The Question She Always Asked

Tonight I’m sitting with my Mama, as I remember her and struggle to fully grasp how long it has been since I heard her voice aloud.

Three years.

And tonight as I am struggling to let some things go and not put back together pieces from some other things, I can hear her asking the question she always asked us.  Whether it was schoolwork or housework or outside chores or a project or apologizing for a wrongdoing, she would ask,

“Did you do your best?”  

If we were able to honestly answer “Yes ma’am,” grace abounded.  She was okay with almost anything as long as we had no kidding, no holds barred tried our very best.

Mama was all about doing the best we could do in any given situation.  It was something she taught us and expected.

Our best.

Some days that might still look pretty broken, but as long as we had “applied” ourselves (another turn of phrase she liked) and given it our “all,” Mama was pleased.  It might follow that we would still have some work to do towards a resolution, but still.  Our best was all she ever asked.

Not THE best.  Our best.

Tonight I needed that grace.  I’m thankful to Mama for reminding me of it.  I can’t fix all the things I want to.  I don’t have the time to make all the good things happen I’d like to make happen.  I was grumpy a few times today and wish I hadn’t been.  I didn’t get all the clothes folded that are on the couch.  There are a couple of dishes in the sink that will likely stay there until morning.   I cried twice today over things I can’t change.  I forgot to thank my neighbor for driving me this evening.

But I can say, pretty much, that overall, yes ma’am, I tried my best.  And when I came to that realization, I felt a weight lift.  (And I’m pretty sure I felt my Mama patting me on my back, but that’s another story.)  As long as we can end a day by saying we’ve done the best we could do with what we had in front of us–well, then, I’m calling that a win, how about y’all?

Love and grace to all.

 

Happy Birthday and Being Held Close

A few years back my friend told me about how, in the Celtic culture, the Holy Spirit is symbolized by the wild goose.  Since that time, I’ve found comfort in seeing a flock of them grazing in a field or near a pond and in the sound of them flying overhead in the grey winter skies.

Today was no different.  On a day that was filled with the things that needed to be done and called me here and there, it was a precious day.  My Mama’s birthday.  Since my brother let the cat out of the bag about her age about 35 years ago, I don’t think she’d mind my sharing that this is her 70th birthday.  And our third one without her here.

I held her especially close today as we sat in a class about animal predators and prey and parasitism and other interesting things to know about animals, and as we went from one appointment to another this afternoon.  But it was when I saw the geese today that my spirits lifted just a touch, and I knew that we were also being held close today.

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May you find just what you need to bring you comfort right when you need it most.

Love to all.

“Yes, We Have No Bananas”

We are out of bananas.

It’s things like this that make me weary and feel “less than” in the parenting department.  My Mama rarely ran out of things.  Though we were on a strict budget growing up (to quote my brother we were “raised on sale…..with a coupon”), I can’t remember us ever running out of anything.

Ever.

And we are out of bananas.  It’s not even like something that you think is in the back of the pantry, and so when you go to look you realize it’s not pushed all the way back to the corner.  You really are out of ketchup or marinara or rice.  (All three of which we have been out of in recent months because of this assumption.)

These are bananas.

For one thing, they are BRIGHT yellow.

For another, they live outside of the pantry.  Except for the month the fruit flies tried to evict us, they live out on the table where everyone can see and enjoy their yellow loveliness.

The dish where my bananas are supposed to live.  Sad.  Just sad.

The dish where my bananas are supposed to live. Sad. Just sad.

And still, somehow, we are out of them.

They are the base for my smoothies and my go to for a quick snack or healthy side to a sandwich for my littles.

Out.

This is new.  Today I was thinking about the fact that we are out, and how I made a vow NEVER EVER to go to the grocery store again on a Saturday, and wondered why this is new.  Why have we never really run out of bananas before the past couple of years?

And it hit me.

My Mama.

Mama loved a good banana as much as the rest of us.  She kept them around on her counter in the bowl there.  She bought them as a bunch and she and Daddy and whichever little might be visiting enjoyed them immensely.

But the one thing Mama could not handle was a banana that was beginning to get spots.

It wasn’t her being picky, they did something to her.  I can’t really remember what now, which is a little sad to me, but for this reason she didn’t eat the ones that were beginning to turn.

