the stories behind the door

on the first day you walked through the door
did you stop to breathe it all in
with the hope of memorizing it all-scents, sights, and sounds,
the way you do now

did you gently pull the door to behind you
and stop for a moment and lean into it
knowing as you do now that a measure of strength
is gained from the place that watched you grow

and stretch and learn

and break and piece it all back together

did you listen for the sounds of the birds
the same families over all the years
and look for that pink in the horizon as the sun
set and closed its eyes for its evening slumber

on the first day you walked in
eager and excited for the new journey
did you shed a tear over the place you’d left behind
or was there none of that, with all the possibilities in the rooms before you

did you find a corner and sit,
dizzy with the emotion all this new change was bringing,
and did you wish more than anything that you could
turn the clock in your hands, the last thing left,

backwards by days and years

or did you simply run through and search through every room
looking for the memories yet to be made
having no idea the story
that was about to unfold
upon this stage
this new setting
this
new

home

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for all the tables

where does the table go?
he asked
I barely remembered his name,
Joe or John or J-something–
he’d shown up with the others,
the ones they’d sent to do the job

the table? I replied,
stalling for time
wishing for more of it, so much more time

the table whose surface told
our story
the blonde wood glowing in the dimming light of evening

the fork marks from an excited toddler
banging his utensil up and down
overeager for that next bite

the pencil marks that were never quite
completely erased
from one report or another
or perhaps that year of Algebra II

the surface of it still cool to the touch
just as it was all those times
I lay my head on it, my face hot from the tears
I’d cried
I can’t remember all the reasons now

but today I know why they fall,
all the memories etched into its surface
and the time has come to let it go

time to open my fist and stop holding on
to all the things
and find comfort in the memories
playing non-stop inside my head
and heart

and while some of them are muted
and a tad out of focus

I can still feel the cool of the table
long after the the sun has set
and the truck pulls away

and the door is closed one last time

 

table photo

Foto Wolfgang Pehlemann [CC BY-SA 3.0 de], via Wikimedia Commons

The Stranger and the Orange Chair

Tonight at Evening Prayer we were talking about strangers.  In the middle of listening to the story of Abraham and Sarah greeting a stranger and the story of the men on the road to Emmaus coming upon a stranger, one thing came to mind.

The orange chair.

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My rendition of our orange chair. It was given away years ago.

 

In our little five-room house on Boy Scout Road that we lived in from when I was not quite three until I was nine (when we had six people living there and my parents decided enough was enough), we had an orange chair.

Perhaps I should explain this was back in the 70’s.

Orange was the old black back then.

It sat by the door to the little hall in the center of the house.  The one where the space heater sat.  The chair was upholstered in a lovely fabric.  I’m sure it wasn’t silk but it had a neat feel to it.  It was built all square and quite comfortable.

One rainy (Sunday?) night, we heard something outside.  The edges of this memory are hazy, but I know I was very young.  I remember the open door revealing a dark night, with the exception of the street light, and the rain pouring down.  And the young man who was coming into our house.

We didn’t know him.  Only that there’d been an accident.  Right in front of our house.  He had been riding his motorcycle and what with the rain, he’d laid it down right about the time a station wagon was coming from the other direction.

I don’t remember there being anyone there at that time besides him, and I don’t think it was a hit and run either.  I guess the station wagon wasn’t involved in the accident, but it was a part of the story.

Mama led him to sit in the orange chair.  He was pretty shaken up.  And hurt.  I remember a bustle of activity.  Mama went to nursing school before she started college, so she knew the basic things to do for him.  Or maybe that was just her Mama know-how kicking in.  I think she or Daddy must have called for an ambulance because I vaguely remember others coming in, and I don’t remember Daddy leaving to drive him anywhere.

What I remember most is him sitting in the chair.

And I remember what I saw after he left.

Little drops of blood.

Over the years the chair had one or another “chair cover” thrown over it.  I guess it was because of those little blood stains.  Or because it was orange.  Maybe a little bit of both.  We had some fancy ones–ones with fringe and that foam backing so it didn’t slide.

(Respect the chair cover.  Mama could redecorate anytime she wanted.  Well, when there was one on sale.  Not that she did. But she could have.)

Tonight when I remembered that chair, I realized that was the first time I remember seeing my parents help out someone they didn’t know.  Giving.  Caring.

But it wasn’t the last time.  Not at all.   And the lesson stuck.

When it comes to someone in need, there is no such thing as a stranger.  When someone is hurt or lost or broken or hungry, you sit them down in an orange chair and you do what you can with what you have to change their circumstances.  For the better.

