Joy on Display

Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Burn.

Earlier in the year, I’d filed for an extension to delay filing my Federal taxes for last year. The 15th of April had come during a time  when  I was too sick to stand, let alone think clearly on mathematical  issues. The girls took care of me and took care of themselves, but they couldn’t do my taxes for me. And taxes for a year in which a divorce takes place can be a bit disconcerting. So once again, I’m playing catch-up and have just a few weeks to get my taxes done and locate all the documents that are missing and, mostly likely, are buried  in the six over- sized  notebooks  of  “divorce  stuff”  that  covered  bank  statements, house appraisals, and other records of assets and liabilities.

Flying By Night novelI was not in a smiling mood as I dug through a few hundred pounds of paperwork…until I came across a photograph. A very unusual  photograph that had fallen into the wrong file drawer.

Me. Pregnant.

It’s the only picture that was taken of me while I was pregnant with either of my girls. I’d stood my camera on a tri- pod in our tiny back yard at the old house we lived in, put the flash on automatic, and I’d perched on a bench with Shannon, then two years old. We wore our  matching Mommy-daughter outfits—navy print jumper, white shirt, tights,  matching black fedoras. The photo is off-center, Shannon is pulling her hat over her face, and I’m glancing back at the camera as if I’m surprised to find it there. I don’t even look like myself in the picture. But it makes me smile. And I know just what I’ll do with this photo.

I’ll add it to the Joy Table…or to a new one.

During the last months of my marriage, around the time I filed for divorce but before my ex moved out, I started the Joy Table. I desperately needed something to remind me that there had been good times in my life and that there would be again. My girls told me I’d forgotten how to smile and they’d forgotten the sound of my laughter. But there was so little in my life then that brought me joy and the pursuit of joy became a focus in my life.

To be happy again. To have joy again.

When my ex moved out, he didn’t pack a thing. Nothing. Okay, maybe an overnight bag and some drycleaning, but that’s it. He still had hopes that I’d cave in and he’d be back in a couple of months. But months passed and his actions furthered my resolve not to reconcile and still, he had not packed his belongings. I spent most of the Fall going through closets—in fact, I still have two rooms left to check for remnants of his stuff and some space-hogging crap of his in the garage that’s going to his house  this  week.  I  spent  all  my  spare  time  packing  up  his clothes,  his  grandmother’s  china  (wrapped  in  newspaper,  no less), his high school trophies, his condoms  (technically half mine but I had no intentions of ever using them), his  college textbooks, his shoes, his furniture, his mother’s hand-me-down furniture, his stamp collection, his #&@*! TiVo, his DVDs, his old vinyl albums from the 70’s, his report cards, all the letters I’d sent him during our courtship that he never answered, his computer equipment, his CD’s, his  videos, his Waterford, his ties, the presents I’d given him, all the things that were indelibly his. My friends called me a kind-hearted fool for not hauling  it all out to the curb and setting fire to it. I certainly could have writ- ten an entire book with the time I put into packing his belongings vs torching them.

In the course of spending my hard-to-find spare minutes packing  what he wouldn’t pack because he needed to control the situation and if  he didn’t pack, he wouldn’t really have to leave, I came across a box of old photos. For 20 years, I was the family photographer, the one behind the  camera and rarely in pictures. But I was in these. Most were spares from  double- prints. Some were just plain bad shots. There was a couple of me at 16, all disco’ed out in shiny satin and 6-inch heels. And then one of  me  at 17 in skin-tight black satin jeans that were probably a size 3. I  found  myself smiling at many of the pics because they brought back memories of what I was thinking or feeling at the time the photo was snapped.

“These are too good just to keep in an old box,” Shan- non told me. “We need to display them somehow.”

I agreed. But how to display them?

During that  time,  I  spent  one-on-one  time  with  my younger daughter by going to garage sales with her every Saturday morning. It was “our thing” and she got to have me all to herself…until she later decided she preferred to sleep late on the weekend. At one neighborhood sale, we’d bought a huge picture frame for two or three dollars. The frame was good, the glass was clean, but the artwork was horrible. Instead of making a collage of my favorite photos to hang on the wall in lieu of the artwork, I  turned the frame into a coffee table, setting it atop four short pedestals from a pottery shop.

The photos in the collage are all ones that make me smile just to look at them. My ex once complained that he wasn’t in any of the dozens of photos on my Joy Table. Um, yeah…

To this day, I can’t look at the table without smiling. It’s the little things that make me feel good.

Me with my girls on the beach at Thanksgiving

Me in a tight denim dress I’d made and in the best shape of my life at age 33.

Me pushing Aislinn in a swing at her aunt’s house

My girls snuggled up with my parents

Stonehenge

Me at Avalon in Glastonbury

My girls leaning on my older brother

Me in the mountains, playing in a stream

Me at writer’s conferences with editors

Me with writer pals Vicki Hinze, Marge Smith, Monica Pradhan Caltabiano, Inglath Cooper, Teresa Hill, Maggie Shayne, Lisa Gardner, and Jenny Crusie.

Me hanging out with my Druid friends in Mobile

Me with my Black Forest Clan friends

Me with Shannon, both of us in cool tights and boots

Me dressed as Xena or as a pirate wench and wielding my sword against my former fencing coach

Me gazing at my newborn daughter

It’s time for me to start making a new Joy Table, complete with new photographs of new friends and new good times. Meanwhile,  maybe  I’ll  do  my  taxes  on  my  Joy  Table.  That should help, at least a little.