apricity

she is comfort
the sound of rain on the faded tin roof
the hum of the needle making stitch after stitch
the first ice cream of summer, dripping down the cone
the smell of tea olive blossoming beneath the starlit sky

the sound of her voice
on the other end of the line
reassures me
reminds me
rejoices and refreshes
like a balm to my aching soul,
sore from too much too soon

she listens to my stories,
my worries, and my joys
she remembers what I never knew,
and tells of days past, people gone
mending the cracks in my foundation
that come from time and distance and loss

she is the voice of those who can no longer speak
she is the shoulder of those I can no longer lean on
she is the counselor, speaking for those whose wisdom is now a whisper in the wind
she is the love for those who loved us

she is
as she always has been

treasured
beloved
adored
cherished
mine

and as I watch her head bowed closely next to my child,
their voices joining together in lyrical conversation
with notes of laughter for the chorus
I am thankful
thankful for who she was then
before
and for who she is now
now that they are gone

she can never replace
she would not want to
nor would I ask it
but her stitches
of love, day in day out,
help ease the gaping wounds
her touch brings healing
and her heart brings light

and warmth
as the scent of vanilla and patchouli
waft from her back door, welcoming us
as we climb the steps of the porch

where she is

welcoming
embracing
love

 

Cold Sun Landscape

By Emmanuel Huybrechts from Laval, Canada (Cold Sun Landscape) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

A Grace Filled Eve

Tonight I will gather with little folks (and a few big) whom I love right here in my living room, and we’ll debate about staying up to see the New Year in.  We may or may not watch some form of something dropping to beckon in 2018, and then the laughter will turn into sighs and we’ll gather up the remnants and used cups and crumpled napkins of 2017 and go to bed.

This is as good as I can do.  I don’t have big plans and schemes for this New Year.  If I start thinking of tomorrow as a day THAT ALL BIG THINGS MUST BEGIN, I kind of sort of start breathing a little funny and want to go crawl in Miss Sophie’s crate with her and wait for spring and for this “all great ideas and good intentions” phase to pass.

Because, see, my feet are cold, and most days I have to take it one day at a time.

My Mama said that is okay.

She said do your best, that’s all your Daddy and I ask of you.

And that I can try to do.  Moment by moment, minute by minute, hour by hour, and sometimes day by day.

But a whole year?  In one big gulp?

I’m happy for folks who are excited about the newness of tomorrow and the 364 days to follow.  But for many of us, 2017 and 2015 and 2013 and 2011 were really really hard, and we’re still learning a new way to breathe because of what happened when the clock turned over to November 13 and 17 and December 18 and February 10 and September 26 and May 12 and January 11 and all of the other days of the year when we had hard things happen.  For some of us, each day is a new challenge, filled with moments of learning new ways to live.

Grace.

If you are of the mind of taking on new ways of living and find tomorrow a good day to start, maybe grace could be a good one to add to the list.  Most of all, be kind to yourself.  And others.  When days are hard–for you or someone you know and those you don’t, offer grace and kindness.  Grace that it’s okay to say it’s hard and stay in bed for the day, literally or figuratively, and kindness in the midst of the struggles.  A smile, a listening ear, a hand to hold, patience, empathy.

Tomorrow we will have the traditional greens, peas, cornbread, and such.  I’ll try not to do anything I don’t want to be doing the rest of the year (though I’ve found reframing certain things has helped me in this old tradition), and I won’t be doing any laundry out of respect for the ones who’ve gone before me.  We will spend time sharing stories and laughing and remembering.

And I will do my best to rejoice and be glad in the day, as my Mama reminded me I am called to do everyday.