And never mind how messy it gets.  As Mama reminded me on many occasions, “They’re just things.  Things can be replaced.  People can’t.”  And so she threw a chair cover over the orange chair and kept on–helping, caring, and making this world a better place.  (And not just by hiding the orange.)

May we all have the opportunity and heart to welcome a stranger this week.

Love to all.

 

 

A Literary Dish

My brother Bubba is in town.  This evening after a great time over at Blackberry Flats with Mess Cat and Leroy (who cooked a fantastic meal by the way), he and I sat down to go through some boxes that have been waiting for him to look through and make decisions about.

Of Mama and Daddy’s stuff.

Oh y’all.

We laughed over stories of old teachers.  We were quiet as we read through books from our childhood.  We unwrapped mugs and dishes and things that Mess Cat had tenderly wrapped and boxed months ago.  Bubba and I read inscriptions and discovered that the old dictionary we grew up with was given to Daddy when he was sixteen years old.  Good stuff, y’all.  Really good.

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Halfway through a box, I handed this book to Bubba to decide if he wanted it.  I went back to digging in the box.  Then I heard the unmistakable sound of Bubba getting tickled about something.  That right there.  You can’t help but join in.  Mirth and joy and all kinds of delightful.  All mixed together.

I looked over my glasses at him.  Really?  What book was he looking at?  Surely not the one I’d just handed him.  I mean, I don’t know much about the author, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t a comedy.

“What are you doing?” I asked him.

He laughed some more.  Then he told me he was pretty sure the book was something of a gag gift from Daddy to Mama.  A glance inside the front cover showed it once belonged to a Jack Reeves and that it was 50 cents in a used book sale.  Yep.  Sounds about right.

Bubba told me the story of how one night Mama made sausage rice for supper.  She put a plate of it in front of Daddy and said, “It’s not much, but we’ll call it a meal.”  To which Daddy replied, “Zola?”

Ba dum bump.

After that whenever Mama made sausage rice she called it “Zola.”  And a new dish was born and named.

We are pretty sure that no one ever read the book, but if anyone would have, it would have been my Daddy.  He was an eclectic reader and a lover of words and thoughts.

I love this story, and I love having people to share these stories with.  I am tickled to hear this family lore that happened after I had moved out of the house.  What a gift that my brother was there to see it unfold, remembered it, and shared it with me tonight.  He’s even pretty sure he found the book at the Old Book Sale and showed it to Daddy, who of course had to get it for Mama.

As for the book, it will go on my classics shelf.  Because the story behind it is definitely classic Mama and Daddy.  And now I have a new memory to recall when I see it–the laughter of this night with my brother, the one in which we took on a task that could have been more painful than it was but ended up in us rolling with fits of laughter.

And as if all that weren’t enough, now I am craving me some Zola.

Wishing you all a good story that brings a smile to your face.

Love to all.

 

**Credit and many thanks to Bubba for not only the story but also the title of this post.  🙂

 

Decking the Halls

About a week ago I was visiting at Mess Cat’s house, admiring her tree, when an ornament caught my eye.  I was transported back in time faster than Marty McFly could start the DeLorean–back to the living room at Blackberry Flats.  I remember the way the angel fairy’s snowflake reflected the different colors.  I loved to sit in “my” chair snuggled up in a blanket, mesmerized by the colorful shadows on the wall, as I crocheted one handmade gift or another for a family member.  (God bless ’em for putting up with me during that phase.)

Mess Cat's angel she got years ago from our Aunt.  I have been looking on eBay to find one just like her.  She brings back wonderful memories of Christmases past.

Mess Cat’s angel she got years ago from our Aunt. I have been looking on eBay to find one just like her. She brings back wonderful memories of Christmases past.

It was about the same time as my visit with her that we decorated our tree.  I found one of my ornaments from childhood.  He is one of my all-time favorites.  Our spirited Aunt, Daddy’s brother’s wife, used to give us all Hallmark ornaments at Christmas.  Confession time–I don’t remember being exceptionally excited about the gift.  Don’t get me wrong, I was thankful and I did think them beautiful and cute and fun to see, but I’m afraid the stuffed animal or tape recorder (oh what a Christmas that was!) garnered more attention from me.

One of my all time favorites.  He spins around inside of the snowflake.  Just awesome.

One of my all time favorites. He spins around inside of the snowflake. Just awesome.

