Monday, January 12, 2009
In the house we had before this one, I had a room I called Val-Kill. I named it after the cottage that Eleanor Roosevelt had in Hyde Park, NY – her place, her things, her sanctuary. I named my room Val-Kill for the same reason. In a house filled with toys, sporting equipment and a 12’ x 30' model train room, this small 10’ x 12’ room was mine. I decorated the window with sheer, white curtains, and the walls with blue painted wainscoting with soft off-white colored walls above it. It was minimally furnished with a desk, single bed, and my computer. On the wall hung an inexpensive, framed poster of the Van Gough painting, “First Steps” where a child takes his first steps towards the outstretched arms of his father. The room stored my hobbies, my memories and my life, past and present. It was the room I had imagined my mother would have when she would visit and hopefully would live in someday. Like Eleanor, my mother was the savior of lost soul. If you didn’t have a place to go at any holiday or would like a nice Armenian meal, you were invited to my mother’s house for dinner. Her charitable contributions consisted of regularly taking 2 buses to Jersey City to visit our elderly, shut-in relative who looked forward to the homemade dish my mother would bring. Like Eleanor’s children, I felt second string to my mother’s business (dressmaking), selfishly wanting just to enjoy her company. When I was younger, her quality time with me was going to a client’s home where I would sit quietly waiting until she finished fitting the dress on her customer. Returning home on the bus, we would talk for a while but inevitably, she would doze off to catch some desperately needed sleep. She seemed to exist on 4 – 5 hours a night and many a time, after I moved out of the house, I would be driving by her house on my way home at some un-Godly hour, seeing the silhouette of my mother in the dimly lit attic window, sewing to finish some customer’s dress. When I think back on it now, I wish I had been more of a help to her and less self-absorbed with the “all-about-me” teenage attitude. I’ll never be as talented as her or as generous as her but I am her daughter so I am lucky to be a product of this great woman. I remember her this week as her birthday, January 14, approaches. She never did get to live in my Val-Kill, just in my heart forever.