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Monday, April 20, 2015

The lessons of our hearts are written on the wall.

My birthday was Wednesday. I was treated to lunch, taken out to dinner and joined by my middle daughter Anastasia and her husband, showered with gifts – roses, a beautiful red sundress, and a new charm for my bracelet.
The charm bracelet is a wonderful thing because it isn’t that I can remember exactly when each bead, bauble and sparkly charm arrived, but I know it was given with thoughtfulness and love by my girl. We give gifts to each other every birthday, Christmas, Mother’s Day…but who can remember what they receive from year to year? With the charm bracelet, I just have to look at my wrist.
The birthday came and went, and despite a few funny messages on Facebook and a lovely song from Paulina, nothing from my other two daughters. Oh well, they are busy with their own lives and I figured they were waiting until Sunday dinner and our family gathering to celebrate their mama.
So when I came home Thursday after work I wasn’t expecting to find a car parked on the lawn. I didn’t recognize it right away as Milena’s, (my eldest) but when I opened the door to the house and saw the boots, I knew she had driven out from Ottawa to see me. But I couldn’t see her. There was a floral tablecloth pinned up across the door to the sunroom and loud music blasting out from behind it.
“Girls, I’m home!” I hollered. A string of light profanity and then two faces peeked out from behind the cloth. “Stay right there, ma. No peeking.”
Then Milena suddenly came out, looking sneaky.
“You have to promise not to go in there. And we’re going to have to cover it to keep the cats out.”
Cover it? A clue. Well, not to worry. Everyone knows I love a surprise and the only way this one is getting ruined is if I absentmindedly wander into the room and totally forget that I’m not supposed to be in there, poking around.
The cloth stayed over the door for the next three days, as the girls came and went between work shifts and sleep. Paulina even gave up some of her valuable snooze hours for me.
Finally, on Sunday, the curtain game down. There was a long section of wall, about three feet wide, covered with two layered paper table cloths that were taped in place. Pillows and chairs formed a barrier around the bottom – again, not to keep me out but to dissuade the cats from tackling the irresistibly crunchy paper veil.
I had to wait until after Sunday dinner, dessert, coffee and the opening of lovely gifts from other members of my family – scented candles, a birdhouse, gardening implements, flowers, wine, books…they know me so well.
Suddenly Milena announced we all had to gather in the living room to watch a short movie. She and Paulina had taken turns filming each other as they created the mural on the wall. The six-minute video shows them planning out the design, and hand-scripting it in blue-gray paint directly over the mustard yellow wall. The artwork sessions are interspersed with hilarious dance breaks. Milena set the video to a beautiful song, and I think that’s what really got me. That and the card that preceded the video, which hinted, “the life lessons I’ve taken from you are now permanently marked on your wall.” I reached for the Kleenex and used about half the box before we even got to the unveiling.
Finally, we gathered around the sunroom and Milena and Paulina each took a side of paper curtain and ripped it down to reveal my new mural. This is what it says, in my daughters’ unmistakable handwriting:
Our family is not about blood; it’s about acceptance. Doing that thing that puts a smile on their face. Our family sings, dances & hugs. We care for and carry each other; our family loves in its own crazy, beautiful way and when we’re with family, we’re truly happy. No matter how you look – no matter what your regrets – no matter who you are – you belong here. This is where love lives. This is our family home. And there’s always room for more at the table.”
The words are particularly meaningful because we have been through some major things together, blending these two families, forgiving each other our faults, letting things ride, and accepting other non-blood honorary family members into the fold, every Sunday, at dinner. I told the Farmer he can’t move me into an expensive condo now. Not unless I can take my wall with me.

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