This past year, Life have again given me a big curve, never allowing me to follow where I go. But I still try, it curves around again and again. Never managing to get to where I need to go.
This upcoming year, I am hoping it will be the good one, if not better. I am currently working on several different ideas including drawing, painting, writing and gardening of all things. But I still want to thank everyone, who glanced, read and skimmed through my not so numerous posts for the past few years.
Some of you may recall my previous post from December 2016 regarding my family Christmas traditions and the Grinch https://monasheevalley.blog/2016/12/22/winter-memories-and-the-grinch/ and other posts from Feb 2017 about a partial scene from a short story that I wrote years and years ago, https://monasheevalley.blog/2017/02/02/febuary-notes/ . I had several good responses about them from readers like you that enjoyed them.
And now, this is my Gift to you. It came to me as a dream, months ago, and it haunted me for the longest time. To get it out of my mind, I had to write it down completely. It sort of sparkled in my mind after working on it for months now.
Dreams and Wishes
He waited, sitting in a chair inside the lobby where I worked for many years when I first saw him.
With his backpack, full of stuff and grimy from the roads, he looked like he traveled for years on end by the looks of him. An old Indian, with somewhat a familiar face to me, I couldn’t place it right away. Perhaps 85 years old, give and take 15 years. He stood up when he saw me coming through the door, I had no choice, but to go into his embrace.
”I looked for you for many a year now. I tried to keep my promise to your dad.
You are still lost in this lifetime.” He told me quietly. Seeing the real me underneath the facade I have been wearing for sometime now.
He stank of road dust, grime and other scents that I did not want to know or speak of. But I did not care- I finally recognized him, by close up and the voice of his. Smooth dark and a strong speaking voice.
Big Jim, my dad’s oldest and dearest friend, I have not seen him since my dad’s funeral and wake 20 odd years ago.
I had vaguely remembered him coming up to me and said something like to the effect, follow your dreams, Dad approves, after the service.
At the time, I didn’t pay much attention to him and his words. My attention was on the funeral and the guests.
I remember Dad had always said, trust Big Jim when he tells you something and listen hard.
Dad’s friends had always crossed many barriers of culture and race. The funeral at the time, reflected it, Childhood friends from Chinese, Mennonite, local characters and many others came to pay respects to Dad. They loved him and respected his life, he had in return respected their cultures and traditions but never assumed his way was the best way.
I always had assumed it was the way he was raised by his parents, my grandparents, and the willingness to learn new ideas. But the best way to do this, is to be raised with them all.
The orchards and farms did not discriminate from another culture to another, they all grew up knowing each other culture. Having enough food to last through winter and spring in the harshest time of winter, all of them helped out when needed through health and Mother Nature’s whims when food became scarce during its worse times. They all had experienced it one time or another.
Big Jim, here, smaller and shorter than what I remembered. His travels showed on his face. Lined in sorrow and something else?
‘I dreamed of you and your dad Jimmy for months now, the Irish, bull headed and the most stubborn man, He made me travel all the way to here to tell you his message.”
We were standing in lobby where fellow employees and customers are looking at us. My business suit told them that I work here. My visitor? No.
‘ Lets go to my office, I have tea and sandwiches for you,’ to Big Jim. Seeing this might come to be a private affair not for the public.
Big Jim, after looking around at the lobby, my co workers are looking at us, and wondering who is he? not a customer or client.
He tried to get up but almost collapse to the floor before forcing his body to obey him. I steadied him when he tried to stand up.
“Shall I get that? I motioning to the pack back and grabbing the top handle to swing it over my shoulder and back. It was heavy and bulky too.
‘ Too heavy for you,’ Big Jim said with a smile.
I can carry that pack back, Remember?
‘I had forgotten that, the strongest girl I know.’ Big Jim remarked.
‘ Told your Dad, not the treat you as a mule at times. You still needed to marry a boy, not a donkey.’
‘Jimmy, you know he just laughed at me, then he spoke to me, she’s my girl.’ Continued to speak, ‘You could had the hay stacked like a farmhand with grace and less effort. You also made my farmhands jealous and envious.’
Shaking his head in remembrance, Big Jim followed me to my office, I hefted the back pack with no effort at all down to my office.
I remembered that time, Dad had wanted hay for the heifers, we were raising heifers for beef that year. Calling around, Dad and myself, went to Big Jim’s ranch to grab some hay bales for a good price.
I was the loser that day, my brother gone to work and my younger sister couldn’t pitched the bales, too young, to the old trailer, we used that day.
