She had just opened her Mother’s childhood closet and pulled out a box of ancient toys when the memory hit her. She wasn’t surprised; it usually appeared when she started a new project. As the years went by, she found more humor in the scene where she was 14 and her Mother was in the process of moving on to greener pastures. “Just take it,” she had said, “I am glad to see it go.” How easily she had parted with our vintage plastic Tupperware popsicle trays, sure we hadn’t had popsicles in 10 years and I had always made them not her, but to think there would never be another perfectly made orange popsicle was a tragedy. Didn’t she know I was listening to every word as she dismantled what little remained of our nuclear family? It had been two years since the divorce was final, he had moved on immediately and now she was engaged and on her way up the social ladder again. At first the sale was to raise money for the ladies of the country club charity fund and to sell a few things before we moved into the new house with her updated husband. But as the day wore on, she couldn’t help herself restocking the tables with every trinket and treasure accumulated over the last 17 years. When she wandered off, I would “shoplift” squirreling family heirlooms away in the back seat of a friend’s car. I couldn’t find it in me to share in her enthusiasm for a fresh start when I felt as if a large pink eraser was rubbing away any proof of our previous life. It had become painfully clear that everything had been written in pencil not permanent ink.
Returning to the box of toys, she found her Mother’s most loved doll. She knew this to be true because she was never allowed to play with it when she was a child. Gently laying the doll on her own bed, she thought, “Let the games begin.”
His office was upstairs in a creaky old Victorian house. She waited in the makeshift waiting room at the top of the stairs. She couldn’t see the speakers, but the Beatles kept her company, “Blackbird singing in the dead of night, take these sunken eyes and learn to see, all your life, you were only waiting for this moment to be free.” Obviously he had mix CD for the forlorn and depressed, she was betting the next song was either “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” or “Don’t Worry Be Happy.” Their assessment of each other had been taking place over the last few weeks, every Monday, 1pm. His office was a mixture of cast off furnishings but she knew the lava lamp was his because even though he was approaching 60, he was a man of the 60’s. She knew enough about psychotherapy that she spent the first few visits monitoring his process, trust must be earned not given. They started the dance of building rapport, him leading with a personal disclosure and she followed in step with one in return. But near the end of their last appointment he said one simple thing, “You know Alice, you are open to a point, but then I see you retreat behind a wall.” This one sentence had stopped the music and the dance and had left her spinning for the last week. He wanted to talk about the wall.