At least once every other week, she’d send a banana or three home with me for us to partake in because we will eat the things near about mushy.  Never mind I have that brilliant recipe from my cousin for the best banana bread ever–in that dish, mushy is not a problem.

And so we never ran out.  Even on days I thought we might be out, nope, there was Mama handing me whatever bananas she had that were starting to go.

I miss my Mama.  I miss her because we run out of bananas now and have ever since she left this world two and half years ago.  I also miss her for a million little reasons that I can’t hold in my hand or explain to anyone else.  I miss her showing up.

Because she always did that too.  She never seemed to run out of groceries in her pantry or love in her heart.

I guess I might never be able to claim that first bit, but in memory of the beautiful woman who raised me and shared her bananas, I’m sure trying to be able to say I never run out of the second.

I’m a work in progress, but I’m trying.

And for a banana-less October night, that’ll do.

Love to all.

For the fun of it, and this version of the 1922 song by Frank Silver and Irving Cohn because–all those lovely dresses and suits.  Yes.  

Bubba, the Lamb, and the Raspberries

A week or so ago I promised a story about my lamb Raspberry.  And so, true to my word, here it is.

Years ago, when I was 12 or so, I was in 4-H.  One of the activities we could participate in was raising a sheep for show.  I was all for it, and my Daddy was willing to help me, so we went to the auction.  The lamb I got had an 8 painted on his back, so I thought about calling him Eight Ball.  (My only friend with a two-story house also had a pool table, so I knew stuff–yessiree.)

After getting him home and in the pen Daddy had fashioned for him, my siblings were introduced.  My little brother Bubba, who was maybe 3 or 4, was fascinated with the gentle creature.  He helped me bathe him and lead him around with the rope.

One day Bubba came in the house with a couple of raspberries in his sweaty little hand.  He had picked them from the bushes out in the side yard–another 4-H project I think.  He offered them to Mama as a gift.  As she plucked them from his hand, she gushed with appreciation.  “Aren’t you kind to pick these and bring them to me?  What a sweet gift from a sweet boy.”  And then she popped them in her mouth and ate them with exaggeration, oohing and mmmmming.

“Oh good,” Bubba said, “’cause the lamb didn’t want them.”

Yep, turned out he’d offered those same berries to my lamb, who sniffed and mouthed at them but decided better of it.

And then my sweet Mama took my little brother in her arms, hid her disgusted face, hugged him and said, “Thank you very much for thinking of me.”

Ahem.

Bless her.

And from that moment on that story became part of our family lore, and the lamb who wanted none of the red jeweled berries earned that as his moniker.

Raspberry.

I miss my Mama.  You could give her a rock (and we often did), and she’d act like it was the greatest treasure on earth.  And no telling how many bookmarks I made her over the years, and she loved–and used–every single one of them.

Because she loved me.

That’s a big legacy to live up to.

May we all have someone who finds delight in whatever we have to offer, no matter how big or small, beautiful or not, previously “nibbled” or whatever–just loves it because they love us.

Love to all.

Raspberry and me--after he became Raspberry.

Raspberry and me–after he became Raspberry.

An Unwelcome Visitor and the Havoc He Has Wreaked

We’ve had an unwelcome visitor to our home this week.  Unwelcome and unannounced.

He came in and started annoying each one of us in turn.  First Cooter on Monday.  And by Tuesday night, he was on my nerves.  That was when the Fella told me he’d had a bout with this rude guest on Monday as well.  This interloper and I really went round and round last night.  I told him I wasn’t having any of his uppitiness, and he insisted I sit down and pay him some attention and not get anything else done at all.

By this morning, it was Aub who came in complaining about him.  She was absolutely miserable because of the busybody.

Only our Princess has been immune to his forward and intrusive ways.

He doesn’t even say “Bless you” or “Gesundheit” when we sneeze, which seems to me to be extremely rude, especially considering it’s his fault we are sneezing.

Yes.  A Cold has come calling and will not take his leave.

During my bout with him I have learned a few things.

*I do not like colds.

*My children do not like them either.

*The way I can tell my son is on the mend is that he starts feeling up to aggravating his sisters.

*I run fevers so rarely that when I see the numbers go up, I’m in shock for a minute, and then I immediately look around for a grownup who loves me to come put their hand on my forehead just to make sure the thermometer is correct.