But for now, I just can’t take on the chunk of a year all at once.  If you are struggling with another day of celebrating and being surrounded by festive spirits, know you are not alone. We are all doing the best we can and walking each other home, as Ram Dass wrote.  Come sit with me, Miss Sophie will make room, and we’ll warm our toes by the fire and sit quietly and we will be okay.  And if tomorrow is a day of new beginnings for you, I wish you all the best. Some of us will be celebrating the dawning of a New Year and some will be thankful for making it another day and some folks will be somewhere in between.  AND ALL OF THAT IS OKAY.

Grace.

Wishing you all a good night’s rest, the energy to get up tomorrow, and the still quiet of peace settled in your heart today and in all the days to come.

Love to all.

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May we all take the words to my much loved and missed friend Denise to heart today and every day–“What people in our community need the most is for us to slow down and love each other.”

Happy Golden Years

Fifty years ago today, December 17, 1967, the romance that started outside a laundromat in Valdosta, Georgia began a new adventure as my Mama and Daddy said, “I do.”

And they did.  Sickness.  Health.  Laughter.  Pain.  Joy.  Grief.  Children.  Grandchildren.  Other children whom they called their own.  Friends.  Family.  Biscuits. Gravy.  Pound Cake.  Fried Cornbread.  Homemade Pizza.  Cars. Trucks.  Books.  Celebrations.  Mourning.  Everyday Life filled with Extraordinary Moments.

And even though their time together on this earth ended six years ago, I know they are together today, and I hope they are doing what they loved to do most on this day–spending time together, enjoying the journey.  On their anniversaries, Daddy would take the day off from work, and they would go on an adventure of sorts.  Traveling on backroads, eating in diners and restaurants they’d come across along the way.   Meeting interesting folks who would become lifelong friends.

Since 2013 after Mama left this world, I’ve had the joy of continuing their tradition of sharing books with young people we know.  In honor of their anniversary, I’ve chosen different books as our Christmas Book of the Year.  This year, I’ve chosen a very special one that ties an old memory to a new one.

This past summer the littles, the Fella, and I got to visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Mansfield, Missouri.   Growing up I read the Little House books and loved my weekly time with Laura and her family on “Little House on the Prairie.”  I was “fangirling” pretty hard.  The. Home.  Of.  Laura.  Ingalls.  Wilder.  Where she lived.  Wrote her books.  Raised Rose.  Oh my stars, I was over the moon.  But as excited as I was, it was wonderful to see that our Princess was even more so.  She had read and reread all of the books in the past year.  She loved them.

During our time there, we saw Pa’s fiddle and photos and letters from Laura’s sisters.  There were letters schoolchildren had written to Mrs. Wilder, asking about the people she wrote about or thanking her for writing them.  The museum part was fascinating, as we took our time wandering around, reading and looking and soaking it all in.  But it was when we went to her home, the one that Almanzo built by hand, one room at a time, that I felt the spirit of the place.  Neither of them were very tall, so the home suited me and my short height just fine.  I loved that she continued using her old stove, even after Rose had an electric one put in.  Sometimes change is hard, y’all, and just not worth the bother.  As a child I had fallen in love with the young Laura.  This past summer, standing in her home, surrounded by her things, I fell in love and in awe of the grown Laura, the strong woman who didn’t want anyone to know she loved to read Westerns, and whose last birthday cards were still sitting on the table in her kitchen, as she passed on right around her birthday.  That was my favorite part of the whole adventure.  Soaking in her world in her little farmhouse.  The other house we visited that Rose had built for her parents as a gift when she was an adult did not compare.  It was lovely, but it just didn’t have the same feel, the same homeyness, the same spirit.

As I wandered through the farmhouse, enjoying the stories that our tour guide shared, I was reminded of a Christmas in my own home, many years ago.

I believe it was Christmas 1989, my senior year in college.  My dear friend had come home with me for a day or two before heading home to Alabama.  We had slept through the night to be awakened early the next morning by the ringing of jingle bells.  My friend, my siblings, and I all went to the living room where we found a sock for each one of us.  A long knee high sock I believe, filled with good things–like an orange, a giant peppermint stick, a penny, an orange in the toe, and the matching sock balled up inside as well.  It was left there by, as the note said, “The Christmas Spirit of 1889.”

