If I close my eyes, relax, and lean far enough back in my chair, far enough back in my memory, I can hear the sounds that I miss from my childhood. I can hear the sounds of tractor trailers backing up into our yard, unloading some sorry, unwanted find—huge, busted architectural pieces, salvaged orphans that my father loved. I can hear my father hollering, yelling over the hum of diesel engines, “Yo! Buddy, move it here!” “Watch out! Be careful!” “Alright. Looks good.” “Stop!”, the Maestro’s arms moving explicitly, telling his men, his workers, where to place his treasures.
He amassed acres of the beautiful, broken and unwanted.
Inside trailers reminiscent of piano keys that made it through a hurricane, trailers that he painted green, his favorite color, the color of money and nature, are pieces like giant ceiling rosettes, waiting to be painted and hung; items from torn-down, French rooms, 40 carved panels, waiting to be repaired and assembled; tiles, thousands of tiles, boxes of books, vintage horsehair paint brushes wrapped in paper, carriages, millions of nails, none of it valuable, none of it wanted.
He didn’t have the money to buy the perfect. He only had the money to buy the broken and build his dreams out of the unwanted. My dad had plans. He was going to build houses, palaces, rooms he remembered from fragments of nighttime dreams. He’d vividly tell me how beautiful a room looked from a dream of his. I’d walk out there with him, watching his eyes grow distant, sad and overwhelmed, from not having what it took to make his grandest dreams come true.
Back there, I saw who he really was, not what children selfishly see when they look at a parent. I saw him as a person, separate from me; I didn’t see who I needed him to be. I saw him cry back there once, after he fell apart inside, taking his anger out on my brother. I wasn’t born with any of the things he valued in my siblings; I wasn’t a boy, I wasn’t a blond, blue-eyed first-born, I wasn’t an artist, I wasn’t smart like my sister, Chris. I didn’t get the attention they did but he let me get close enough to him to understand human nature, what lies behind anger and broken dreams. It always just looked like hurt. And, from his anger and his beautiful dreams, I learned to look harder when I looked at someone.
I find comfort inside those trailers. I like to go in them and remember his dreams for him and I can hear him telling me, his arms moving wildly to get the point across, to make up my own dreams, telling me that I am more than just who everyone else needs me to be.
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