I’ve never told anyone about the summer afternoons I spent at my friend, Gina’s house. Crossing the threshold was like stepping from the gloomy shadows of a Kansas farmhouse into a land, miraculous and sublime, with a road made of yellow bricks. I was a little girl colored in faith, outgoing and carefree and vibrating with an essence I’d never felt before. No dream was beyond my reach.
I assumed the transformation had everything to do with Gina’s life. Her parents were a decade younger than mine, her house, awash in butterscotch and cream, with daffodil wallpaper in the bathroom, and the delicate scent of cinnamon in the kitchen. My house was dim, dusty and decrepit. The basement leaked. The rooms were narrow and cramped. My parents never touched unless out of necessity.
But a day at Gina’s brought the exhilaration of water fights in the backyard, ping-pong in the playroom and the comfort of grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches. It was only by late afternoon, when the sky turned the color of iced tea that sorrow came.
Gina’s mother walked me home; sometimes we skipped all the way down 47th street to my front door. But when I heard Mama call my name through the screen, my color faded. With each step down the long, dreary hallway into the kitchen, my essence shriveled up.
I found Mama in her pink housedress at the stove frying up supper on a rusty pan. “Ya father’s workin’ late at the butcher, so it’s just us. Get washed up. No nonsense. Ya hear me?”
I obeyed. I knew what would happen if I didn’t. Later, I sat at the supper table under a harsh florescent light yearning for my color, and resenting Mama for taking it away.
I’ve lived most of my life stuck in a lonely niche between yearning and resentment, replicating disappointment and unrequited love, wondering, in fleeting moments, if it was about butterscotch and cinnamon or was there something sacred to me?
I’m 41 now. Mama is gone. Poppa is in a nursing home. Here I am, on my own for the first time with no one to discolor me. I am here. Here I am…where I have always been.
I believe that throughout our lives, God gives us glimpses at our true nature. Those afternoons at Gina’s house were mine. The butterscotch and cinnamon accentuated my nature, but it was there in that long, dreary hallway too. It’s been there everyday…waiting to be experienced.
This I believe: I am always in my life. Even in black and white, I am still in color.
Here I am. Where else could I be?
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