Monday, November 21, 2011

No Nudes

My wonderful boarder, Rachael, moved out and my finances are such that I can wait for just the right person to rent out what was her room.
I live in the house in which I was raised. I love it. Growing up my siblings – and even my parents – changed rooms on a regular basis. I had done a stint in all of the bedrooms except Rachael's.
My turn for the room came when I was still married. My ex-husband traveled a lot for his job. I wanted to surprise him with a beautiful bedroom when he got back from one of his trips. I enlisted my wonderful, long suffering friends and family to help with the transformation.
The room was painted a gorgeous cream with periwinkle blue trim. My sister, Nan, helped me to pick out window treatments that lent a warm elegance to the airy space. When done it reminded me of one of the rooms at Lubcloud Farm, my favorite bed and breakfast. An old farmhouse, nestled on an English organic dairy farm, it had a magic that invited you back to visit again and again. It made me happy when my daughter walked into the finished room and asked whether I was trying to make it look just like Lubcloud Farm – a success.
Fast forward quite a few years. I ran out of my house at the discovery of my much-loved husband's infidelity. When I moved back after staying at my sister's I couldn't bear to be in that room. My love offering, it was beautiful but I just couldn't handle it. I moved into the guest room, a happy, warm room but without the serene beauty of the “master.”
My friend Ellen talked me into rearranging the furniture. She was convinced it would change my feelings about the room. She was right. We spent an afternoon moving things in all directions. I did feel differently. She took the old bedspread off and surprised me with one that looked great in the room.
I was happy in that space. It was my room and the fact that I had given it as a gift to someone I didn't really know wasn't important anymore.  It was mine and it was comforting.
I stayed in it for months until I realized I needed desperately to rent out a room. It was the most logical one to use. Rachael arrived, another present from God. I didn't mind that beautiful woman having my room. She was a gift.
She's gone though and I decided to reclaim my room of peace and calm.
I repainted the original colors with help from my daughter. I gave Rachael some of the art work. I needed something for over the bed.
I remembered the nudes. They were done by my lover, an effervescent Italian who made bread and made love to me, making me feel beautiful for the first time in my life. He was 32 years older than me and married. I believed him when he told me that he and his wife had a celibate relationship. I still do. It doesn't take a priest or theologian though to know that it was terribly wrong anyway – I understand there are few moral absolutes but that is one of them. I get it. I was young -- 20. Tony made me feel loved, beautiful and alive. He sketched me and I was amazed at the results.
It is one of the great ironies of my life that this man was one of the main reasons I came back to the church of my birth – and with such joy.
I had married after I broke up with Tony. The marriage did not last long. There were many, many reasons for the demise. I went to my old lover, wanting to resume our relationship. The bad marriage helped me to understand all that I gave up when I said goodbye to Tony.
He was loving but firm in his refusal. He had always been Catholic but he had an epiphany and was on fire with the faith. Tony had become a Eucharistic Minister and realized that his first responsibility was to his loving God. So we stayed friends.
Immaturity and I suppose my ego contributed to my feelings of rejection and confusion. There was enough of the Catholic in me to know he was sincere. Catholicism, how old fashioned! The dogma alone was enough to kill you! Still, it was odd that I chose my father's Episcopalian faith in which to raise my two sons. It was so close to Catholicism but not quite there.
“Why I'm an Episcopalian” was the topic of an adult education course at the church I attended. What I realized was, “Holy Shit I'm a Catholic.” My lover's words and deep faith never left me. I realized I needed to go back. I needed to once again receive Holy Communion, to know Jesus in that intimate way.
I went searching for the nudes. I found them and still love them. My artist lover took a homely girl and made her beautiful. I thought of him. He died three years ago. I am convinced he is with his loving Jesus. I put the pictures on the side table and realized I will never hang them. They are anything but vulgar. I am on my side in the one, sitting on the side of the bed in the other one. It is the oddest thing. I really think I look more like that woman now than I ever did at 20. It seems like I grew into them. Maybe Tony saw something in me then that I never did, but do now.
I will not forget where he told me about his Jesus. We were in Manhattan looking over the Hudson. He had an arm on my shoulder. He was telling me what it meant to him to distribute Holy Communion, how he never wanted to jeopardize his ability to receive Jesus. I get it now, Tony.
I'll move the nudes back to the cubby hole. I'll probably pull them out in another ten years when once again I need to see myself through someone else's eyes, someone who did in fact love me and in his rejection gave me such a beautiful gift.
Here's to you Tony! Happy heaven!