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Wall Art

Esther Kurtz

In my room, I let myself be. There was no right, or wrong, no socially acceptable PC answers. There was no judgment, no awkwardness, just me

Thursday, October 13, 2016

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"M y husband slept in your old room this past Shabbos,” an acquaintance told me.

“I hope everything’s okay,” I answered. “Who’s in the hospital?”

“His mother,” she said. “He enjoyed reading and looking at everything. Very interesting, he said.” She stressed the very and raised one eyebrow.

I smiled and gave a small laugh. “Yup,” I answered simply, because what’s there to say, it’s true.

My parents live right next to Maimonides Hospital, and they’re often called upon to host people whose relatives are in the hospital over Shabbos. They do it with an eagerness and nonchalance I hope to emulate someday. Most often, my parents place their guest in my room in the basement. Well, what was my room when I was single — — and my room back then was my sanctuary.

I used to sleep upstairs with my younger sister. It was the bedroom right off the dining room, and my mother didn’t allow us to personalize our room. No posters or pictures, no small mementos.

“People see this room,” she’d say. And I didn’t blame her, although now I smile at the irony.

My older sister got married when I was in 11th grade, and I took up residence in her old basement room. The first time my insecure self beheld my own room, I relaxed deeply. I closed my eyes a moment, and opened them to see my older sister staring back at me. Not my sister literally, but her posters, pictures, postcards, collages. They hung on the wall all around me. I was in her domain; it wasn’t mine — — yet.

My older sister wasn’t happy when I started dismantling her room, but tough noogies, the place was mine and I was going to claim it. Of the four walls, one was closet doors, another wood paneling — — perfect for hanging posters — — and the other two were simply painted pink.

Down came her Looney Tunes poster, down went her graduation portraits, down went her collages of school shabbaton, her as sewing head, and chagigah head. With every change, I asserted my identity more. But how I really claimed my space was not through the nature photos I tacked to the walls, but what I wrote and drew on it.

I decorated late at night. When I was stressed out and frustrated, I drew on my walls, and let free. Mostly, I drew abstract patterns and shapes. There is an endless loop of cubes, some filigree, interconnected shapes and tiny stars. There are rounded cartoonish shapes drawn on the ceiling with my father’s old pastels. Most of it, though, I drew with Sharpies; my mother purchased a large colorful pack from Costco.

I wrote some of my favorite poems on the wall: “Fat Is Not a Fairy Tale” by Jane Yolen, “Takes Talent” by Don Marquis, “True or False” by John Ciardi, and “Violin String” by Sir Rabindranath Tagore. Each poem revealing my heart, my passions, my virtues — — me.

In my room, I let myself be. There was no right, or wrong, no socially acceptable PC answers. There was no judgment, no awkwardness, just me. And only in my room could I be every part of me.

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