I hated the heifers for the years, I went vegetarian for many years after that.
‘Your ranch? Still in your family?’ I asked Big Jim, as we walk to my office. It was a nice spread too, diverse in areas, cattle, apple and peach orchards, another crops and still respecting the landscape where it used to be years ago.
‘Sold it to my grandson and then he sold it in parcels to a developer for lots of money, housing, retail etc.’ Big Jim remarked in sorrow and sadness.
‘I am sorry to hear that, it was a good ranch with lots of potential for years to come.’ I said to him, opening my door to the office that I use for my work.
Walking into my office, I placed his back pack in one of the armchairs I used for meetings instead of table.
Big Jim looked around seeing my office, noticing all sorts of items that I collected over the years. ‘ Are you happy?’ He asked me, seriously in a tone, I hardly hear him use even in my childhood..
Big Jim looked at home, here in my office. I made tea for both of use, raiding my stash of biscuits and my lunch bag for him. He looked like he hasn’t had enough food recently. Skinner, his stature shrunk from what I remember, tall and imposing at one time. Once a big presence in years past, now an old man, Big Jim is not what I had remembered.
I didn’t answer him back yet. ‘ No, I am not happy here and I am not sure why.’
‘Big Jim.? Why are you here, it’s a long drive from your home.’ I handed him his teacup.
Big Jim asked for milk for his tea. I raided the lunch room for it, I never take milk or cream or sugar in mine.
He waited for several minutes, drinking tea and eating some sandwiches to give him strength to speak.
‘Roast beef sandwiches? ‘ My favorites, and my intended lunch. I just had enough leftover beef from this past weekend to make a couple sandwiches.
He avoided my questions too. I let it go for now, I wondered how long he traveled by bus, car or hitch hiked ?
I thought carefully, letting him eat his fill.
‘My dreams of your father, Jimmy, had haunting me for years now. Keep telling to pass on his love and keep doing what you love to do.’
Speaking carefully, Big Jim stopped for a moment for sip of tea, wetting his throat. ‘No chance of something stronger?’ He asked, pointing to his tea.
I shook my head, No ‘ I will never get any peace in here to get any work done.’
Big Jim looked at me,’ You look so much like her and yet different but I can still see your dad in you.”
‘Mom, I suspect’ I said to him. I will never know the reason why Mom hooked up with Dad and she already had two children from a previous marriage. She finally married Dad when she obtained a divorce in my teens. What a wonderful graduation gift.
‘Yes, your mom, god, she was a woman that I never thought your dad would meet. Then you came around.’ He smiled at me, remembering the past.
‘I diapered you and your sister’s bottoms too many times when your mother had to help with harvest apples and other fruits for hours on end. And this was on my lands too.’
I chuckled at this, knowing he has the right to say it to me. The stories were constantly told over and over again.
Big Jim leaned over to get something from his back pack. I poured more tea in both our teacups. And waited, my nod to my grandparents, tea must come from a tea pot, not a mug, English to the core.
Swearing quietly to himself, Big Jim slowly went through all the pockets of the backpack. How many pockets did it have?
Taking the chance to check for messages left on my phone, there a lot of messages, I ignored most of them. Will go through them later, thinking quickly.
Now Big Jim needs my attention. I quickly send out a group email, stating that I am in a personal meeting and will contact all, once it was over. I soon saw a message from my head boss asking if the person I am meeting, security need to know? Question.
No, after some thought, I personally emailed him back, saying its family business, no risk to me at all.
‘Here’ Big Jim said to himself, ‘it is’.
Finally found what he was searching for, grabbing the teapot placing it on the coffee table, tea cozy to keep it warm.
Big Jim holding out his hand, something bundled in his hand towards me.
‘For you, from your Dad and my oldest friend, Jimmy. He wanted you to have these and something else too.’
Big Jim closed his eyes after I had taken the bundle from his hand.
Spoke in a fatherlike voice, Tranced.
‘‘Believe in yourself , I believe.
We all believe in you, follow your heart and your calling.
Do not let others sway you off your course.
Give yourself a dream and wish for freedom to do what you are meant to do.
Forget you co workers, family and friends tell you not to follow your dreams, these dreams.
Become what you are and should have been years ago.”
I had then, saw an image of my dad standing next to Big Jim, a shade of himself. Younger man full of life and promise, than the man who raised me and my sister.
A ghost of my Dad watching me and Big Jim, I thought for a moment, I could touch my dad and found him here and now. It felt real enough to touch and give myself a chance to give my dad a hug.