Howsomever…..

the ornaments I still have.   (And okay, a few of the stuffed animals too.)  But that’s it.  As I grew older, I appreciated the gift of the ornaments more and more.  What a treasure!  To look back and remember putting the same ornament on the tree year after year.  Now that’s a grand tradition.

From Aub's Christmas Number 5.  Thankful to my friend who started us collecting ornaments for Aub.

From Aub’s Christmas Number 5. Thankful to my friend who started us collecting ornaments for Aub.

When Aub was a baby, my friend, who had a little guy only six weeks older, started the Baby’s First Five Christmases ornament collection for her.  And another tradition was begun.  Each year, even when we were on our own, I picked out an ornament that held significance for that year.  A few years in there my Great Aunt gave her one as well.  As we pulled the ornaments out to put on the tree this year, I found myself waxing nostalgic.  In just a few years most likely these sweet and funny ornaments–the old fashioned dress shoes that open, the little dolls, the fairy collection, Barbie and her sister sledding, the Christmas mice, the five little bears all numbered as they grew–they won’t be on my tree anymore.

And I’m okay with that.  It’s the reason I started the collection.  So she’ll have ornaments to look back and remember with one day.   But still…..I will miss them.

Our tree is a mashup of personalities as there are ornaments that represent each one of us and our quirks and meaningful moments. From the Fella’s “Christmas Vacation” collection to a Manning boy football player for me (does it really matter which one?) to Princess’ ballerinas to Cooter’s newly begun collection of Star Wars ornaments, and of course, the ones Aub has gotten over the years–guitar, Hoops and Yoyo, the mouse in the silver cup.  It is fun to reminisce each year.  Especially the homemade ornaments.  Mess Cat even has one that Aub made when she was quite small on her tree.

Aub, when she was quite small.

Aub, when she was quite small.

And then there’s the whimsical, like the fishing bobber we got from Go Fish, fishing with Santa last Sunday.

Love it!  The ultimate fishing ornament--can be used year round.

Love it! The ultimate fishing ornament–can be used year round.

Some of my favorites though are 46 years old to be exact.  Mama and Daddy married on December 17.  They didn’t have a whole lot of anything.  I think they were renting a little place in Valdosta where they were both in school at the time.  Newly married, not much to their names.  Definitely no Christmas ornaments.  So they made them.

My most favorite ornaments of all--the ones Mama and Daddy made when their first Christmas together.

My most favorite ornaments of all–the ones Mama and Daddy made their first Christmas together.

These precious little yarn people have graced our trees at Blackberry Flats for a long, long time.  I like to think about Mama and Daddy working together to make these sweet Christmas people.  I wonder which creative genius came up with the idea?  After all, this was back in the days before Pinterest.  Practically the dinosaur age, right?  Once Mama stopped putting up a full size tree, she passed them along to me.  I adore them and cannot figure out how they have held up so well all these years. I loved finding each couple hanging separately on the tree.  The fabric ones Mama made with fabric left over from making me clothes. I had a skirt made from this  fabric–Aub also wore it when she was two.  I think our rocker cushion might have been made from it as well.  I love the embroidery on the stocking.  (Obviously these were made a couple of years later.)  Such a wonderful story and example of the beauty of Christmas being found in the simple things.

I am thankful that my siblings let me have Mama’s Christmas decorations.  She has shared many of them with us over the years, but what is left they have given me.  And I am thankful.  As I pulled them down from their storage spot at the top of my old closet, I felt the ending of an era. Santa now sits on my mantle (he was moved from under the tree for his own protection–he is likely close to sixty years old now, you know).   Mama’s latchhook Santa made by her sister-in-law that I can’t ever remember not hanging in the kitchen/dining area at Christmas now hangs in our dining nook.  And finally, the piece de resistance–

the mistletoe.

Oh ho, the mistletoe, hung where you can see.....

Oh ho, the mistletoe, hung where you can see…..

It hung year after year after year above the door to the laundry room which led to outside.  No one came in that house that didn’t pass under that mistletoe (some of the newer additions to the family had to duck under it), and Mama/Maemae would be standing there with her arms out, ready to give whoever it was a great big hug.  Oh that mistletoe.  It almost feels sacrilegious for it to hang in my house.  And yet it must.  It’s not Christmas without it. And the best Mistletoe. Story. There. Ever. Was.

