(for my mother)
Martha had a room, one that she would refer to as a ‘spare room’. Not that the size of her house allowed for such extravagances – she had a kitchen, a little area to sit, a small toilet at the rear of her house, and a little bedroom upstairs. Next to that was Martha’s spare room.
When she and Ted first got married, it had been kept ready for a little child. Ted told his wife that he ‘wanted’ two sons and two daughters, Martha said she would be content with a happy, healthy child.
Ted had painted the walls of the room with characters from books – he had done all this himself in the hope that one day his own child would look up from a cot and smile at the paintings.
In the first two summers of their married lives and with no blessing of a son or daughter, Ted put some of his old books in the room. Martha was understandably upset but like Ted said, there was nowhere else for them to go.
The years drifted by and no child was gifted to the couple. Then one quiet May morning, Ted went into the spare room and noticed all the junk covering the walls and floor. He also noticed, sadly, that all the characters he had painted had faded in the sunlight.
“There ain’t no child coming, Lord, I can see that now,” Ted said quietly to himself and so, that afternoon, he went out and bought the whitest of white paints and decided to throw out all the junk and re-paint the room.
Ted and Martha never talked about children again, but she was delighted with the new white room which Ted had painted.
“This shall be our room for all the good things,” Martha said to Ted.
And that is what it became. All the presents given to them at Christmas or birthdays were placed in the room in order that they could be admired and kept good. Dishes, cups, paintings, bottles of this and that, were all placed in the spare room to be kept good.
Once in a while, Ted would go into the room and admire all the gifts and would ask Martha whether they could use a plate or a dish but Martha would always say ‘no’, and tell him that the room was to keep everything good in their lives, and keep those things safe.
When her few friends came back to the house after Ted’s funeral, she took down some of the china cups and plates from her room and allowed her guests to use them.
With Ted no longer there, Martha didn’t notice her mind beginning to wear away. Sometimes she forgot things, then she forgot names of those who came to call. One morning Martha came down from her bedroom and couldn’t remember who she was.
These days Martha looks out of her hospital room window and not far away is her own home with the spare room. She can see all the good things stored in that room – but Martha doesn’t know that it is her house, or that the objects are all the things she and Ted kept for better days.
bobby stevenson 2017