Christmas Cake With Miriam
By Janice Kimball
There are times when I doubt my decision to become an artist. What have I done to myself? I wonder. I could be eating fine food, and buy any book I wanted, if I had made different choices early on.
The answers came when I visited a nearby nursing home one Christmas Eve. I brought along a cake and roll of garlands. I was greeted by a nurse in the courtyard. The patients sat around a table watching her and an aide play checkers, or listlessly watched from their wheelchairs.
A woman sat alone in her wheelchair in the courtyard. Her hair was tied on each side by colorful scarves that waved in the breeze. She was watching a pair of blue jays twittering on a eucalyptus branch.
“Her name is Miriam. She was an artist.” The nurse volunteered. I walked over.
“The nurse told me you were an artist,” I said.
“I still am. An artist is who you are and not what you do.”
“Of course, how silly of me … you see, I am an artist, too.”
“Have you always been an artist?” Miriam asked.
“Why yes, I guess I have.”
“I always knew what an artist was. You see, my older sister was one.” Miriam confided. “She studied ballet, recited poetry, drew perfect pictures, was emotional and had Shirley Temple hair. I, on the other hand, had none of these attributes. “From the time I clamped on my first pair of roller skates and taped the key to my forehead I was the antithesis of what my family felt an artist was… I sure overcame that handicap!” She laughed. “But it took me thirty years…Want to know how?”
“You see, I have always been creative, designed gardens, clothes, and rebuilt houses, projects that were expected of a mother and a woman who served two terms as housewife. Then one day my creative side could no longer be contained and just’ ‘spilled over’ changing my life forever.”
“How?” I inquired.
“It’s not so much how, as why. I needed to be me… I needed to express who that was; to myself, as well as to others. One may look at my situation and think I am alone. But I am never alone, as my mind creates the company I want to keep; how I want to perceive my life. The artist in my soul keeps me company . . .What do you see on that wall?” Miriam suddenly hollered out to the other old timers at the checkers table.
“Nothing!” A bleak voice shouted back.
“You see? Can you imagine a life filled with blank walls when there is so much that can be created on them?” she said with a swoosh of her arm. “I see a figure dancing, perhaps you,” Miriam said, as I put my hand on her shoulder. “Your face is a garland of hues, your energy, like Christmas lights from which tinsel falls. How wonderful.…no, wait! Maybe that’s me! You could have made that wall come alive with your own visions too, couldn’t you?” She cupped her hand over mine. Its warmth felt bonding.
“I see a sky swathed in blue,” I began, “a bird lost in it somewhere…and the sky is raining tears. I am on the ground dancing…a jig… to avoid them. Their shards pierce my feet as they hit the ground and shatter.”
“Life isn’t a piece of cake…for any of us, is it?” she said sadly, her eyes shifting toward the checker table. “But I can tell you this, being an artist only comes in second to having wings. The others lead such a dull life.”
“Speaking of cake, would you like some?” I asked.
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