I probably laughed it off as my parents and their whimsical ways in the moment, but inside I loved it.  I love all things old and traditional, and as far as I was concerned, this was perfect.  Everything about it.  I’m not really sure what prompted my Mama and Daddy to keep Christmas like that that year.  Maybe they wanted to remind us that simple joy is at the heart of Christmas–that the simple joys are the treasured memories we will carry in our hearts for a long, long time.

Just as I have the memory of the sock filled with goodies, nearly 30 years ago.

So when I sat down to choose a book to share this holiday season, I found it almost instantly.  In memory of that Christmas 28 years ago and our adventure “home” this past summer, our family Christmas book this year is “Christmas in the Big Woods” by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  The illustrator, Renee’ Graef, shared that her artwork was inspired by the work of the talented Garth Williams with his permission.  It’s a sweet story about the excitement of the holiday season and the greatest joy of all–being together.

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Tonight I’m thankful for the love of two people that grew to touch so many–our family and friends and folks they met along the way.  A love that was joined together forever fifty years ago tonight.  I’m thankful for their quirkiness and how they reminded us of what is really important all those Christmases ago.  And I’m thankful for the privilege and thrill of standing where some of the world’s favorite stories–I know they are some of mine–were put on paper for all of us to enjoy.

May the simple joys of this Christmas season bring you grand memories that you will treasure for years to come.  Love to all.

 

 

A Star in the Dark

This past May was a time of celebrating, remembering, and just a few tears–happy tears. My oldest graduated from my alma mater and now hers, Wesleyan College.  The graduating seniors voted for two parents to speak at the Baccalaureate service.  It was a great honor to be one of the two chosen.  As I told the seniors that night, the only thing better than being a Wesleyanne has been being a Wesleyanne’s mama.  

Tomorrow my oldest starts her newest journey–the first day of classes in law school.  My sisters at Wesleyan also begin the new school year, so I thought I’d share my dreams for them that I first shared on May 12th.  I wish them all the best–my daughter, my sisters, and all those beautiful young people starting a new year of learning.  I hope they all will remember the beauty of their light, freely share it, and often remind others of their beautiful light.  

We need each other y’all.  Now more than ever.  Love to all.  

 

Hello to all of our friends and family here tonight, and an especially warm welcome to my sisters in the Class of 2017. Thank you for the honor of being here to share with you this evening.
I’m going to start with a line from a song you’ve maybe heard a few times during your time at Wesleyan—
“…..a star in the dark is thy glorious past…..”

You. All of you. Did you know? From the moment you took your first breath, your light has been shining. This world is better and brighter because you are here. Each and every one of you.

I recently saw something on Facebook that one of your sisters shared. It had a picture of two pink sparkly eggs just like these, and it said,
“me vs. you bc we both cuties who don’t tear other women down.”
Yes. That. Each and every one of you is a pink sparkly egg, and your light is important.

Don’t let anyone let you feel like it isn’t either—whether you are graduating with a 4.0 or 2.7. Whether you’ve garnered many awards during your time at Wesleyan or none, whether you know exactly where you will be on Monday or in August or if you have no idea what is ahead for you—your light is still beautiful. As is yours and yours and yours. And it is so very needed. The most precious thing about light is that it doesn’t diminish when shared with others. And when we stand together, it shines even brighter. That’s what it means to be a Wesleyanne. That’s what the sisterhood is about. And it doesn’t end either, y’all. My sisters from the classes of 1987-1993 have continued to be a strong presence in my life, even more so in the past few years. We had a saying back when I was here, “Sisters in spirit stay sisters forever.” And after all these years, I’m adding another line, “Sisters in spirit stay stronger together.”

As you go forth from tonight and tomorrow, I want you to take three things with you.