I put down my teacup, wanting to look at my dad. I had remembered seeing pictures of him when he was younger, but not what he appeared to me now.
Early to mid twenties, duck rubber boots, old shirt with dirt engrained and wearing a pair of pants with rips and torn way areas- he always said those were his air conditioned pants. Straw hat ragged at the edges of the rim on his head. Tanned arms and face, weather lined face. Farmer’s face.
It was my Dad, my dad and I can’t believe it. He smiled at me, motioned to Big Jim and to my hand, bundled item.
This, I give you to you to keep on your path and course. To remember the past, Big Jim continued to me. Big Jim chanted this to me, it seemed I did not hear him start to speak but he did. I noticed minutes later.
I remembered the chants from my childhood, scary and mesmerizing at times. I forgotten about this and now I remember.
Big Jim stopped chanting, sipping tea and nibbling on crackers and cheese from my lunch, I did not mind.
You used to paint pretty pictures? He asked me. Still do?
Big Jim continued on like we had a conversation before the chanted message. Had he forgotten? I wondered.
I answered, Yes I still do. Have a look behind you on the walls.
Motioning to the walls behind him, Big Jim turned around to see the paintings I have done.
These are mine I said, ‘ with some pride and some with more skill than my earlier ones as you could recall.
Big Jim carefully stood up on his feet and walked slowly to each of the paintings.
‘ Does your co workers know? He asked me, seeing a sunset painting along with orchard tree in bloom landscape and a portrait of a fellow artist, a friend of mine.
I shook my head no, they think I bought them from an art show but they never really looked at them seriously up close, my signature is on them.
Even though I work in the advertising firm, no one asked for the background of them. I did sometimes notice a few co workers just walk up to them and stare at them for minutes on end. I guess they found it comforting and calming to see a orchard in bloom.
Do you still have the pony drawing, I did for you years ago? I remembered the first time my drawing of a favorite pony made my happy. Clearly after all these years, I still could see it in my mind.
Funny how hearing Big Jim mentioning my earlier attempts, made me recall it.
Yes, he laughed, your dad was so mad at me to insist that you must sign it before I hang it up on my kitchen wall.
Soberly I hope it is still there when I left for here. My grandson, perhaps, possibly thrown it away by now.
He sadly looked at me, they think I am dead you know. Many months I have travelled to see you in person.
Politely I asked him, ‘Would you like to give them a call? They must be worried after all these months,’ with my hand pointing to my desk with a phone.
No, I think not, it is best this way, he said in sorrow. I will soon be with my oldest friend and his lovely wife, your mother.
Can I offer you a place to stay? I asked him, not liking what I just heard the tone and voice in sorrow.
I must leave you now with your gifts in your hands
listen to the words spoken
true words it was said to you
Big Jim, then got up and walked to the door.
I watched carefully, standing up to say goodbye to see him out and seeing that he left the back pack near the chair behind.
I looked quickly to say that he had left his pack behind.
I saw him clearly, seeing Big Jim then fade away the closer he walked to the door, then he was gone from my sight. He waited to give me his message and gifts before leaving forever.
I now know Big Jim was a ghost or image of a man I once knew that waited for a long time to fulfill his boyhood friend, my dad, dreams and wishes for me they both have for me.
The bundle, he handed to me, I finally opened up to reveal necklaces, different ones, some with beads, others, no beads but stones. Wish stones and promise beads, I remember now.
I remembered some of them . Big Jim wearing them proudly years ago, another one – I loved it simplicity in making.
Big Jim had promised it to me when I was a girl of 8 years old. Dad was pleased with it. He had helped to find the stones to make it, years ago. He gave it to Big Jim, who finally gave it to me after many years. I had forgotten about it until now.
Tigers eyes, topaz and turquoise, all semi precious stones.
A quick count gave me five necklaces, Big Jim gave me. And high quality ones too, sinew, waxed cotton strings, silver and gold chains. His best ones, he worked on for many years.
The phone ran constantly in the background, I ignored it completely, the calls went to the answering machine instead.
It seemed to be a dream but it was not quite a dream.
All I have to say for sure is that Big Jim was here in my office, teacup and saucer, crumbs on the pates and his pack back. It was the evidence, that I was visited by a living ghost or two of them.
No, I will wait till I get home for now before going through the pack back and the necklaces. I put them around my neck and you know? they feel right and good to me. They are mine.
Beads, semi precious stones, silver, gold, sinew and waxed strings. All of them gave me a strongest vibes of strength and dreams that I never had before.
They, the necklaces repeated back to me the same message that Big Jim gave me.
Be strong, Be true to myself and be brave.
