Some people live organized, uncluttered lives. Me, I’m a messy, mixed-media kind of girl. I use every crayon in the Crayola box, and I’m not afraid to color outside the lines–most of the time, anyway. But there’s a certain comfort that comes of boundaries, of brushing preset colors into numbered spaces on a printed canvas.
And so it was with my sister Heidi, the impish little girl who eventually learned to play it safe. She had a wild streak in her, and she told
whoppers stories like no one’s business. But life stripped away much of her sass, mostly before she reached adulthood. Over the course of many years, Multiple Sclerosis ravaged her limbs and organs. She was first confined to a wheelchair, and then a hospital bed with side rails. She could have given up, but no. Radio tuned to Christian broadcasts, brushes clenched between palsied fingers, Heidi propped herself up and painted.
To a trained artist, Paint By Number sets might seem a little tacky. To an unfettered soul, they’re probably too restricting. But for someone as isolated as Heidi was–surrounded by colorless walls in a sterile bedroom–they afford a creative outlet. Wings, if you will. They encouraged her to dream about places she’d never seen and probably never would. They gave her a voice, one that told the outside world: “I am here, I am capable, I am.
It's Heidi's birthday today, and I find myself staring at this painting (a gift she gave me just last summer), find myself thinking about why it is that I haven't framed it yet. It’s as if, in doing so, I’d be placing boundaries around the artist herself…around Heidi, the mischievous little girl who doesn’t have to color inside the lines, ever again.