Estelle wakes suddenly and finds herself on her stomach with her head turned sideways staring at bread crumbs scattered over the sheets. “Where am…oh, yeah…” she mumbles as she lifts up to a sitting position and then notices Caravanna sitting at the foot of the bed, looking at her expectantly. “I completely forgot about you didn’t I? You must be starving.” She reaches for her old friend, pulls him close, and looks around the room. “I’m sorry for yesterday but one thing is for certain, I’m going to make some changes around here. It’s time for me to make this house ours, Caravanna. We deserve a home of our own.” Estelle remembers that Alisha will soon arrive and decides she will have her help re-do her mother’s bedroom. She lifts Caravanna and in bare feet, pads toward the kitchen.
The early morning sun streams through the kitchen windows in shafts of pure, golden illumination. The morning sunlight reminds Estelle of her dream on the previous night. She is flooded with conflicting emotions. “What does that old, repeating dream mean? Why is it changing now?” On a deeper level, when she listens to herself, she understands that the house in her dream represents her person and her life. “It’s changing because I’m changing. I’m going to start directing some of that change!” Estelle feels the anger from yesterday begin to rise again but then remembers the icy wind and the darkness that filled her house-dream just before the light appeared. The feeling that came with that powerful negative force was a feeling of hopelessness and death. “I don’t want to become a part of that…whatever it is. I don’t want to hate you, Emma…or you either, Dad…I want to get better. I want that light…” Estelle decides to turn away from her anger and not let it take hold of her as it had yesterday. However, it doesn’t dissipate but is simply, pushed to the side and will have to be reckoned with at a later date. She feeds Caravanna, finishes her breakfast, and then goes to dress and prepare for Alisha’s arrival.
“Hi, Ms. Williams! How are you, today?” Alisha rushes in the door with a big hug for her mentor. Estelle warmly accepts Alisha’s offering of love and is grateful. “Good morning, sweet Alisha. I’m so glad you’re here.” Alisha baths in Estelle’s approval and asks, “What are we doing today, Ms. Williams?” Estelle lightly strokes Alisha’s hair back from her face and answers, “Today, we are going to remove the decorations from my mother’s room so that I can re-decorate it and use it as my room.” “Oh…” Alisha doesn’t know how she should respond so, she stops. “Follow me and we’ll get started.” Estelle takes Alisha’s hand in hers and leads the way to the end of the hall.
“It’s so beautiful in here, Ms. Williams. Why do you want to change everything?” Alisha asks as she gently touches various fabrics and enjoys their textures. Estelle’s immediate reflex is to freeze. She’s responded in this fashion, to questions about her mother for her entire life. Immobilization works well in helping her take time to formulate the right answer (the answer that best deflects from painful family secrets) but this time, Estelle decides to simply tell the truth. “I’ve been very sad since my mother died, lost really. I spent my whole life taking care of her and when she died I lost my purpose. I tried to hang onto her, to my reason for living, by turning this house into a kind of shrine to my mother. Now, it’s time for me to put the shrine away and make this house my own.” That truth tore from a deep place at the center of Estelle and once spoken, left her so drained that her legs buckled and she had to sit down. “Are you okay, Ms. Williams? I didn’t mean to upset you!” “I’m fine, Alisha. None of this is your fault. It’s just how I am right now.” Alisha runs to the kitchen and returns with a glass of water, relishing in the opportunity of being needed. “Oh! Thank you, Alisha! You are a sweet, good girl!” Alisha beams in response as the cool water returns color to Estelle’s face. “I’m better now. Let’s get started. There are some boxes in the closet. First, we will get rid of some of the froo-froo and pack it away. After that, we’ll take down the drapes.” Estelle is motivated by the desire to begin a life of her own as Alisha relishes helping this woman she admires. Their combined energies make quick work of creating an austere space from decadent opulence. “Are you going to leave the furniture?” Alisha asks. “Some of it but most of it is too fancy for me. I like simple beauty.” Alisha doesn’t know what that means but likes the way it sounds. Alisha decides in this moment that she will be an artist when she grows up and will surround herself with ‘simple beauty’. “I can’t wait to see what it will look like!” Alisha exclaims. “Well, we still have some things to get rid of first, like the bedding and all these frilly pillows. After lunch, we’ll look at some charts and you can help me pick paint colors. Or maybe, some wall-paper…it will be fun!” Estelle is elated by the movement of action based on a sense of claiming her life as the result. Though this search will prove harder than redecorating the only house she’s ever lived in, there is no other action for her to engage in at this moment and being engaged is exhilarating. Movement is a relief from the stagnation holding her in its grip for so long.
It’s a hot, muggy afternoon in Greenwood but Estelle and Alisha seem oblivious as they sit on the back deck and pour over paint charts. The roses are in full bloom now, red, pink, yellow, and Estelle’s favorite, peach. Their perfume permeates the back-yard and subliminally, affects the color choices the two friends are making. Together, they decide on a warm, peachy beige trimmed in cream. Estelle also, chooses tea-stained-rose wallpaper for an accent wall behind her bed. Somehow, it seems to her to pay a tribute to her mother but is also, subtle and sophisticated and more in line with Estelle’s tastes. She touches the sample gently and allows herself a moment to feel the emotion of longing it evokes. She says within herself, “I’m not ready to completely rid myself of you, Mamma.” As if reading Estelle’s mind, Alisha asks, “What was your mother like, Ms. Williams?” Estelle startles and then stiffens into the habitual freeze-response, “Well…she was very pretty and she wanted beautiful things.” Alisha’s head tilts to one side in puzzlement, “Did she do all kinds of things for you, like Mamma? Did you bake cookies together? My momma lives for me you know. Was your mom like that?” Estelle is too uncomfortable to contain herself and suddenly, stands straight up, wanting to run, “No, Alisha. My mother was nothing like Maria. My mother didn’t take care of people. My dad and I took care of her. In some ways, my mother remained a little girl for her entire life. Forgive me Alisha, but I can’t talk about this anymore today. I’m exhausted. Why don’t we just relax and watch a movie or something, until it’s time for you to go home.” The idea of a mom who needed to be cared for was stunning to Alisha and it filled her with questions she couldn’t ask but she filed them away for later. “Okay…I’m tired too. I’m sorry I made you sad.” Estelle is emotionally drained and can only respond by hugging Alisha to her side and leading her to the front room. The usually, perfect room is still in disarray from the afternoon before; they kick of their sandals and make a cozy seat as Estelle clicks on the television. They find “Little Women” playing on Netflix and lose themselves in the intricacies of relationships, as this lonely woman and little girl grow a deeper bond in the silence between them.
“That was an interesting, olden-time movie, Ms. Williams. Thank you for watching it with me and for everything. I think I’m late. I’d better go.” Alisha declares. Estelle has difficulty extracting herself from the movie and her thoughts but silently, rises to escort Alisha to the front door. “Did you forget anything, honey?” she asks while opening the portal to the outside world. “No…oh! I did forget something! My mom wants to know if you can come over for dinner on Friday! She will call you but I’m supposed to tell you now, so you can think about it. I hope you will come!” Estelle is too worn down to commit either way, “Yes, Alisha. I will think about it and wait for your mother’s call.” Alisha gives Estelle a quick hug and runs toward her house. Estelle watches until she reaches the front porch and then closes the door.
Estelle leans back against the door with her eyes closed, hearing the familiar silence; as she contemplates the utter black hopelessness of her dream and how it was invaded by that light. “I am so confused right now but I know I want that light!”
To be continued.
For previous posts in this series go to https://joyindestructible.com/the-recluse-series/ where posts are listed in ascending order.