I sipped the last of the tea for a long time, thinking what did happen just now. Holding my teacup, high to the chair where Big Jim just sat in.
A Toast to you, Big Jim, I give thank you and hope that you are in a place you want to be in. Words that were just spoken, I will hold them true.
I sipped my tea to toast the shade next to the chair I swear I can still see my dad, his shade still lingering around.
Dad? I miss you a lot, wish you were still alive. And I will take your wishes and dreams, I will make them come true.
To myself, my toast turned inward, personal.
Be myself, forget others’ opinion
Be true to my soul and gifts that were given
Remember the course you should have taken
Take it now. Do it now for my ghosts to be in peace
I jumped out of the chair, tea cup in hand, final sip. Placing the tea cup on my desk, I then taken my paintings off the walls of my office. Finally, with a deep sigh, started to gather all my personal effects, leaving enough room to use my computer.
I called office supply downstairs to find out if they have empty boxes, if they do, send them to my office as soon as possible.
I am packing up, my former life in an advertising office, and I am scared to hell.
The necklaces are empowering me to be true to myself. I quickly emailed my boss of many years that I will be quitting by the end of the day. Effective immediately, I emailed my contacts to say that I will not be available through the office after today.
Another email to my now former clients, advising to seek out another representative, and I will in due course email them my preferred reps, my work emails copied and sent to my personal email, along with other personal information.
I boxed up my personal items, catchalls etc, paintings, notebooks, all the stuff I had tried to make myself feel like home while working in my office.
Desk tables, shoes, everything that is mine once the boxes finally here. The poor clerk looked confused when I asked for a dolly or trolley to help my move my stuff.
Trolley loaded with paintings and boxes of my office stuff. Along with backpack too, made a couple trips to my SUV. Especially the paintings, I didn’t want them get accidentally punctured or ripped.
I dragged everything to my SUV. Thanking the whim when I had decided to be practical is easily than price when I bought it a couple years ago.
My SUV took everything, I gave it, it had a lot of practice.
I headed back to my office to double check everything and to await my boss’s appearance.
My boss was not pleased about it and had wondered out loud if the paintings that were on my office walls were a part of business decoration. They were not as I produced evidence to say otherwise. I guess he thought I was stealing them.
I said in response, they are mine as they have my signature on them, I had painted them years ago.
Thinking quickly, my boss asked if they were for sale? He always loved them whenever he came into my office. Finding out that was the main reason why he wanted meetings with clients in my office. It made me happy when he said that.
Possibly down the road, I told him, when I decided to sell them, but not now.
He handed me a piece of paper plus a sheet of contacts, I could use along with his business card. As a reference, he said I always did a fine job working in his business.
Nodding quickly, I said thank you.
I had long figured you were almost marking time with us. Sorry to see you go, he stopped speaking for a few minutes before continuing.
Your guest? today? Had something to do with your decision?
Yes I said, partly in truth.
He looked me strangely, you look like you should before you seemed lost and unsure.
Keep in touch and please let me know about the paintings, I know some galleries that might be interested in them
Thank you again, I will and soon in touch with you, I said to him.
I did it, I quit my job after many months of thinking of it when I drove home, fingering my necklaces along the way.
I reached my house I loved and repaired to the best of my ability. An early 20th century bungalow with enough rooms to paint and dream at the same time.
Quiet place with garden and a reflective nod to my childhood, nature and soil. It had at one time fruit trees lining it and now only a few survived under my care and knowledge after many years of neglect. I love quirkiness of its kitchen, dining room. The greenhouse attached to one side allows sunlight inside throughout the seasons.
My closest friend, who is in the construction industry wanted me to upgrade to the ideal modern style and change the inside layout completely when I first bought it.
I said no. Not a chance. As friends though, he did helped me to upgrade a few things like electricity, when I first moved in, it was hazardous. Minor repairs to maintain the atmosphere of the bungalow.
But I kept the original idea of it, patio and veranda surrounding it, it is home to me.
Just the right size for me, place to dream, paint and to relax.
And it is mine. Unloading my SUV, when I finally arrived, carrying everything in. Boxes, paintings, backpack, then I changed finally into casual clothing to put away what I brought home.
Rummaged through my fridge for snacks, I looked up at the clock on the wall, it was only 2 pm. Thought it was later, time wise.
Reminding myself to go through the pack later, I ate some vegetables and dip. Then I went online to check my accounts. I kept my finances in check for the past few years. I managed to keep any expenses low, along with stock market lately. I am glad of it
Credit cards low balances, I keep paying it off weekly, some I can completely pay off.
