What Do You Want When You Get Out Of There?
In 1992 I was in a really bad situation. I found my self living in Oakland staying in a junkyard next to a rehearsal studio warehouse where bands and musicians practiced or lived. The manager of this establishment was even charging rent at the structures located in that junkyard next door. One of those renters was my husband, the aspiring musician who drank too much, and me, mother of a 3 year old and six months pregnant with my second child. It wasn’t pretty, ideal or fun. The truck containers converted into two adjacent rooms had no bathroom, no kitchen and no running water. There was an outhouse in the Music studios parking lot where they went to the bathroom and showers were only available in the public men’s bathroom in the main building. In order for me and my 3 year old to shower, it had to be really quick in that men’s room while my husband stood guard. I don’t know why I had not already left him since he had already slapped me around back in the outskirts of Los Angeles before we moved to Oakland.
It had all finally gotten to me and I went to the public phone at the side entrance to the warehouse. I was breaking down and calling my mother collect. She answered the phone and I began sobbing “Please mom, send me a greyhound ticket for my pregnant self and my three year old to come home.”.
She apologised and said she couldn’t help me. She told me there was no home to come home to and she couldn’t help with the tickets either, seeing that she did not possess the funds to buy me the greyhound tickets. But she proceeded to ask me, calm as could be, “What do you want?”
“Really mom? I just told you I need to get out of here, this is no place for me to be having children.” I frantically blurted out.
She said “I know but what do you want when you get out of there?”
“I don’t know I can’t think that far ahead. First I need to get out of here.” I desperately replied.
She said “I want you to paint or write or draw what you want when you get out of there.”
I could hear I was getting nowhere with her. I then yelled at her, “You just don’t understand mom, you don’t understand!” Slamming the receiver down on the pay phone I ended that call .
Mom had been my only hope. Sobbing I grabbed my three year old’s hand and pulled him along as I stormed back to the converted truck containers we rented as a room. I stared out the front door, the windows had been spray painted since there were no curtains. I looked out at the dismal yard and mumbled to myself the same words my mom had just said to me. What do I want when I get out of here? Well I sure as hell don’t want to be wanting to look at that and I slammed our front door shut.
Again I mumbled to myself those words again “What do I want to see when I get out of here?” Suddenly my three year old’s crayons caught my eye. I grabbed them and sat next to the far back white wall.
I drew out a rectangle and framed the inside of it with pretty curtains. Then from where I drew the street to one side of the window, I drew a walkway bordered on both sides with a yard of green grass. One side of the grass had a small tree. In front was a white car parked on our tree lined street. Across the street were two houses visible, one with a chain linked fence. Proud of my masterpiece I stepped back and said “That’s what I want to see out my front window when I get out of here.”
Just then my husband strolled in intoxicated and critical of my drawing on the wall. I explained that’s what I wanted to see when we finally get out of there. He laughed pointing out that I couldn’t afford a window and pointing out there were no window sills in my picture. I said “Of course not, it’s a giant picture window.” Every night going to sleep in that dismal place for the next three months I would all but crawl into that picture, imagining what the house would be like.
And yes, eventually I got out of there but the view out of that front window was nothing like I had drawn. I had made a paper drawing of the outside of the room before we moved.
Fast forward seven years to 1999. One day I was bored in front of my computer desk next to a big picture window, at my house of six months. All but forgotten was that crayon drawing I used to fall asleep to. While looking through some old drawings, I stumbled on to the drawing of the outside of that room in Oakland. Suddenly memories came flooding back of that crayon drawn picture I used to fall asleep to.
Remembering, I rolled my chair back from my desk to look out my front window. Holy Cow! There I was looking at the walkway and the tree lined street with the small tree in the front yard and the house across the street with the chain link fence. It was almost exactly like I had imagined it seven years back.
You know? Even though I didn’t realize it then, it was my mother’s first lesson of many, that thoughts become things and that what you focus on becomes your reality. Something I’m relearning once again
In memory of my mom
Angel Haley Acuna
8/7/ 1949 to 2/2/²017