Fresh Paint and Heartache

I can’t smell fresh paint anymore.

Three and a half years ago this room was transformed from builder’s white to a calm, serene sea of green. She was only ten then, and this was her first “big girl” room, with no frilly flowers on the bedspread or baby pink curtains. We placed inspiration on the walls, French Boards covered in photos, shelves of books and a closet full of more grown-up clothes. Stuffed animals, Barbies and games were banned and sent to the playroom for her little sister. It was a peaceful room, her retreat, where I was always welcome. Sometimes we would lie on her bed, snuggling. I would bury my face in her thick, wavy hair, inhaling the fresh scent of strawberry shampoo and Dove soap. Her baby smell was gone, replaced by a little girl fragrance laced with Bonnie Bell lip-gloss and bubble gum. I used to walk by her room in the middle of the day and take inventory of her life. The door was wide open, the bed made, and things neatly put away. Sunshine streamed through the windows, warms and vibrant, dancing around the emptiness. Sometimes, I would sit on her soft striped quilt, the layers of brown, blue and green reminiscent of a beach retreat. I would sit and stare at all of her things, eagerly waiting for her to return. The scent of lemon Pledge and lavender Carpet Fresh filled the room.

But not any more.

Now she is 13 1/2 years old and this room seems much smaller. Brown, wooden shades are always drawn shut, barricading the sun, making the green walls grey and dingy in the darkness. Piles of clean and dirty clothes are strewn across the floor. Closet doors flash the room, revealing its nakedness, as empty hangers dangle precariously above mounds of shoes. Stacks of books and magazines haphazardly decorate heavily dust laden shelves. Empty food wrappers and crumpled pieces of paper gather on her dresser, spilling on to the floor. Sweat stained t-shirts and fragrant underwear try to escape the over-flowing wicker laundry hamper. My nose burns inhaling the smell of body odor and staleness. She does not want me in here anymore, not to clean, not to cuddle. The door is always shut. Sometimes, when she is at school, I hesitate in front of her stark white door, trying to picture the little girl with the pig-tails and bright red bows. But as soon as I walk inside her room, the rough unmade bed and overwhelming collection of bulging sports bags and backpacks reminds me of the angry teenager that stormed out of my house yesterday morning, slamming the back door hard on her way out.

I miss this Tortoise, age 4

At 3:30 yesterday afternoon, I caught a glimpse of my chubby cheeked cherub as she strolled sheepishly inside the kitchen. Her pink and white tote bag landed softly on the mud-room floor, as she draped her jacket across a bar stool.

“Mom,” she said, wrapping her warm arms around my waist, “I’m sorry for how I treated you these past couple of days.”

“I forgive you, always,” I replied, burying my face in a mass of wavy brown hair, breathing deeply the smell of strawberry shampoo and Dove soap. I could smell peanut butter sandwiches and butterfly kisses.

And if I try hard enough, I might be able to smell fresh paint.

The RemembeRed memoir assignment this week,  from Write on Edge, was to let narrative take a backseat. We were asked to step back into a significant moment in our life and bring back the sensory treasures found there, the feelings, scents, textures, sounds, tastes, and colors of the moment.


6 thoughts on “Fresh Paint and Heartache

  1. I remember sitting in my little girl’s room the day after she got married and left home. I sat on the floor in front of the mirror on her door, looking at the nail polish stain on the rug and the hair spray spatters on the wall, and I cried and cried and cried.

  2. The stages of a childs life…I need you, I think I need you, I’m not sure I need you, I don’t want to need you, I need you! Gotta love those teenagers…there is no other choice!

  3. Nice work with the prompt. I have the teenage thing going on in my house too except with boys. It’s definitely a challenge but a good one and it makes me take time to remember…

  4. You gotta love puberty! And it hits some girls to the extreme with the mood swings. I’m so glad my kids are grown. But I remember my sister more than my own kids going through puberty. She turned into a witch with a “b”! OMG. Hang in there mom…it will get better.

  5. Love it Emily. With Hannah at college, and me in Ohio helping prepare my parents home for my mom to get home after 2 months in the hospital, it makes me miss my “little girls” even more.

  6. Well done indeed with this prompt. I wasn’t able to get to it, a classic excuse, but I might still write something anyway. I love these kinds of stories, where you can see, smell, and feel the setting as if you’re there while it’s happening. I loved it!

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