Seven-year-old Melissa, wearing a sunny dress with a red sash around her waist, held a pot of tea. She had meticulously brewed it with lots of honey. She looked at her friends, who sat around a round table. They stared back with perfect smiles.
A birthday cake with a large number “7” candle stood in the middle like a proud tree.
Melissa began pouring tea for each of her friends. She had difficulty doing so, as her spine had been damaged at birth. Despite the hump on her back, and her gnarled little hands, she succeeded without spilling so much as a drop.
“You go first, Andy, since you’re the only boy,” Melissa said. She carefully filled his cup halfway, then gave him a kiss on the cheek. Surprisingly, he didn’t blush, but instead continued to smile like young gentlemen were supposed to.
Melissa slid over to a wide-eyed girl who wore an equally radiant dress. “Now it’s your turn, Samantha, since you’re the oldest.” Samantha watched with impeccable calm.
Melissa turned to the next girl, who wore big round glasses. “Don’t fret, Molly, I wouldn’t forget you.” After filling Molly’s cup, Melissa slid over to the last girl.
“For you, Kirsten, I saved the best for last. You get the honey from the bottom.” Melissa playfully tugged one of Kirsten’s braids. Kirsten’s smile never left her face.
Before taking her place at the table, Melissa rushed over to an easel and lifted a cloth sheet that had hidden a painting. She lifted the painting and walked over to the table, showing only the back of the canvas.
Melissa sat at her place and looked at her friends. And, voila, she showed them her latest masterpiece. Silence. Though her friends continued to smile, no one showed genuine surprise or appreciation for her efforts.
Melissa held back her tears. “It’s ok, everyone, you can start without me.” Her friends didn’t dare move.
Melissa let go of the painting. It landed on the floor, rattled, then settled with a small thud.
Mellissa dropped her head and stared into her lap. She cried. This was a silent, personal cry, not one for public eyes.
Abruptly, her mother walked into the room. She saw Melissa suffering, ran to her and squeezed her daughter against her chest. “I’m so sorry, baby.”
Melissa wrapped her small arms around her mother and drained her eyes on her shoulder. Her mom put on her cheeriest face, “I made you your favorite. Chicken soup with carrots.”
“But what about my birthday party?” Melissa whispered.
Melissa’s mother looked at her friends; shook her head with a doleful face. “Sweetie, you could always play with your dolls after dinner.”
A long silence ensued as each reflected. It was obvious mother and daughter had replayed this before.
“Do you think kids will come to my party next year?” asked Melissa.
Melissa’s mother stared at her daughter’s painting. She picked it up and admired it, appreciating the brightness of the colors. “How about we go somewhere where it’s always a party?”
Melissa looked up and saw that her mom was serious. She hugged her.
Melissa’s pain is one we can all empathize with. We don’t need a physical handicap to know sorrow or rejection. Aren’t we all damaged in some way? Some say the greater tragedy occurs when a handicap damages our artistic potential.
But if we don’t find a way to heal, I don’t think we can ever truly enjoy all the wonders that life has to offer. Many of us seek therapy to address our inner hurts. Bravo to such people. It takes courage to confront our demons.
Another way to confront them is to paint or draw about them. There is an inexpressible satisfaction in creating something uniquely yours, where you alone are the audience. And the experience is often enhanced when done with a group of like-minded folks.
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