When my brother and I were kids, my mum designated one room in the house for all our future pursuits. This was the room where I learned the alphabet, where my brother learned to count to 100, where I practiced what I thought look like amazing calligraphy (yes, at the ripe age of three), and where I became convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that I'd grow up to become a teacher just like my mother. Or perhaps a pharmacist.
I wish I had a photo of that room to share with you. But since I don't, please allow me to put into words the image that's ingrained in my mind.
It wasn't a big room by any means. In fact, it was probably the smallest room in the house. It had a small bed in it, an antique clock and a buffet-style table along one wall, and a dinning table that converted into our study area as we got older. Oh, and the room also had a window, which in those peaceful days, overlooked a small wooded area - home to many a stray cats, each with their own designated name.
As you might imagine, this was a living room of sorts for us. In the evenings, my brother (tamer and more civilized than I'll ever be) would come home from school and sit at the table to do his homework and read his Archie comics, while mum would drink her cup of piping hot tea and grade test papers. In those days I hadn't started school yet, but I was fully aware of what mum did... and what my brother was starting to do. And I wanted in!
The green crayon
Green. That was the choice colour, it seems. As I sit here and think back to that special place, I can't see white walls. I can only see scribbles. Lots of scribbles. I would watch my mother and try to copy her actions as she studied her students papers with intensity. Every check mark on a paper would mean a check mark on the wall. If a student had the misfortune of receiving a big X through an answer, then so would a porcelain white spot on the wall. Alphabets and numbers were scrawled all over the chalky white canvases, including pictures from my mind, begging for expression, even though I could barely put a coherent thought together.
And through all of that, mum never got upset. She was always aware of the insane toddler running around the room thinking she was Picasso incarnate; and yet, she never once lost her temper. As the years passed by, the walls in that room became covered with all sorts of strange musings. I think there were some nursery rhymes in picture form as well. One section even looked like those stick figures that archeologists find on cave walls. I'll never know what went through our minds in those times.
That particular room always brought me a sense of comfort as I got older. In fact, my mum even taught me to tell time with the help of that antique clock.
I remember the day we decided to paint over all the walls in the house. I walked into the room with my mum and we stared at all the years of 'creativity' etched into the paint.
"How come you never stopped me?" I asked her. "This looks like the work of a crazy person. You let me keep going and going..."
"If you didn't have this space, you'd probably have attacked all the walls in the house," she said, with a laugh. "Not that it stopped you, anyway."
I grinned knowingly.
In the end, I was sad to see a fresh coat of bougainvillea pink cover a decade of memories. But I was glad my mum gave us that space to test drive our dreams. Those walls held truths and secrets of innocent minds. My brother and I were allowed to believe, imagine, create and hope in that space, without worries of the outside world. It was a sanctuary filled with so much love and happiness.
And even though I ran around with my crayons, believing I was getting away with some sort of illegal act, my mum always knew. She was around. She sipped her tea and graded her papers, and she always made sure she knew.
And now, as I look back, I know.
If you've got children in your life, I hope you give them creative room.
Image courtesy of Google Images