Well, we are just about done. The house at Blackberry Flats is almost all cleared out, Mama. I know you’ve probably been shaking your head, wondering what was taking me so long to get it in gear. I can’t say, really, except that it was just too much to think about. To get myself together enough to do. I know you sure must be proud of Mess Cat and Leroy. They really made it happen, didn’t they? And Sister, she helped too. And the prayers and ideas and help from Bubba and Coey–thankful for those too.
I guess it was just me that was the bump in the road.
And I’m sorry, Mama.
It’s just none of this seems real. Still doesn’t. Like one day I’ll wake up and we’ll have a long talk analyzing THIS dream. It’s been a h— sorry. Yes ma’am, I’ll watch my mouth. But you have to admit. If the past three years, the past fifteen months even, have been a dream, it’s been one for the books, right?
We tried to be good stewards with all of your “things,” all your “stuff.” I know you’d just as soon we packed up most of it and given it to folks who needed it. With the exception of the few things you talked about and pointed out where you’d like for them to go. And one day I will be able to let go of more of it. Just, not quite yet, okay?
Saturday we came across your “Backdoor friends are best” plaque that hung at the back door. Remember how I used to be embarrassed to have folks, friends of mine, come in through that door? You had that old-fashioned wooden clothes drying rack back there, remember? And you’d hang all of our unmentionables on it to dry. If we knew someone was coming over, one of us girls would make a mad scramble to go and hide those things. We couldn’t have folks coming in the back door and seeing that. Now I miss that life of knowing folks well enough to go in through their back door. It speaks to the relationship and to the trust and the love.
As I held the plaque I knew. Aunt. She needed this. I hoped she would be okay with us offering it to her. I knew you would be. They are our oldest and best “backdoor friends,” aren’t they? I sent it to her by way of Cuz’n. She and I talked yesterday. Turns out that was the right place to send it. But you knew that, didn’t you? The only thing was, she wanted to know if I’d be okay seeing it at her back door.
Today I’ve thought about that question and how quickly I said “Oh please yes!” as my heart leapt with something akin to joy. At first I thought it was because it would have a good home (you know how I anthropomorphize things–and yes, Daddy, used that one just for you!). But as the day wore on, I heard from Mess Cat. The last of the things have been delivered to a thrift store that will help families who have gone through what we did with Daddy. Bless ’em.
And my heart crumbled just a bit.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy that Mess Cat and Leroy and Shaker are going to make so many new and wonderful (I love hearing you say that word in my head right now) memories. Have you seen Leroy out in the building? It’s about to enter a new heyday for sure. They have beautiful plans and ideas for the house too, Mama. But most of all, it will be filled with love and laughter again–your favorite way to decorate, the way you decorated it best.
But for a moment this afternoon, as I drove home from Macon, I saw the empty house in my mind’s eye. And what my eye stayed on was that freezer. Oh, it’s not there, no ma’am. Going to be put to good use. But between it and the refrigerator–you covered them (in your organized way of course) with pictures of our babies and pictures our babies had colored. Or drawn. Or scribble scrabbled. Just for you and Daddy. There on the windowsill was the little baking cat figure that Aub picked out for you. The plate we painted for you and Daddy hanging on the wall. All around you, Mama, you decorated with love. Your placing these things throughout your home, all the way back to your dresser and the wooden bead necklaces that first Aub and then Princess made for you, spoke volumes to me over the years.
And today, in thinking about them not being there, I realized what they all said.
All of those things you placed freely around your home, said–
You belong here.
You are loved.
You are special.
You are mine.
And that’s when the tears came, Mama.
It’s not that I won’t ever not belong there, but it’s time to move on and let new stories come to life in that house. I’ll knock first and I’ll enter through whatever door Leroy and Mess Cat decide they want folks coming through. And it will be okay. Better than, even.
But if Aunt does decide to hang that heart with the back door friends message by her back door–
well, that will be just fine with me.
Because you know, then, for just a moment, I can remember that I had a place that I belonged, a house that always said, “you’re mine” or “well, hey, it’s you again, where you been? what you been up to?” And I can smile and give thanks and know.
I was loved.
Miss you Mama.
Always, and always and always,