Today I sat in the living room at home in Mexico. I’ve been working for the last week to repaint most of the downstairs. Today I spent putting things away I wanted to keep and making a pile to go to the Cruz Roja, Mexican Red Cross, thrift shop. The Cruz Roja pile is not as large as I want it to be, but there are certain things I can’t bring myself to pitch out. Things with memories of people long gone from the earth but still populating my brain. The ashes of Tom, my Jack Russell Terrier who traveled the world with me for over seventeen years. I keep meaning to put him somewhere, but since I’m never sure how long I’ll be someplace, I don’t seem to want to let go of him. What if I move? Will he be lonely? Shall I put him on the hillside overlooking the ocean next to my husband? At least then they’ll be together.
So I sat in the living room and looked around. Really looked around, seeing everything in different places and with new colors. No point in writing a memoir, anyone with two eyes and half a brain could tell all about me just from sitting there. Each wall is a different color. I don’t care for rooms painted with a sameness, all walls one color, one choice to be surrounded by. Not for me at all. I like variety. Had four husbands, uncounted lovers. Lovely men, at least for the most part. Most have died. One lives on, now over ninety and still going strong. I’m still here and don’t seem to be going any place soon.
The wall next to the street is yellow. Not even one color yellow, but several, glazed, rubbed on by hand with care, circular directions, never up and down, no straight lines. Layer upon layer of yellows piled one on top of the other, each one shining with it’s own power and glow. When you enter the room that’s what you see—yellows. Sun. Light. Open.
The wall with the books, DVDs, vases and memorabilia is painted green. Light, spring, green tea, delicate sprouts, everything growing. Not too many layers here, a bit of glaze just there…and there; enough to give it texture. I don’t much like flat either.
Facing the green and branching off the yellow is the piece de resistance…pinky color. It was hard to get just the exact hue, a touch of white, a soupcon of marigold, a bit of peony, a cup or so of glaze, all mixed together to go over a base coat of the softest lightest blush, the color of innocence, youth, first love, the blush on a virgin’s cheeks. Layer upon layer tenderly rubbed in to give depth, the feeling of age, experience, knowledge. No bubble gum pink for me. Not a chance.
The wall of the dining room behind the large mirror is mellow lavender, the color of lilacs outside my childhood bedroom window. Their tiny flowers foretold the coming of spring, their sweet fragrance reminding me life was moving on and cycling along. Another year passing. Time to grow tall, time to learn, time to be strong.
Yellow again climbs the stairs to my room, but a lighter color, subtle, cheerful but not boisterous. The color of a winter sun, warm, but no longer hot. It warms to the corner and then melts into blue, light, delicate, like the soft blue green color of new ice in the pond in Mamaroneck where I grew up. Where we skated in the winters and cooked jimmies over an open fire until they were black outside and hot and soft and potato-fragrant inside. Where we sat around on rocks, still in our skates, holding the steaming potato in our hands, impatient to get at the good stuff inside, but reluctant to give up the warmth of the charred black skins.
In my house there are posters on the walls, and paintings, and a drawing by a friend of a laughing man. Posters from the time I was filming a television series in Spain at the running of the bulls in Pamplona.
The Eiffel Tower and sidewalk cafes in France hang side by side with Flamenco dancers and flowers painted by a 1960’s New York artist, name long forgotten. Canals in Venice, streets in Puerto Rico, women in Labadee, the South of France, our home in Spain. A menu from a castle in Italy turned into a restaurant that rehabilitates drug addicts. A large rose diptych I bought to greet my husband when he came into this house for the first time. He always sent roses to greet me in lonely hotel rooms when I traveled the world for business. I sit and look around and can fill in the blanks, the people, some friends, some not so friendly. All colors of the rainbow each with their own memory writ on walls and my mind.
I never liked to stay in one place. I was never a good wife or mother, too much to see in the world, too many places, too much to do. Shpilkas, that’s what I’ve been accused of. It’s Yiddish for ants-in-the-pants. I’ve never been attached to a house, a place, a town, or a city, only people. The things around me that are important to me move with me and I’m at home wherever I am. Only my last husband understood; he was very much the same. Perhaps I should wish I’d been better at those domestic parts of life, but it’s far too late. There are no do-overs in life. We all do what we were born to do, we tread those paths that send their siren call to our ears, and if we don’t follow those sweet voices, we might end up regretting it all our lives.
As I sit in my room in Mexico, amid colors, layers and memories. . . I’m content. But maybe, just maybe, I’ll add a dash of brilliant red someplace. There’s always time to stir things up a bit.