My parents are dead. Don’t get me wrong -- I am affected by it. I’m trying to get over it, but in all honesty, there’s no way I’ll ever be completely healed. They died when I was ten years old – eight years ago. I’ll never forget the day I lost them, because when I lost them, I lost everything. It was a car accident that killed them -- jackknifed tractor-trailer, to be more specific. Since I was only ten, I didn’t need many more details than that. They were gone, and that was that. I have no siblings, and my grandparents on both sides were long gone. I had never known them – they died before I was born. It seemed like my life was plagued by death, and I was only in fourth grade.
But life has a funny way of going on. You don’t have a choice, really. You wake up, force yourself into some clothes, drag your ass to school, smile and nod as if on cue, do enough work to keep your head above water so as not to raise concern – in short, you deal. You deal with the fact that at ten you are uprooted from the only life you’ve ever known, the only sources of love and warmth horrifyingly ripped away from you in the middle of the night. They were only supposed to be going on a date – dinner and a movie. A funeral and burial weren’t supposed to be part of the package deal.
But this was my package deal – dead parents and relocation. I was taken away from my quaint little suburban home on Long Island and transplanted to the middle of nowhere. That’s what I like to call it, but it’s really just a few hours outside Manhattan. There isn’t much in upstate New York; I learned that my first winter here. There’s snow and cows – and plenty of both. My dad’s aunt – his mother’s sister, my Aunt Maggie – adopted me. She is sweet and caring, but let’s face it, a sixty-six-year-old spinster taking care of a ten-year-old is not ideal for either party.
But, like I said, I was – maybe still am – in survival mode. I don’t remember much from the first few years with her. I was in a fog. There was no proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, and I was certain that I was doomed to live a gray life. The snow and the cows just helped to support that color scheme.
My first glimpse of color came in the form of a bubbly redhead. She sat next to me in seventh grade homeroom – we were arranged alphabetically, and Melanie Crane came right after me, Madeleine Becker. Her face was covered in freckles and split impossibly wide with a huge smile pretty much all the time. It was difficult not to notice her – not to be nice to her, not to open up to her. I still remember our first conversation.
“What’s your favorite color? Mine’s purple. Not the real dark kind, but lavender or lilac. It’s just so pretty. Lilacs are my favorite flower, too -- they smell so pretty. My whole room is covered in purple. It’s so me!”
Okay, so it wasn’t so much of a conversation as a monologue, but when she spoke to me, something inside cracked open just a tiny bit. The part inside that remembered I was just a little girl and that forever was a long time to wade through the sea of gray loneliness engulfing me, weighing me down.
My lips curled up into the tiniest of smiles, and that was all she needed to know that I was in there somewhere. Maybe she had some kind of ESP to know I was sad. I wasn’t really sure at the time; however, when I look back on it, she definitely did. Melanie is the kindest, most caring and gentle person I have ever met. She is the quintessential “not a mean bone in her body” kind of girl, and because of that, because of my need for kindness and love and warmth, we’ve been best friends ever since. After her praises of the color purple, she invited me to her house the next day. When I told Aunt Maggie about my “playdate,” she was excited, saying that “it would be good for me” to finally make some friends.
Walking into Melanie’s house the next afternoon was like walking into my past. The house was the definition of warm and cozy – a sofa and love seat anchored the living room with their rich chocolate color, but the rest of the room was airy and light, in varying shades of pale blues and sea greens. It was home, someone else’s home, but a home nonetheless. The bookshelves were jam-packed with kids’ books and overflowing with family pictures -- A stark contrast from the doily-covered coffee table overloaded with old lady tchotchkes that characterized Aunt Maggie’s living room.