to the next chapter

A star in the dark is thy glorious past.....

A star in the dark is thy glorious past…..

 

her past is my past

we are all like threads interwoven into the story that is hers

each bringing our own color and beauty and gifts to the tapestry

of all that has gone before

 

we are us

the ones who came young and left younger,

not quite ready for what the world might hold

but eager to take that step and fly

only just realizing that to fly one must leave the nest and

forge ahead

 

tonight the star in the dark was shining brightly

as we returned to the nest,

the stories were told once again

with laughter and tears

and the hugs hello lasted so much longer than

those goodbye hugs of so many years ago

 

as I saw her smile

and heard her voice

I realized how much I had missed her

 

and that with her

the light was brighter

and the melody more beautiful

and my heart was full

 

I had forgotten what life was like

with her

and in the remembering,

the tears flowed

for the time apart

 

but as we listened and laughed and shared

with so many things that didn’t have to be said

because this one who knew me well

smiled

and I knew

our stories would always be bound

 

and we set out to write another chapter

together

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pineapple Story

Last Tuesday afternoon I stood out in the sun in the backyard at my folks’ place, Blackberry Flats.  The heat of summer was bearing down but the shade of the tree and the gentle breeze made it bearable.  I was visiting with Mama’s neighbor who lives across the road, and who has been such a huge gift throughout the past four years.  A quiet and gentle soul, he had finished doing the yard the day before and it looked great.  I told him how much we appreciated him keeping it up just as Daddy would have.

He said, “Yeah, I don’t know why, but it was something mowing this time.  I kept looking over there, expecting her to come to the back door.”

I laughed softly, as the emotion crept in.  “Yes sir, probably to ask you to help her with something else?”

He shook his head. “No.  She usually sent me home with something. Like fruit.”  He looked over, and we said the word in sync. “Pineapple.”  We laughed as the tears formed and the memories came flooding back.

As I walked into the grocery store the first time after Mama died, as soon as I rounded the produce section, I saw it.  The already prepared pineapple.  I felt like I’d had the breath knocked out of me.  “Who will cut my pineapple for me now?” I whispered to myself.  I almost left the store then as the tears and sadness and raw grief threatened to engulf me.

One of Mama’s love languages was cooking.  And sharing food.  Such as leftover biscuits (some of my favorites), leftovers in general, and fruit she’d pick up on sale and prepare for her grandbabies.  That whole Wal-Mart price matching–Mama took that stuff seriously.  She would pore over the sale papers and kept the current ones for different stores folded in a stack on the stool next to where she sat at the kitchen counter.  She would make her grocery list accordingly.  And when Aldi or Giant or Freshway had their {fill in the blank here} on sale, Mama put it on her Wal-Mart list and tucked her sales papers in her purse and headed out.  Love it.  Did I mention already that we were raised on sale?  With a coupon?  Yep.

And so one of the stores would occasionally have a great sale on pineapples.  And Mama liked the pineapples from Wal-Mart, so she would pick up a couple.  Price matched.  She had a special knife for the job. With it she could take a whole pineapple down to delectable bite-sized pieces, throwing the rest of it out in the compost.   The funny thing is, Mama really couldn’t eat pineapple.  Maybe a bite or two now and then, but it tended to bother her, so she avoided it.  But she knew how much my babies, especially my oldest loved it.  Daddy also enjoyed it when he was with us.  I’m not sure how or when but Mama later found out that her neighbors–one on the side and the other across the road–also loved it.  So she would prepare each of us a container (you know, the odd Cool Whip or yogurt or sour cream container) full and send it home to be enjoyed.  What a treasure!

Mama's cutting board and pineapple knife.....she brought joy and sunshiny sweetness to friends and family with them.

Mama’s cutting board and pineapple knife…..she brought joy and sunshiny sweetness to friends and family with them.

When my girl graduated a few weeks back, we had a gathering to celebrate.  A sweet friend prepared delicious goodies for us to enjoy.  As she was placing things on the countertop, she pulled out a single pineapple and sat it in a bowl.  Y’all.  For the love of all things Mama.  I had to walk away for a moment, and then, well, y’all who know me won’t be surprised, I shared the story of Mama’s pineapple legacy with my friend.  It.  Was.  Just.  Right.

The pineapple that made us smile and remember at Aub's graduation festivities.

The pineapple that made us smile and remember at Aub’s graduation festivities.

