If all the framed portraits and certificates that my mother put up really represented my achievements in life, then wouldn’t they mark the moment I learnt my afternoon naps were due to a vitamin B deficiency and I wasn’t actually depressed?
It’s everything in her house. Handprint drawings. School reports. Merit certificates. Sports day medals. Diplomas. Degrees. Marriages photos. Trampolining certificates. Nothing exceptional. My two sisters and I, we were fairly also ran but at the same time, content. None of us had ever conquered Everest or been the absolute best at anything.
We did quite well if we tried and had brief periods of winning competitions no one else entered, but could not be summarised with an adjective. “Oh, she cooks,” or “Oh, she long jumps.” To cook or to long jump implies passion and skill that far surmounts anything else in your life. You are the cooker or thejumper who is better then the other cookers and jumpers.
We muddled by. “Oh, she muddles by.”
We dated average men. “Oh, she’s dating average man.”
We had straight teeth, and kind of straight hair, and normal sized chests and my older sister used to be able to tap dance, I was in choir for a while, and the youngest went through a phase of really wanting a rat but other then that our wall displays were fairly uninspiring.
Incomparable to the neighbors kids or our more ambitious best friends.
Sunday visits to my parent’s house involved a reality check. I am faced with the faded dregs that use to summarise me. Blu tacked, framed or poster mounted to the wall, corkboarded up and planted on the glass shelves in the living room are my achievements. My progress. I digress mentally. I tell them I don’t want it, that’s not what makes me me! I am not an overpriced portrait in an ill-fitting hat holding a fake scroll. It is not a deadsea scroll. It is a business studies 2:2. I ask them to take them down now.
But I am missing the point, because these are her achievements and not mine.
I have a house, and I have a marriage. It is new, exciting still. I insist we put pictures up of the things we want to remember, the obstacles we overcame. That’s why there is blown up picture of him with a weeping leg wound in our living room. He overcame in. He didn’t loose the leg. He didn’t die. We thought he might.
(I am considerate enough to make sure the white and green pus is not visible in any eating areas.)
We have resignation letters, suicide letters (my attempt at an attempt when I was 21 and just really down, you know?) dismissal letters, doctor’s letters, abortion appointments, old love letters from other peoples pens (we must be reminded of what could have been) and photos of us at our worse. We document our despair and sometimes our ennui.
Every day is a gift now. A mystery to unravel. We don’t have the awards and achievements to remind us that we are no longer young and sprightly and full of unfulfilled potential, instead we have mudslides and avalanches.
We have the things we have overcome, the self-fulfilling prophecies we work hard to avoid everyday, and we comfort ourselves with the continued threat that shit happens, and some things you just can’t plan for. Like tinnitus or cats with personality defects.