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GAIL WHITE Simple picture became a sanctuary in the fog



Published: Fri, February 22, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



It was a Wednesday, and I was walking around in a dazed stupor.

It was like my mind was in a thick fog, unable to fully concentrate.

"Perhaps I am getting sick," I said to myself. But I had no symptoms of illness.

"Maybe I'm tired," I thought. But if that were the case, I would always walk around in a stupor.

"Could it be that Pat is out of town and I am overwhelmed?" I asked myself. Nah, couldn't be that. In many ways, his being out of town simplifies my life. One less person to clean up after; a lot less cooking. No, it wasn't that.

Headed out: "Get in the van," I told the children. "We're going out to dinner."

The announcement was met with hoots and cheers. My mood did not match their excitement.

While they put shoes and coats on in record time, I lumbered to the van and slumped into the seat.

"Don't know what's wrong with me," I said to them. Either they didn't hear me, didn't care or simply didn't know what to say. My comment received no response.

I drove silently, as if on auto-pilot. The boys listened to the radio. They may have spoken to me. I do not recall answering them. The fog was very thick.

Sitting at our table at the restaurant the dinnertime chat began.

"Today, during spelling ..." Phillip started.

"Can I go into town tomorrow to ..." Robert wanted to know.

"In this PlayStation game, the guy ..." Andrew shared.

Mind-numbing: Listening to all of them, talking all at once, my ears began ringing and my eyes became tired just looking at their mouths moving. I simply did not have enough ears to listen to it all.

The fog was becoming pea soup. The dazed stupor was numbing my senses.

Then David choked on an ice cube.

As I carried the crying child away from the table (no longer choking), I considered staying in the restroom until dinner was over -- or perhaps indefinitely.

"What is wrong with me?" I asked myself as I wiped his tear-streaked face. I always enjoy a night out with the boys. This night, they were doing me in.

After dinner, I decided to stop at a local department store. "A good sale might snap me out of my stupor," I thought.

Instead, I hit the proverbial wall.

From the minute we walked through the doors, I heard, "I want this" and "We need that."

Aisle after aisle their yearnings filled my ears. The pea soup fog had turned to pitch-black night.

"Let's go to electronics! Electronics!" was the last thing I remember hearing from any of them.

As I turned to head toward that department, I saw a stack of pictures out of the corner of my eye.

"Kitsch" is what my college professor called such artwork. Cheap, over-replicated pictures.

Indeed, they were small, poster-like "paintings" with a cardboard backing, wrapped in plastic.

But I didn't care. I had found heaven.

Staring at me was a cabin, nestled in the woods near a bubbling brook. The evening glow of sunset colored the trees, contrasted by the white peaks of a distant mountain.

A rocking chair sat empty on the cabin porch, and a puff of black smoke came from the chimney.

That chair was mine: Tears filled my eyes as I looked at the picture. I didn't want the picture so much as I wanted to be IN it.

I clutched it like it was a priceless Renoir.

Without even looking at the price, I gathered the children and headed for the checkout.

We waited nearly 20 minutes in line with four packs of gum and one piece of heaven.

The bill came to exactly $4.

Later that week, my husband returned home. He was tired and worn out when he asked about the picture.

"Well," I began, "it was Wednesday and ..."

He shot me an "I-am-tired-and-I-don't-want-to-hear-about-this-right-now" look.

"Oh, you'll listen," I informed him, reading his look. "Until your ears ring and your eyes hurt ..."

gwhite@vindy.com




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