Years. Ago.  Before the Giant started fighting with Daddy.  Before so much that has happened ever did.  It was a joyful time, and my cousin B had come over.  I think it was when he was leaving he found himself standing under the mistletoe.  He’s always had a great sense of humor.  He looked at Daddy standing in the kitchen, spread his arms wide, looked up  at the mistletoe, then back at Daddy, and said, “Uncle Bill!!!!!”  Daddy did not miss a beat.  He called my cousin’s name, strode straight over to him, gave him a great big hug and a big ol sloppy kiss.  And the rest is history.  We laughed and laughed.  Actually, I’m still laughing over that one.

Tonight I am thankful for industrious, creative, and generous parents who made beautiful, long-lasting Christmas decorations with love and patience, and who shared them and their stories with me.  I give thanks for my siblings who let me have the rest of Mama’s Christmas things–all the things she and the children would put out together each year around the first of December.  And I give thanks for my spirited aunt and my friend who, years ago, knew something that it would take me years to learn and appreciate–the gift of an ornament is more than merely a decoration, it’s the gift of memories collected year after year after year.

And that is where the real treasure in them lies.  Oh Christmas tree, you are full of the stories, aren’t you?

 

(Special thanks to Mess Cat for the pictures of her ornaments–I found a surprise for you girl!  Can’t wait to share it with you.  hint–it’s just like one in one of the pictures.  Love to all.)

It’s Just Stuff…..Or Maybe Not

Isn’t it interesting how a single thing can hold so many memories and emotions inside of it?

Yesterday I was given a precious gift that took me back to being little and sitting at a counter eating biscuits just out of the oven, playing Monopoly marathons with cousins, and watching Granddaddy drink his coffee with a cup and bowl.  I was taken back to open windows and picking vegetables from the garden, walking down a dirt road in the heat of summer, and cooling off in the afternoons watching “Gunsmoke” in the house.  I once asked Granddaddy why he drank coffee in the summer, and he said it cooled him off.  It intrigued me that he tilted his cup over to pour some in the bowl to cool, and he drank that first.  I can see Granny standing on the other side of the counter, washing dishes looking out the window at the hummingbirds.  I can smell the honeysuckle and feel the sand in the sandpile under my feet.  And I can still see the baby pigs and the cows, and I remember going there and getting dirty playing with the cows before my Aunt’s wedding.  (And no, Mama wasn’t happy.)

All of that and so much more.  Just from holding one little really huge thing.

“It’s just stuff.”

I’ve heard that a lot in my life, especially in the past four years of having people I love leave this world and their stuff behind.  And I know it’s true.  It is just stuff.  And yet…..

The little turtle that sat at my Great Aunt’s in her bathroom on the shelf is memory-filled.  I talked to it a lot during the visits when I went to check on my Great Aunt while Mama and Daddy were at Emory and fighting the Giant.

Santa and Mrs. Claus. As best as I can remember, Granny and Daddy made this together.

Santa and Mrs. Claus. As best as I can remember, Granny and Daddy made this together.

The Santa that my Daddy and Granny made together sits on my mantle right now.  It takes me back to cold, gray winter days standing at the plate-glass window looking out over Granny’s front porch and into the fields across the dirt road.  I remember alternating sitting next to Santa, fascinated with how he was made, and backing up to the heater that warmed the house, standing next to my Daddy.  My favorite place to be.  Always.

The grandfather clock stays in my hallway taking me back to the wall of clocks that was in my Great Aunt’s house.  My Great Uncle loved clocks and figuring out what made them “tick.”  At one point, he had a whole wall of them.  Beautiful.  Steady.  Dependable.

The jewelry box and bag of crocheting and sewing notions bring back memories of all the wonderful needlework and crocheted projects my Mama’s Cousin put her time and love into over the years.  And the needlework I have of hers is a treasure and will be for generations to come.

The slotted spoon that belonged to my Great Great Aunt takes me back to  ice-cold Coca-Cola in the bottle in the kitchen before we’d go “into the house.”  Church’s chicken at the dining room table, complete with cherry pies.  And the big furnace floor grate that was fascinating and terrifying all at the same time.

There are little and not so little things all over my house that bring back memories.  I see the hands of the ones I love, winding a clock, stitching beauty into creation, cutting up a pineapple, stirring the butterbeans, pulling the corn from its stalk, turning the page of a storybook, and hands crossed behind a back to warm them by the fire.  Oh, their hands.  The ones that patted me on the head, held onto mine, hugged me close.  How I miss all of them.

It’s just stuff.

Maybe.  But the stories and memories each little or big thing holds tight within?  That is where the real treasure lies.  The stories are the reason I am so drawn to the stuff.  To see.  To touch.  To remember.  To hear their voices and the stories once again.  And to feel hugged and loved.  It’s not about the stuff.  It’s about the love behind them.