Your light. Share it. Use it to shine in the darkest places, and become a safe place for others. And if you find yourself needing a safe place, look to your sisters. Even those you may not have met yet. Find me. Love on each other and lift each other up like the pink sparkly eggs you all are.

I want you to take with you gratitude. My first birthday after my Daddy died in 2011 was the last one I’d have with my Mama. And she gave me this gratitude journal. I didn’t get it. I was still very much grieving and I knew she wasn’t in the best of health. A gratitude journal? Really? It was while she was sick in the hospital that I found myself getting it—grasping a bit of this gratitude thing. I began to notice little things—a cup of coffee at just the right time, the gentle nature of a caring nurse, my phone that I could use to research things—things and people to be grateful for. And it was because of the light of those around me that I could see it. My friend Ashley, the Baddest Mother Ever, and a sister of yours as well, often uses the hashtag #saythankyouhere.  So number two, my sisters, is gratitude. Practice it often. Say thank you as much as you can. Let folks know when you appreciate them.

This past week I found myself out with my Auburn, my daughter who is my sister, just the two of us, and we were laughing our way through the Walmart. At one point, when we were giving each other a hard time, like we do, I said to her, “I don’t know why you do me like that, I’ve always been good to you.” She laughed and said, “Well, there was that one time…..”

Y’all, there will always be that one time. Or two or three. This is not a world of absolutes. Success is not a run of no failures or mistakes. There will always be that one time. Or two or ten. (I did pretty good in college but there was that one time…..we do not talk about Calculus II…..ahem) But neither is anything or anyone all bad. Someone might be grating on your last nerve, but as time passes, I’m betting you will wind up saying, “Well, except for that one time…..” Look for those times, okay? Look for every opportunity to find that one time when their light shines, even just a little.

I wish you all the best. I know most of you are probably ready to go. I was not. I had no clue what I was going to be doing, and life is turning out okay. (Well, there was that one time…..) As you finish packing up and saying goodbyes and heading out on your next adventure, remember to take your light and refuel it with laughter, good friends, and all the things that tan your soul. Offer grace every chance you can and offer the comfort and compassion to others that you learned here from each other. And finally, remind folks all around you that they too are pink sparkly eggs. And y’all—look in the mirror and tell her too. She might really need to hear that.

You are standing on the shoulders of giants. On the shoulders of the ones who stood at that same marker you just gathered around and the ones before who attended school there. You saw many of them Alumnae Weekend—all of us crazy old ladies. You are standing on the shoulders of your professors and the staff who supported, challenged, and encouraged you the past few years. Look around you—you are standing on the shoulders of the ones here—friends and family who love and cherish you—your biggest cheerleaders. And you are standing on the shoulders of the ones who aren’t here—the Caps and Maemaes and Papas and Ollies and Denises and Rev. Hurdles and grandfathers, grandmothers, aunts, uncles, mothers, and fathers. Their light shines on through you.

My sisters, a star in the dark is your glorious past. But now you are all blazing comets, leaving a brilliant, beautiful trail behind you. Soar on and leave love and laughter and pink sparkles in your wake. Best wishes and happy everyday!

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the secret day

and so the day comes
again
as it has every year
since

there’s no one to notice anymore
but one

alone in the corner of a dimly lit room
she pulls out the tattered memory
uncertain–
not sure–
why she continues to hang on to it
or what to do as she opens it
and gazes back
into what once was

~once more~

do others have secret days,
she wonders,
days that all who remembered and remarked
are gone,
save one

do others wipe the tears away
and wonder that a smile can still come
upon first glance back
before the chasm between then and now
steals the joy away once more

leaving only the salty tang of sadness
and a faded memory no one shares anymore

the present calls her back
with a gentle jolt
this now is different
and good

this day will come again
but until that time
she folds the memory away once more
and tucks it beneath the chest in the corner–
thankful that it ever was,
yet okay with letting it go

finished remembering for now,
she rises slowly and turns toward the door,
pulling it to
behind her
as she walks forward
into the light

the petals on the ground

on this first day of spring
I remember vividly another beautiful spring day
walking beneath the towering cherry blossom trees
dressed up in their pink finery
so full that they blocked out most of the sky
that was a brilliant blue with only
a few of the fluffiest clouds

