Inspired by the movie, “The Hours,” based on the Michael Cunningham novel.
Yalda was the painter in the family. She was the youngest of six sisters. The other five were dancers. Her mother encouraged her to dance. When her father saw her watching him paint, he thought she might be an artist. Gabriel wasn’t opposed to dancing. It was just that it would be nice if one of the girls took up his passion.
He showed her the ropes. How to hold a brush. How to make it fly across the canvas. How to mix colors to get the results she wanted.
Her sisters were not unhappy about Yalda. Five dancers in the family was enough they thought. It was different for their mother. She wanted all her daughters to follow in her footsteps. She would choreograph the dancers. The daughters would dance them. This disappointment festered with the mother.
“C’mon, Mom,” her oldest begged. “You’ve got us. Let Yalda do her own thing.” She was beginning to realize that her mother might not be the encourager she always thought.
“I’m trying,” her mother said and hugged her daughter. “But I can’t help it.”
“You’ve got us,” her second daughter said. She was always the quiet one. But it was important that she speak up now.
Her mother hated the way she felt. It was even causing a wedge in her marriage. Her husband had never objected to her encouraging the daughters to dance. But he had realized that her obsession was not healthy. He kept his mouth shut and let his daughters do the talking.
Then one day, Yeta, his fifth daughter, came to him. She was crying. “Mom is going crazy.”
Her father laid down his brush. He followed his daughter to Yalda’s room. Yalda was no where to be seen. But his wife was crashing her daughter’s canvases. She was splattering paint every where. The father stepped back into the hall, closed the door and said to Yeta, “Your mother has to work this out of her system.” But he knew this was not about working this out of her system. This was much more than that.
When she was finished, his wife left the room. She had paint splotched on her face, on her dress, even on her bare feet. Her hair was a mess. She did not speak to her husband. She did not speak to her daughter. She walked into her bedroom, put on a pair of shoes, gathered up a few things, including her purse. She left the house and got into her car and drove away.
When her sisters came home from the movies, Yeta told them what had happened. Their father was in the studio painting. The oldest, Ana, came to the studio and brought her father his favorite tea. There were tears in his eyes. He took the cup and drank it, then said, “It’s all my fault. It’s all my fault.”
The other sisters came into the studio and gathered around their father. Then they cried. All of them cried. It was Ana who finally said, “Let’s go clean Yalda’s room.”
That night the man and his daughters discussed what they were to do. “We’re not going to the police and report her missing. We will just tell everyone that your mother went on a long trip and we don’t know when she will be back.”
A week later a policeman knocked on the door. “We understand your wife is missing.”
He invited the officer inside. “She is missing.”
The officer sat down with the man and his girls. They explained what happened. Not the part about Yalda’s room. But the disappointment she had felt about Yalda not becoming a dancer.
“She left of her own free will,” Ana said. There was a bit of anger in her voice. But mostly sadness. She missed her mother.
“I see,” the officer said. Then he perused the neighborhood. Two of the neighbors had seen her leave. She didn’t look like someone harmed or in harm’s way. She looked the way she always looked, except for the paint splotches. They definitely mentioned the paint splotches.
A detective came to see the family. He asked about the splotches.
The father told him what happened.
“Why didn’t you have her hospitalized?”
“How would you feel if your wife went crazy one day and attacked your daughter’s room?”
“I see what you mean,” the detective said.
“We were all in such shock. We figured she was doing what she needed to do.”
The detective had his answers. He left the family in peace. But the family didn’t feel any peace. The girls and their father worried about the missing woman. And they missed her. They missed her laugh. They missed her cutting up. They missed the Sunday water fights and picnics. They missed her voice as they went about their work.
The five daughters continued to dance. They formed a dance troupe called The Sisters and went on tour. For a few moments before each performance they stood in a circle in silence, thinking of their mother, then they dedicated the performance to her.
Yalda went on painting. In the early mornings, she slipped out of the house. She went to the meadows nearby and worked at her canvas. After a few years, she began to win prizes for her work. When asked, she shared that her paintings were for her mother. When she went and sat in the meadow, she thought of her mother as she moved her brush. That was why her landscapes reminded the viewer of a dancer.
After five years, Gabriel, her husband, finished a large canvas of his wife. It was his best work. Unlike his other paintings which were expensive, he gave this one away to a museum. In his mind, it reminded him that he had to let go of his wife. But it was hard.
Over the next few years, The Sisters travelled around the world. Yalda stayed at home close to her father. She got married and had a daughter. And each of the other sisters did as well. When the family gathered on occasions, they were a large family. They laughed and enjoyed each other’s company.
Just before everyone left, things went quiet. Gabriel and his daughters stepped away from the large group. They walked in silence to the meadow where Yalda painted her canvases. There they each remembered the woman who had left. They remembered one special moment each had with her. Then they returned to the house.
As they left their father, each sister said him, “Soon.” Each had never given up on the belief that their mother would one day return to them.
How sad. Where did she go, what is she doing now?