how I was lucky things had turned out as well as they had.
I know I am lucky, but being lucky doesn’t necessarily make a person happy.
No matter how big my bedroom is, or how nice the back yard is, or even the fact that I can get the things I want, I am missing something.
I need a friend.
Aunt Susan and Uncle Tom live in an older neighborhood that has few children. Out of the few that are in the neighborhood, most of them aren’t my age. There is a girl down the street, whom I see occasionally when Aunt Susan, Uncle Tom, and I walk through the neighborhood, but she is about five years older than me. In addition to this, Aunt Susan had decided from day one that I would be home school, and took it upon herself to teach me. This is good and everything, but it isolates me even further.
The other kids in the area are all friends with each other, as they go to the same school, and because of this, they always leave me out of their games. I want to be friends with them, but my smiles and invitations to friendship are shunned. They have enough friends already and don’t want me.
After I realized that befriending them was impossible, I began to spend most of my time drawing and painting in my room. In my artwork, I can put my feelings into a picture. I can find the answers to my questions and understand my feelings a little better.
Right now, I’m painting a picture of a daffodil, just about to bloom. That’s how I feel – any moment I might be about to bloom, but I don’t know when that moment is. I know that blooming takes time, so I’m waiting for the moment when I will bloom and get to be that beautiful flower.
I hear the door click and know that Uncle Tom is home from work. I listen carefully and even though I’m on the second story of the house, I can hear Aunt Susan and Uncle Tom greeting each other. Our house is so quiet – too quiet.
I sigh and go back to my drawing. The yellow paint on the end of my paint brush glides across the paper, making my daffodils come to life with every stroke.
My favorite thing about painting and drawing is the fact that I get to be in control. I get to create a world that is a happy and carefree as I want, a world where nothing bad happens. People always love each other in this world and they always take care of their families.
I add a bit more green to the stem and begin working on painting the grassy meadow where these flowers grow.
I miss Dad.
Sometimes I cry about not being able to live with Dad. For some, it would be hard to forgive a parent for leaving them with other family members. They would find it hard to forgive someone for breaking their hearts every time they asked to come home and were denied, but not me.
I forgive Dad completely.
I remember the day that Dad made his decision. I was sitting around, and Dad had just made me pancakes with banana slices on top. He had been a bit more solemn than usual that morning, and I had wondered why. The chair squeaked as he sat down, and he said,
“Honey, since your mama left us, you know, things have been hard.”
I remember nodding rapidly in agreement. Maybe things would be better for us, I thought. I was always optimistic, no matter what the circumstances were.
Dad had lost his job a few months before Mom left us, so at that time he was spending almost his whole day at home with me. Not long after my parent’s divorce was finalized, the money in our savings account ran out.
“Now, I’m only doing what’s best for you.”
Dad sighed with what seemed to be the weight of ten worlds. He looked up at me, so young and innocent, and knew that his words were going to change my life in the most unpredictable manner.
“I’ve decided that you should go and live with your Aunt Susan and Uncle Tom.”
I remember telling him that I wanted to live with him, but he kept saying I had to live with Uncle Tom and Aunt Susan.
I didn’t want to, and made this fact clear to him, but this didn’t change the result.
About a week later, Dad dropped me and my suitcase containing all of my belongings off at Aunt Susan and Uncle Tom’s house. They were very nice and tried to be welcoming and friendly, but I wanted Dad. I cried as I watched him drive off down the road, and I could see his sad face reflected in his review mirror.
To this day, the heartbreak of the incident is still fresh. But I forgive Dad. I feel sorry for him, sorry that he had to make that decision. I can’t even imagine how difficult that must have been for him. Still, no matter what I tried, I couldn’t shake the loneliness that stemmed from the lack of Dad’s presence in my life.
I want a friend. No, it’s more than that. I need a friend. I need someone I can really talk to, someone who will understand me. Aunt Susan and Uncle Tom always listen to me, but sometimes, I have a hard time explaining my feelings to them.
I swivel my chair around to face my bed and my alarm clock, and the time reads 5:45 p.m. Both the alarm clock and the bedspread are lime green, my favorite color. Dinner won’t be ready for at least another hour.
I look down at my daffodil, and see that the sky is the only thing left to paint. I remove my sky blue paint from my box of paints, and rinse my thick brush off in the glass of water to my right. I’m going to paint the sky light blue and add some light gray clouds with my painting sponge. These will be the rain clouds, the catalysts in changing this flower from a mere stem to a beautiful, vibrant, wonderful flower. That may sound funny, but I need some “rain” so I can grow, so I can become more than a lonely stem and turn into a beautiful, vibrant, happy flower.
But if you were to count all the hardships in my life as rain, I would have enough rain to grow twenty flowers.
Why haven’t I grown yet?
At this point, I finish the clouds and add a few finishing touches to my painting.
When I’m done with my painting, it looks so real that I can almost feel the breeze and the warm sunlight. It just feels so…happy, so worthwhile, and so right.
I gaze into this painting, in which the beauty is so great that nobody could ever be sad or lonely or angry.
“Hayden! Dinner’s ready.”
Aunt Susan’s call startles me, and I quickly push back my desk chair and reply,
I glance at my painting one more time before trotting down the stairs. I can smell Aunt Susan’s dinner wafting from downstairs. It smells like fennel, so it’s probably pizza, one of my favorite foods.
Uncle Tom smiles at me when I come into the kitchen. We greet each other and I ask him how work went, and he says it went well.
Aunt Susan sets a plate of pizza down in front of me.
“Thanks.” I tell her.
She smiles and bustles away to get Uncle Tom’s plate while I begin eating my pizza.
“What did you do today? Did you have fun with your home schooling?” Uncle Tom asks, trying to get me to talk about my day. The thing is, he tries to prompt me into speaking every night. And every night, I never have very much to tell him, as my daily activities never change.
“I finished my daffodil painting. Home schooling was fun. I’m learning about Christopher Columbus. Aunt Susan is gonna have me write a report about him, which is due next week.”
“When I was in fourth grade or so, my whole class had to write a report on Columbus.” Uncle Tom says with a smile. “It was kind of an essay contest; whoever wrote the best essay would get a gift certificate for the local book store. I really loved to read, so I researched Columbus so much that I could probably recite his whole life from the time he was born until the time he died. And you know what? I won the contest and got to buy a few brand new books by my favorite authors.” Uncle Tom says, trying to make a connection with me.
“Cool.” I say simply.
I feel bad about having nothing to say to him, because I know how badly he wants me to open up, but I just don’t have anything to talk about.