Tonight I am thankful for sweet reminders of my Mama and her love for us.  Her generous spirit.  Her kindness.  Her spunk.  Her thriftiness and determination to be a good steward of what she had.  All things I hope to have even a small bit of one day.  And though I am sorry others are sad, it is nice to be reminded that others miss her too.  That together we can talk about her and smile and cry and laugh and remember.   And for a Tuesday night, that will do just fine.

Grass Clippings

It’s that time again.  Time to mow the grass.  I suppose it’s on my mind even more so this year because I am overseeing the care of three yards for a while.  I am thankful for the folks helping me in this for sure.  And no, it’s not these guys.  Thank goodness.

Thank goodness I don't have these guys helping me.

Thank goodness I don’t have these guys helping me.

As I watch the grass turning green and hear the buzz of the mowers, I am carried back to when I was much younger and our yard at Blackberry Flats, where I grew up.  When we first moved out there, I was nine.  All we had at the time was a push mower.  On some Saturday mornings, I was offered the choice of doing my usual chores, which included dusting, or heading outside to help with the yard.  Suffice to say, I despise dusting.  So out I went.  Once the sun had burned off the dew.  Daddy had two major rules in mowing–no mowing on Sunday mornings and no mowing wet grass.

Eventually we were fortunate enough to have a hand-me-down riding mower.  Seems like I remember it having a handle-bar like steering mechanism instead of a steering wheel.  I don’t remember too much about that one, because I don’t think I got to drive it much, if at all.  My job was to do the trimming with the push mower.  I remember one time when I was assigned the trimming, and in stereotypical teenage fashion, I had gotten slack.  Daddy, of course, noticed this and called me to task.

“You doing your best out there?” he asked, when I came in for a glass of water.

“Yessir,” I said.

“Good,” he replied.

I went back out and “finished” up.   When I went to tell him I was done, he said, “Are you sure?”

“Yessir.”

“Okay, if I go out there and find some that you didn’t do, I’m going to give you a pair of scissors to finish trimming with.  Are you still sure?”

I shrugged.  I knew I hadn’t done it perfectly, but I figured he really wouldn’t check that closely.

WRONG.

He found it.  The patch of grass around the birdbath.  Yep, I had been sloppy, and I could only look at the ground as he pointed it out.  He handed me a pair of scissors.  About a half hour and several blisters later, I finally had it trimmed beautifully, the way I should have to begin with.  I never did that again, I tell you what.

Then I graduated to mowing with the riding mower.  Only by this time, I think we had one with a real steering wheel.   The deal was I could mow with it, as long as I helped with the trimming.  I loved it.  This was before I had my license, so I had all kinds of fun with that mower and my imagination.  Until…..

Well, let’s just say there were once three cedar trees in the side yard.  Instead of two.  They were newly transplanted little babies then.  Where everyone parks in the side yard?  Yeah, there.  And to all who have parked there, you’re welcome.  I didn’t meant to run over it one too many times, but there you go.

And the rose bush in the front yard.  I’m sorry, it was like a magnet.  I love trees and plants, I really do.  It’s just me and that power mower–we’re a bit dangerous together.  And in my defense, I think I was in reverse each time, so it’s not like it was an intentional act.  (I was probably trying to trim with the riding mower, so I wouldn’t have to get that push mower back out.)

Mowing and the aftermath has given us some great stories.  The stuff legends are made of.  Like the time that Aub and I were living there, and I was out in the yard with Mama raking up the thick clippings.  (No bag on that mower.)  It was like hay out there, so we were raking it up and putting it around some of the trees in the yard.  (Yes, the ones that survived the lawn mower massacre. Ahem.)  Daddy had gone in for a while, and it was an early summer evening.  Aub, about four years old, started pointing at the tall Leyland Cypress I had given Daddy one year for Father’s Day.  Her eyes were big as saucers.

“What? What is it?” I asked.

She pointed again.  “A snake.  In that tree.”

I turned around quickly, and sure enough, looking almost like a misplaced branch, was an extremely long, healthy-looking black snake poking his head out from all that green.

I froze.  “Go.  Get.  Cap.”  She didn’t need to be told twice.  She took off for the house.