*My dog has a penchant for used tissues.  Disgusting but true.  But only the used ones.  I left a whole box of clean ones on the couch today and she never so much as looked at it.  Totally unrelated *ahem* I need a big wooden trash can with a heavy lid on it.

*Handwashing is underrated.  Or maybe overrated.  We’re all washing hands and doing the do, and it still has gotten a hold of four out of the five of us.

*My nose hurts.  I don’t care how soft a tissue is advertised to be, there’s just no help for the noses when it comes to a cold.

*Toilet paper can substitute for tissues in a pinch.  Or when you run out.  I mean seriously, four people with colds versus three boxes of tissues.   You can do the math.

*Apparently I am the only one who can fill the water filter pitcher.  This was true until I had a meltdown over it being empty, and then our Princess decided she could figure it out.  I’m sorry for the fit, not sorry for the results.

*My Cousin is witty and funny.  She’s even funnier when I’m sick.  And she knows just the right number of “poor baby’s” to offer.

*Cabbage can be a comfort food.  The person offering it an even bigger comfort.

*The same person whom I cut up an apple or fixed a meal for the day before will stare blankly at me when I ask for a glass of water from my spot on the couch where the Cold has pinned me down and won’t let me get up.

*Mamas cannot be sick.  It’s against the law or something.

*I’m sorry I didn’t pay closer attention to my own Mama when she wasn’t feeling well.

Tonight I am thankful for the numbers on the thermometer being on the downward trend.  I am thankful for my family despite what I might have said in my *ahem* fever-induced delirium.  I am glad that a Cold is all that has slipped in on us this week, as we have things to do and people to see and joys to celebrate.  We need some good health up in here.

Most of all, I am thankful for those who listened to me whine and didn’t knock that pity pot right out from under me.  To have friends and family who love me in sickness and in health–that’s a huge gift I do not take lightly.

Wishing you all good health and no unannounced visitors.  Y’all stay well.

Love to all.

In the Midst of the Sorrow

This morning I awoke to an email with some very sad news.  Leroy and Mess Cat’s sweet kitty Precious had five kittens yesterday afternoon.  They all died during the night.  The story we prepared for the children is that they were born too early and just didn’t make it.  The truth is that nature can be cruel and deadly when marking out its territory.  Tomcats are a menace.  And that’s just too much for them to grasp right now.

As I was brushing my teeth, I missed my Mama so much.  Her gentle ways with the children would have been welcome as we told them what happened.  Her loving touch and saddened voice would have acknowledged the pain but reminded us that this is what can happen sometimes.  There’s just no help for it.

I craved my Mama’s spirit.  I miss her.  It was then that I figured out what I’d like to invent.

A camera that takes pictures and captures the scent of the moment as well.  For me smell is such a trigger for memories, and I just know I would feel like Mama was closer if I could smell her or home or the scent of sunshine in the freshly washed sheets.

After I told Cooter and our Princess this morning, there were tears.  And questions. And they immediately asked about their cousin, Shaker.  How was he?  Was he sad?  We talked about how he must be feeling, and they both set to thinking about what they could do to lift his spirits.

Because they know grief, and they know people have been kind to them in their grief.

Our Princess quietly slipped away to get dressed for the day.  Cooter had seen her first, and he came into the room where I was, shaking his head.

“What?”

“You’ll see.  She takes the deaths of kittens very seriously.”

“Oh.  Well, don’t you?”

“I’m sad, yes, but well–you’ll see.”

And I did.  Our Princess was wearing a black dress.  She looked at me with a question in her eyes.  I nodded and so did she.  I get it.  Later in the day, she said, “All life matters.”

Yes, baby girl, yes it does.

This afternoon she suggested we fix a meal for Mess Cat and her family.  “Because you know Mama, I’ve heard that when a family is grieving, sometimes they don’t feel like cooking.”

Bless her.

It brought back memories of all the kind folks who prepared food for us–after Daddy and after Mama left this world.  So kind.  And appreciated.  Yes, my children know about death and grief and how our people do.

Bless all their hearts.

Tomorrow we plan on seeing Precious and her people and giving them all a big hug.  And maybe we’ll do what Shaker did with Precious today–sit quietly with them in the hopes of sharing the sorrow and making it even just a tiny bit palatable.

Tonight I’m thankful for sweet, tender hearts who know that all life matters and understand the pain of grief enough to be compassionate.  I’m not thankful for the reason, but I am thankful they seem to get it.

Love to all.