Writing On the Wall

"Do you see what The Chief is doing?"
asked Chup as we readied ourselves for church this morning.

"Yes and I love it."

"Love it?" Chup asked with the tone that reads: what is wrong with you?

With his favorite green highlighter clutched in his manic fist, while balancing on my green wooden chair, The Chief was producing installation art all over my office wall. He would extend his arm high and draw lazy lines back-and-forth then follow up with frantic scribbles reaching from my desk to the doorway. Jackson Pollock's little apprentice. I couldn't be more proud.

What is wrong with me?

When I was five years old
I colored on the basement wall. I thought the white washed plastered canvas was simply void of artistic impression and so I took to the task with my set of markers. My mother however, thought otherwise and failed to applaud my project. In fact, she expressed to me in a very firm statement her disappointment and asked the question every parent has asked since the whole Adam, Eve and Cain debacle, "What were you thinking?"

With my fragile artist feelings shattered about me, I decided I could no longer live at home. Not after what was said, not after was done. So I emptied my brown-floral pillow case of my pillow, filled it instead with a couple shirts, shorts, underwear, a package of Zesta crackers, a red apple and hit the road.

I got as far down as one block away and wondered what to do next. This was my first attempt at being a runaway and I wasn't very clear about the conditions. Where was I supposed to runaway to? Where could I find materials to build a leaky shack? And how long would it take for someone to notice I was gone? I needed tears, hugging and a mother's begging apology. Those were my terms. Until then, my absence was my ransom and retaliation.

So I sat on my neighbor's lawn for awhile. Long enough to realize it would take a mealtime--or maybe even bedtime--until someone noticed I wasn't around. I was a middle child in a huge family, I was just stuffing between the eldest and the youngest. A filler, if you will. This runaway business was never going to have the effect I needed it to, and in my heart I knew it. Darn it.

Slowly I wandered back home with my pillow case heavily slung behind my shoulder. I slipped in the front door without being noticed--no one yelled "Courtney? Is that you? We've been looking all over . . . just about to call the authorities!" I put away my clothes. I ate a few crackers. I sighed. Sorry about this ending.

Then years later,
when my brothers were old enough to be teenagers, they took over the basement with their indoor basketball hoops. They wasted no time using the basement walls to write blatant messages to each other about who can dunk over who and who has a better three-point shot.

No one seemed to care then? Did they?

But my five-year-old self did. She risked her life (!) for artistic freedom only to see the sports world take over like some cheap franchise. This opened the way for hundreds of visitors flocking to our basement to leave their personal mark--a tribute to themselves (or their crush) written in graffiti. My walls littered with other people's junky proclamations. To the tune of this:

Have you seen enough?

Oh no you haven't.

What is wrong with me?

I say let the child express himself.

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