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As Drawn by Dawn

by Paula Shablo 6 months ago in family · updated 26 days ago

Marigold Meadows

Drawing by Paula Shablo

Penny tells me that the first sound I made after my “trauma” was an out-loud laugh. It figures it was Danny who made me do it.

Penny says hearing it made her and Mae cry, they were so happy.

I guess you should know that if Danny was old enough to do something funny enough to make me laugh, he had to be a few months old at least. So it was probably six or seven months since I had made any sounds at all.

It’s hard for me to believe. I would have been walking by then, probably for quite a while. I guess that would have put me at fifteen or sixteen months old myself.

I lord my nine-month seniority over Danny all the time, but it doesn’t actually matter to either of us.

What I’m trying to say is babies are noisy. There are babies here, and they never seem to shut up, unless they’re asleep. So when Penny and Mae—and everyone else, I guess—say I was silent all that time…well. Like I said, it’s hard for me to believe.

Daddy says I was in a state of shock. I get that.

I don’t remember the men who broke in and took my mother away. I don’t remember the man who dragged my high chair, with me strapped into the seat, out the door to the stoop, where he dumped me head first into a garbage dumpster.

I know my sisters rescued me and took care of me, but I don’t remember any of it.

Still, I totally get being in shock after something like that. I mean, if it happened to me now, I would be in shock—and I was just a baby at the time!

So, I laughed out loud, and everyone got all excited.

I laugh all the time, but it takes a lot to get me to laugh out loud. Usually I kind of make this breathy sound in my chest and my shoulders shake. Same thing with crying—I don’t even remember the last time I cried out loud.

Danny cried out loud. Man, he was noisy. I remember, when we were really little, trying to shush him. It always scared me to hear him bellowing the way he did.

Shush, little baby!

I still get scared when babies cry. There’s a part of me that feels a panicky certainty that the sound will bring danger. My heart races and I can’t completely catch my breath.

I guess there is some part of me, deep down, that does remember those long days of waiting for someone to find us. That’s the part of me that remains afraid even though I know I’m safe now.

I like it underground. Danny likes it outside, but he’s always stayed with me if no one could persuade me to “get some Vitamin D”. I mean, I go outside…sometimes. I don’t know why it’s hard for me. Once I’m out, I’m okay for a little while, and then—


Daddy uses this ploy: “Do it for Danny. You know he loves the sunshine.”

He really does. He loves to be outside, running around, digging in the garden, getting dirty and suntanned.

He’s so cute.

I guess I should tell you about Danny.

First, he’s not my brother or anything like that.

Rosa, his mother, came to the group because she was fleeing an abusive relationship and was staying with one of my mother’s cousins. They attended a 4th of July picnic at my grandparent’s house. When we—Mamma, Penny, Mae and I—didn’t show up, Gramps sent Morty to check on us.

That’s how we ended up rescued.

Rosa was there, observing it all, and asked to join everyone at the camp. She brought fabric and yarn, a sewing machine, and food—contributions to the cause. She also brought newborn Danny.

I swear that baby was born to save me. Who knows how long it would have been before I came out of my shell-shocked condition if I hadn’t wanted to be with him so badly from the moment I laid eyes on him!

He loves the sunshine, but for me, he IS the sunshine.

On the day I want to tell you about, he’d left me in the compound and gone out with Sid and Ash to pick some tomatoes. I was painting a picture for Penny, so no one argued with me when I said I wanted to stay in.

I started doing art work when I was really young, maybe three years old. I’ve always been good at it. While Danny was scribbling with crayons in one of our coloring books, I was drawing pictures in every blank space, adding to the scene I would eventually color in.

When Daddy and Penny saw what I could do, they decided that I needed more supplies, and Daddy started looking for things like paper and colored pencils and paints every time the groups went out hunting for salvageable items.

On this particular day, I was five or six, I guess. Daddy had found watercolors and brushes somewhere or other, and Penny asked me to paint her a picture of Grandpa and Grandma’s cabin. The day before I had gone outside to look at it and draw it, but I wanted to paint indoors. No one wants dust and bugs on their paintings, for heaven sakes.

But within half an hour, Penny was back, demanding that I come outside. “You have to, Dawn! And bring your paper and pencils.”

“Penny!” I whined. “I don’t want to!”

But she was jamming my sun hat on my head and shoving me into a light sweater. “Please, believe me, Dawn. You will not be sorry!”

Penny is a fussbudget, Daddy says. She worries that I will get heat stroke or a bad sunburn because I don’t go out much. She’s the one who should worry—all that red hair, and her skin like milk. Mae and I are darker, like Daddy.

Still, I let her baby me. She loves it, even now. Someday she will be a great Mom.

I followed her across the open area and into the hallway. We went up the stairs and stepped out into the sunlight. I squinted my eyes nearly shut and pulled my hat down.

Penny rushed me past the vegetable garden, where Sid and Ash were still picking tomatoes and putting them in a wicker basket.

I stalled, watching them. In my head, I was already composing a new painting.

Penny came back and grabbed my hand. “Come on!” she said. “You have to see this.”

We went beyond the fields, and I was getting scared. “Too far!” I gasped.

“It’s okay. I promise."

Marigold Meadows

And then, I saw it—a small meadow, with waving grass and hundreds of flowers.

Danny was running through yellow-orange flowers, covered in pollen and dancing with bees and butterflies.

He was beautiful. I couldn’t take my eyes off him.

I knew it then—he was my soul mate. He was born for me. I was saved by him, and he’d be saving me forever.

Mae was sitting at the edge of the meadow, artfully braiding dandelions into a crown. There was a big orange blossom in her hair.

“What is it, Penny?” I asked.

“It’s a Marigold.” Penny backed away into the shade of a big pear tree.

“Aren’t you going to wear one, too?” I asked.

Mae giggled. “They make her sneeze and cough,” she explained. “Daddy told her to keep away.”

Penny nodded and wrinkled her nose. “I think they stink,” she said. “And I should go help Sid in the garden. But I wanted you to see.”

Danny ran up to me, wove the stem of a Marigold into my hair and planted a kiss on my nose. “Pretty flower for the pretty girl,” he said.

I grinned. I could feel my cheeks getting hot and knew I was blushing bright pink, but I didn’t care.

Penny started back to the garden, but she turned around and said, “Danny, don’t get too dusted up with that pollen, or the bees will follow you home. They need it, you know.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Only Danny could have gotten away with calling Penny “ma’am”. He’s always polite and means it as a respectful thing.

I had completely forgotten about the cabin painting. I sat near Mae with my pad and pencils and started to draw.

Marigolds and wild flowers and waving grass; Mae with a blossom in her hair; and Danny, dancing with bees and butterflies; my pencil flew across the paper, trying to capture it all.

Mae adjusted the angle of my hat a couple of times.

I think I stayed outside a couple of hours that day—a record!

Later, I painted a bunch of Marigolds and presented the picture to Penny. “These won’t make you sneeze,” I told her.

Her smile said everything, and the tear on her cheek said the rest. “I’ll hang it right now, and I’ll love it forever. I love you forever, too.”

That was a good day.

That was a day when trauma meant nothing to us.


Dawn makes her debut in my novella, Starting in the Middle of The End. If you'd like to know more about Penny, Mae and Dawn, click the title link. Thank you!

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Paula Shablo

Daughter. Sister. Mother. Grandma. Author. Artist. Caregiver. Musician. Geek.

(Order fluxuates.)

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