I needed this extra push, thinking of Big Jim, the push and gifts he gave me.
His back pack, I had not opened it yet, thinking about it, I thought perhaps I will contact his family very soon.
More surprises inside, my signed drawing of a pony, I did for him years ago, carefully wrapped in a protective covering. More jewellery, I was was not much into making jewellery, though I did admire the process. And photos of Big Jim and my Dad when they were young and full of promise.
Big Jim, I remembered then, he did some on the side for families and friends. I had asked him years ago why he did not sell his jewelry, the necklaces, bracelets, earrings and rings.
He had said to me with a smile. They are made with magic and it is magic to the people I give them too.
Yes, made with magic, friendships and love too. Smiling to myself, that is Big Jim to the core. Dad? Yes, freedom to be what I should have been years ago and now. To be more than I have ever dreamed.
I puzzled to myself. I am a farmer’s daughter with skills to make a painter – an artist. Friend to all and yet I know I will find my true self. All of them and more.
I really made a killing this past few weeks. Literally though.
Sold 4 of my paintings. 2 of them to my former boss, 2 to a local art collector. Commissions are coming in. Magazines write ups too.
Gallery shows scheduled for the coming months
I had signed up for some art classes, I needed more instructions on a few things through a local art school. Soon found out that I know more techniques and others not too much, but more than the other students.
I never had the opportunity to get my degree in fine arts before. I had always worked my way, self taught myself, mostly learning what works and what I manage to gather from other fellow artists.
So sign up I did, for mostly for techniques that I never managed to find out. Within weeks, I was offered a part time position to teach beginners, I said yes.
I still wear the necklaces that Big Jim gave me. The strands are constantly fusing together as I get my goals together. My guess is, soon it will be one necklace with beads, semi precious stones and other objects.
My personal guess is the necklaces once I had accomplished one goal or wish, it fuses itself to another, completing itself.
The fused necklaces so far still look barbaric to some, but it also represents the wish and hopes of a few people very dear to me.
As for the back pack, I still have it. But I did get hold of Big Jim’s eldest son eventually and he told me that Big Jim had passed away weeks before he met me. So I did meet up with a ghost or something else that day.
But he muttered quietly to me, Joel is his name, he remembered me too.
He said Jim that is, he had to complete a promise to his oldest friend, he kept saying to all of his family but before he died. Joel said his dad asked him to pack all his jewelry and other items including the drawings and photos that he protected carefully before putting them in the pack.
Joel, there were the ones I did years ago for your dad, I told him in sorrow.
Sighing in relief Joel replied,’ I didn’t know that. I knew he treasured them even from saving them from the bonfire one time. My Aunt Tia had thought they were trash and decided that it was time to clean out the house. Dad was furious and banned his sister from cleaning the house for months on end.’
I soon explained to Joel what happened that day his dad visited me. I thought it was real, it was real to me. It still felt real to me.
Everything was told in much details, Joel wanted more information than what I had remembered.
Joel told me to accept as such it was, message or dream from Big Jim and my Dad.
Backpack? Joel didn’t want it back, including the jewelry inside along with photos of Big Jim and my Dad, Jim in their youth. Young and full of life, a couple of myself and my mom too, the orchards the ranch and other drawings, I vaguely remember doing them including the ponies that Big Jim looked after.
My parents and Big Jim’s family too.
I had wondered where they went, Joel said.
Would you like them back? I asked
No, Joel thought about it for a couple seconds. ‘Send me the copies if you could though I will keep them safe from harm. And from the bonfires too. He said in humour.
He told me, the back pack and jewelry are mine as his dad had requested it in his will and now since they are in my hands. The family approves and Dad had said they are magic awaiting new owners.
Sometimes I remember, he sold a few that needed a more luck or push to be safe. You might find a few that needed that, Joel said to me.
I started a series of paintings recently, mostly my memories of my childhood, my favorite places, scenery mostly. My family, old friends that meant a lot to me from years ago.
Big Jim, My dad Jim and my Mom, Liz are featured in some of them. Corrals, mountains, forests, streams and lakes as I remember them, I paint them on my canvas. I recall them vividly in my mind as I placed them on the canvas.
They will be remembered as the necklaces around my neck, they will be. It tells me so in my dreams.
I will eventually find others that could use the encouragement to be themselves and I will see them do so.
Shine, I will and others too.
@Darlene May 2019
all rights reserved
PS: Still working on the necklaces for the post, Am hoping to get that done soon. My previous attempts were disastrous to say the least.