Daddy came out, and he took the rake from me and used it to try to get the snake out of the tree.  He was going to carry him out to the “high grass,” our old horse pasture in the back.  Unfortunately the snake had different ideas.  He kept going around and around on the branches of the tree.  Daddy followed him around, pulling back branches, trying to reach him.  And then, all of a sudden, that big ol’ black snake shot out of the tree from a height of at least seven feet.  Oh.  My.  Land.

Mama let out a startled squeal.  I probably did too, but the snake never noticed me.  He ran straight for Mama.  Who ran too.  There they were, Mama and the snake, running for all they were worth.  Mama was convinced he was after her, and he was probably convinced we were after him.  She finally went off to one side and he kept on going, headin’ for the hills.  (Or the high grass as the case may be.)  Auburn told Mama in amazement that she had never seen her run so fast.   To this day, all one of us has to do is say, “Hey, remember the time that snake chased Mama…..”  We always get in trouble, because we can’t help but giggle.  Mama assured us it was not the leastbitfunny.

The smell of cut grass is a memory trigger for me.  To this day, it takes me back to those days at Blackberry Flats, and I’m never quite sure why.  But I love it.  I miss those lazy Saturdays when I was everything but lazy, mowing and trimming, and apologizing for whatever I’d run over.  I miss the smell of sun-dried sheets and supper cooking, and the taste of ice cold water from the well.  The sweet relief of the first evening breeze just as the sun starts to sink below the horizon.  And the sound of Mama’s voice, calling out to remind us, “Brush all that grass off of you before you come in that back door.  I just cleaned these floors.”

Ah, the precious sweetness of summer memories and the longing for days gone by.

pic of old lawn mower

Beauty and Sorrow

Pieces of home

Pieces of home

Today was a beautiful spring day. The sun gave everything the glow of highly polished gold, reflecting the beautiful blue of the sky. The wind kept the sun’s rays from being too warm. The day started off just cool enough to make me appreciate the warmth from the rays this afternoon.

Lunch with my sister and her family, an impromptu and entertaining visit with my cousin over at Mama’s. The joy of being with family, folks who know what lies behind the smiles and laughters and make no demands that it be any different. Just comfortable. Understood.

And yet, in the midst of the good moments, I found myself laying on the floor in the middle of the hallway at Mama’s. I lay there and closed my eyes. I could hear the past, Mama calling us for supper, Daddy calling my name to come help with something, or his patience as he helped me prepare for the state spelling bees, our whispers and giggles after lights out, all four of us piling into one bed early on Christmas morning, waiting until we could wake Mama and Daddy up.  I could see the sun shining through the windows at my favorite time of day. 4:30 p.m. Usually I had homework done by then, Daddy was almost home, and it was too early to prepare the table for supper.  A peaceful and sometimes quiet time in our home.  I could smell the brownies or chewy bars or peanut butter bars Mama had made for our afternoon snacks, which would welcome us as we came in the back door home from school. I could feel the heat from the baseboard heaters against my back in the middle of a cold winter evening. I remembered the way the attic fan would draw the refreshing night air in through the open windows on hot summer nights, billowing curtains cheering the coolness on. I saw Daddy’s coats hanging on the wooden hooks in the hall. I opened my eyes and stared at the ceiling. And listened to the echoes of the past and then…..the quiet. How could it all be so close but I cannot reach out and grab it and keep it close to me? This. This is the thin place where I live.

I walked barefooted outside in the yard. I have a wise cousin who would say this helps ground me. It does. Being at the place that has been home for over 35 years also grounds me. It brings me joy and peace. And it also brings me tears and longing. For all the pieces to be back together. Today the ground was damp under my feet as I walked across the grass showing off with its new green sprigs popping up. Tonight my cheeks are as well. The longing for the people who made this home, for truly it is only the people who ever could, that longing–the reason for the unanticipated, uncontrollable sobbing when I found myself in that rare moment alone. The moment when it all hits me how suddenly and unexpectedly it was all taken away.  Broken.

There is beauty in this day and there is sorrow. And the two cannot be untangled, as it was the beauty that brought the memories that led to the surfacing of the sorrow. I do dearly despise platitudes as I told my cousin today. And he said, “Well pretty much all that can be said is, it will be different. Nothing will ever be the same again.” For those words, for the absence of the need to fix things with his words, I am thankful.

And I am thankful for the moments that are thin–when for a brief period of time, it is the same. For just a few minutes today, memory was real and all was whole again. There is beauty in that.