I held the hand of the girl who walked
and he carried on his shoulders
the girl who was quite new
in six short months she’d filled our hearts with joy
and our lives with stories

these two girls who were and are my world

the little one looked up at the blooms above her and laughed
that deep gurgly laugh of the very small ones
and to this day I wonder
if that is why she so loves the pink

this one born in the land of the rising sun
all those years ago
as she rode on her Daddy’s shoulders
smiling down at the one whose hand I held

and our feet landed on the petals on the ground
as step by step we made our way to this spring day
half a world away

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By THOR (Cherry Blossom) [CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons]

A Sucker for Love

Way back when, when my oldest was quite a small girl, we often found ourselves over at my dear Joyful friend’s house.  She and her girls were our lifeline, our fun, and our safe place to land.  They were my girl’s sisters for that time and for life, and I am always thankful for them.

So it isn’t surprising, I guess, that when it came time for us to leave their house, my girl would balk.  Balk might be understating it a bit for some occasions.  Flat out, she didn’t want to leave.  I remember my Joyful friend bringing Aub a Blow pop and telling her if she’d mind her manners and her Mama, she could have that sucker.

It worked.

Every single time.

Later, when the time came for us to venture out on our own, and we left the nest of Blackberry Flats, Mama liked to ease the transition of leaving each afternoon or evening with a Bob’s soft peppermint or caramel cream.  And then, eventually, a Dum Dum sucker.  I’m not sure if she changed her offering because she was out of the peppermints at one point or because of our food allergies or what, but the Dum Dums became the most desired treat.  We found an old style candy jar to put on Mama’s counter, and that’s what she would let little hands reach in to so as to find a favorite flavor.  And on rare occasions, when one had been quite good, he or she could–in the difficulty of deciding between two favorites–have both.  “One for now, and one for later,” Mama would say.  Now that I think about it, that wasn’t so occasional–it was more the rule.

I fondly remember Daddy pulling out my favorite flavor and handing it to me.  In that gesture, he was telling me he loved me.  I needed no words.  The lot of us had great conversations about the “Mystery” flavored ones and exactly how they came about.  The extra special ones, like the Savannah blueberry I think it was, brought about as much excitement as a Santa sighting in July.  Too much fun.

I miss those goodbyes.  Those sendoffs and waves and “see you soons.”  And all the hugs.

Today I dropped by Aunt’s to pick up a book and some special bookstore coupons she’d offered us (yes, because we do NOT have enough books–anyone that says different is off my “birfday list”).  She’d called and told me where I could find it as she wouldn’t be home.  We swung by in the midst of today’s adventures, and sure enough, the bag she’d tucked the things in was right where she’d said it would be.

I grabbed the bag and started off the porch, and then I was stopped still by what else was in the bag.

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Four Dum Dums.  For my two littles.

“One for now, and one for later.”

It took me a minute to start the car and get going again.  My eyes were flooded and my heart was full.

Tonight I’m thankful for stories that bind us together and for treasured memories.  I give thanks for traditions that get passed along and continue to warm hearts and bring immediate smiles to all of our faces.  I’m a sucker for tradition, and I’m an even bigger one for things that show us how loved we are.  I’m most thankful for my sisterfriend who knew that a spoonful of sugar is sometimes the “best encouragement,” for my Mama whose head I can still see bent conspiratorially over the candy jar with her grands, and for my Aunt.  Who never fails to remember and reminds me of that in so many precious ways.  The ones we love live on because of moments like this today.

Wishing you all a sweet to remind you that you are so very loved.

Love to all.