This past Saturday was a beautiful day of weather very becoming to the month of March. Or any month for that matter. A day like that–we’ll take it any time we can get it. Temperature in the low 70’s, light breeze, gorgeous sky and shining sun.
But Mess Cat and I were inside for much of the day. Saturday was the day we loaded up things that had filled our Mama and Daddy’s home–the house we grew up in. Mess Cat had packed up most of what needed boxing up all on her own. A gift to the rest of us. And one that should not be underestimated. That girl can pack. She is so organized. Everything was labeled and taped and ready to go. As the guys were taking things to the truck, my sister and I sat on the floor in the “big” room and went through the children’s books that had been read and loved and laughed over for many years.
For almost eighteen years, my Mama read stories to her grandchildren. Before that she read to us and to nieces and nephews and neighbors and children in classrooms in school and children at the library storytimes and anyone else who loved to hear a good story. Reading was one of her most favorite things EVER. And sharing that love with others, especially children, that was her thing. It’s where she shined brightest.
As we sat and looked through book after book–Little Golden books, Eric Carle, books by the Provensens, Little Critter and Pooh and Peanuts books, Choose Your Own Adventure books, stories about Cinderella from all over the world, books we grew up with and books that were acquired especially for the grands–memory after memory washed over us. We sat quietly, each lost in her own memory of a story or the pictures that took us back thirty-five or forty years. Ahem. At other times, we laughed over a story that triggered a particular memory of Mama reading it.
And then there were the tears.
I held them back as long as I could, but they really had to come.
Because, in the midst of all that we have packed (okay mostly Mess Cat) and decided what to do about, the place where I felt my Mama the most–
it was in these books.
Tonight as I pulled my pan of baking sweet potatoes out of the oven, a smell wafted up to my nose and I was overwhelmed with the memory of coming into the house at Blackberry Flats years ago when I was only a little older than our Princess is now. It was dark early and cold–the sun had set in true Wonderful World of Disney Technicolor fashion and all that was left to do was go in for the night. Supper was in the oven, and coming in from outside, the heat of the oven enveloped me as I closed the door to the laundry room where the back door was. In that moment tonight, I was home and eleven or twelve and all was safe and warm and right again.
And yes, there are tears.
But as much time as Mama spent in the kitchen, taking care of us and making us special treats–brownies or cookies or chewy bars (oh my gracious goodness)–I did not sense her as much there as I did in her books.
It made me wonder where my people will “find” me one day. Will it be in the kitchen? Will it be as they go through my yarn stash? (ummm yeah, there’s some in the closet too–sorry y’all) Will it be in my books? Or will it be when they close this laptop for the last time?
I find my greatest joy in my people and words. The folks who are mine. The words in books and the words I piece together to share my thoughts and stories. Is that where they will feel me close?
Tonight I am thankful for the time with my sister. For the joy of sharing memories and laughter and the times we had to look away to keep from falling into each other’s arms, crying the tears that have threatened to surface since we told Mama goodbye. I give thanks for the grace and love of a sister. One who loves you even when you’re being a jerk and always shows up. No matter what. One who loves you so much she gives you the gift of her time and energy and effort. Because she knows you can’t anymore.
I am most thankful for the books that Mama held close that now hold her close and share her memory with anyone who reads them. The sweet pictures, the funny stories, the great way Mama made a book come to life with her voice and intonations and peeking over her glasses. I miss that so much. She gave a love of reading to each one of my children and to so many others. That’s a legacy that is priceless.
Just like her.
Love to all. May you find your day filled with a great story.