Today’s post may be uncomfortable for some. I’m sorry for that. Sometimes, life is uncomfortable. Don’t read if you’d rather not feel uncomfortable today.
Today’s Bloganuary prompt is:
What is the most memorable gift you have received?
I tried hard to come up with a less triggering answer for this prompt, but this one gift kept inserting the memory of itself into my brain, blocking everything else out. I’ll take that as a sign that I need to share this particular gift with the world. First, a brief bit of my history…
Forty-four (44) years ago, I was raped by a gang of young men who broke into my apartment while I was asleep. Of course, that was traumatic, but I’d like to move past that moment in time to another day a few months (?) afterward. I’m not sure exactly how long after, so I’m guessing a few months.
The police matched a fingerprint in my apartment with someone, and that person was being brought to trial. I was there that day to testify. In many ways, the trial was as traumatic as the actual event. I was forced to sit in a small waiting room for hours with another victim, and watch as the perpetrator strode past, glaring at me. My testimony was brief, thankfully, but still harrowing to see him sitting in front of me, smirking.
There was one person there, however, that somehow made everything just a little easier. That person was the other victim.
I won’t share her name, of course, but it was a beautiful, exotic name I’d never heard before. She was a tall, beautiful, black woman, probably about 10 years older than me, and she had poise and grace emanating from her. Serenity is a word I associate with her. She felt like an oasis in a desert.
We spoke briefly. I don’t remember our conversation. I don’t know if she said words so wise, the angels sang, or if she merely said, “Hi, how are you?”. But something about that woman affected me. She made a positive impact upon me. Perhaps it was her ability to remain so calm in such a place. I don’t know.
Fast forward to several years later. Since that time, I’d moved from Louisiana to California and would occasionally return home to visit my family. It was on one of those return trips home, at Christmas in fact, that I received my most memorable gift.
The gift was from my mother. It was large but thin, wrapped in beautiful gift wrap, with a lovely bow around it. I opened it excitedly, to discover it was a large framed print of a painting. A black and white painting. The image depicted was of a woman playing a saxophone. It was jazzy looking, in a New Orleans style, I would say. “Sing to Keep from Crying” was written boldly on the canvas.
The artist who created that painting was the woman I’ve just described. My mother had found the woman, visited her art studio, and purchased the painting from her to give to me.
My emotions were all over the place. I can’t describe how I felt in that moment. I can’t even describe how I feel about the painting now, decades later. Over the years, across many moves, it’s gotten a bit messed up. I think a shampoo bottle dripped onto the corner of it, and it now has a greenish wrinkled tint in that corner. So I don’t hang it up on the wall any longer. Sometimes, it sits propped on the floor against a wall. Other times it languishes in a closet. Occasionally, I consider getting rid of it. But I don’t. It has meaning. It fills me with emotions.
Maybe I should try to list the emotions for once. I usually would rather not, but here we are. Let’s give it a go.
I feel grateful that my mother went out of her way to find the woman and to purchase such a meaningful gift for me. That was incredibly special. It was also brave of her to do. I would think that must have been a heart-wrenching experience for her.
I feel uneasy because it reminds me of that time of my life, even though thinking of that time really isn’t all that difficult after all of these years. Still…it’s there.
I feel warmth when I think of the woman who created that art.
I feel sadness and regret that I didn’t take better care of it and that it is now permanently stained. (Kind of like me, perhaps).
I’m not sure what other emotions swirl around, but I think there are more. I just can’t quite name them.
Regardless of how I might feel about the painting, it is by far the most memorable gift I’ve ever received.
Random thought, just now… I think I’ll try to find the woman. I think I’d like to tell her what she means to me. I’ll let you know if I find her.
Update: I found her, contacted her, and was happy to receive a very warm reply from her.
This post is part of the WordPress Bloganuary Challenge for 2023, where everyone participating is provided a writing prompt each day. Today’s prompt was to write about the most memorable gift I have received.