the art of being my mother

Centered on the living room wall when I was growing up was a drawing that tore at me. It was of a woman, clearly weary, her head in one hand looking off to her left, a sleeping child draped over the other arm.

Not sure what was going  on here, but it was clearly important.
Not sure what was going on here, but it was clearly important.

While I now see the beauty in this art, as a child I believed my mother identified with it because of her own weariness with her lot in life, namely, me, and I felt a great deal of guilt over what I’d done to her.

We didn’t get along, my mother and me, until after my stepfather died when I was 28. By her own admission, her focus then changed from wife to mother.  It took us years to work through all the barriers. Issues remain today, but they aren’t the structure of our relationship.

I see her getting older and I’m constantly mindful of the fact she’s only a few years away from the age her parents were when they died. She’s on a fixed income and can barely afford her own needs month to month, yet she still jumps at the chance to give to me.

That’s what moms do, I guess, at least it’s what my mom does. I resisted it inside myself until I realized how important it was to her. I turn around and send her money when I can to help her in any small way.

A few years ago I went through terrible times, and it left its mark on me long after that. I was so deep in the pain of it myself I didn’t fully realize what my mom went through each day, wondering what I was undergoing and imagining the worst.

I need to keep to myself what is mine to know.

I hold back on telling her everything because it is too difficult to express. I don’t know that she should know all the details. I need to keep to myself what is mine to know.

Perhaps she did identify with the woman in that drawing, for reasons I’ll never really know. As one of the few pieces of art she’s kept through the years, it seemingly has meant something to her. Just as I don’t fully involve her in my experience, certainly she hasn’t fully involved me in hers.

I told her once, in a moment of reflection, what it had made me feel, and she simply said, “Really? I never knew.” Then smiled a little. “I always loved that picture.”

Now, Right Now

It’s hard — so hard.

When you fear your world is about to turn upside-down, and there’s nothing you can do but pray and wait. When you think perhaps the inevitable is happening now.

When your heart cries out, “I’m not ready for this!” but your head tells you, “you’ll never be ready.”

When the practical mixes with the unimaginable.

It’s hard.


Photo courtesy of Pixabay

sibling revelry

Today I called my brother with some upsetting news. Once again, factors beyond my control were thwarting my plans to move forward.

He was the only one who would fully understand how challenging it would be for me, because he’d been with me from the start of the events that led to the distress of today.

My brother was there for me before I even knew I needed him.

belinda-thom-1962

Growing up, we weren’t close. It was my brother and sister who were allies, often, it felt, against me. Certainly I was on the outside.

Yet we share a history, sometimes a laughable yet now bonding one. Once, he asked if I remembered the cookie-eating bear from the Andy Williams Show, a popular variety program in our childhood.

I didn’t, and he was legitimately shocked, because I have a tremendous memory. He calls it memory for useless trivia, which is a little hurtful, because my memory includes much more than that.

Some months later there was a two-hour A&E biography about Andy Williams that I watched start to finish, just to see if this cookie-eating bear would be mentioned. He was, almost as an afterthought, in the last 30 seconds.

I sat through two hours of a biography I didn’t give a rip about just for my brother. I’d do an incomparable amount more if I could.

At the end of my phone call today, I gulped out a thank you for listening to me. He said, with a bit of surprise, “of course!” He’d said the same thing several years ago when I thanked him for flying out, at great expense, to be by my side at a time I can’t conceive of surviving alone.

He took over when I was absolutely lost, and later let go when I’d regained my strength, focus and independence. I’d never known what it was like to have someone value me that much before.

He’s two years younger than me, an age difference that become irrelevant sometime around high school. We started to connect more then.

I remember a sweet, red-haired girl who had, to say the least, a huge crush on him. We had a class together, and she talked about him endlessly to me. I really wanted him to reciprocate her feelings, but I knew full well he did not.

I was, however, proud of the way he treated her. Although he was clear he wasn’t equally interested, he let her know he thought her interest was a high compliment. Of course that just intensified her feelings for a time, but it was the right way to handle it.

me & Thom 1994
circa 1994

Now he has a daughter, sixteen years old, who no doubt brings all the frustrations a girl that age can carry. I hold my breath, then relax, as I watch him value her in the same concrete ways he values me and valued that cute girl in our high school years.

He’s proven there isn’t anything he wouldn’t do for me. In a lifetime we may or may not be lucky enough to fully show our love for those who mean the most to us.

I’ve been blessed to be on the receiving end of that love and sacrifice from my brother, a humbling and heartening experience for me. It has changed the core of me, my essential self.


A special thank you to those of you who have been following my blog long enough to remember this post!

I’ll Still Accept Gifts…

I wouldn’t want to win the lottery.

Managing all the money would be a burden, a task I’m not prepared to handle. Okay, one million dollars I might figure out. Even two. But start getting higher than that, and I’m out of my depth.

I expressed this thought once to a group of co-workers, and the response was immediate and forceful.

“Oh, I could figure out how to handle it!!”

“I have an uncle who works in a bank. He could help me.”

And there was the  woman who agreed with me, but for a slightly different reason. “I am totally the kind of person someone could take advantage of,” she said.

genieWinning the lottery is as realistic for me as getting three wishes from a genie, another gift I don’t think I would want to be burdened with in this lifetime. The tales of those who are granted those wishes always end badly, a moralistic story of greed and the perils of getting what you dream will make your life worth living.

After all, be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.

I find the greatest pleasure in those items I’ve saved toward buying and perhaps purchased at some sacrifice. Nothing foolish, mind you, but choosing what I really want at the cost of something else.

The day I buy my sofa, I will treasure it. No, I won’t keep it covered in plastic. But my futon, with its lumpy mattress, has served its purpose and then some, and I’ve wanted a new sofa for a very long time. Last year I came this close to getting one. The opportunity to move to a much nicer place came along, and that ate up all my savings.

A genie in a bottle is a nice thought, but that genie doesn’t have your best interests at heart.

My life doesn’t need a free ride to make it better.


Special thanks to my family, all of those who have helped me get back on my feet at a time when I couldn’t do it by myself. Your ongoing support means the world to me. I won the lottery when it came to family.

Bottle

Image Credits: (Magic Bottle) © Bigstock; (Genie) © Fotolia

A Year Later

Hard to believe it’s been a year.

Last year on this day, at about this time, I got a text from my friend Laurie letting me know her brother, Monte, had died. We’d been expecting this news; he’d been battling cancer for several years. His treatment had been compromised in the beginning because he developed an infection after surgery, and eventually, it was evident he was going to lose the fight.

I’ve detailed Laurie’s story before, so I won’t go into it here, except to say, a few months before her brother died, her mother had passed away. I imagine yesterday, so close to the anniversary of Monte’s death and only the second Mother’s Day since losing her mom, might have been emotional.

Several of my friends lost their moms last year, and my heart goes out to all of them as they face the day with a sense of sorrow and longing. At least one woman had a challenging relationship with her mother, which brings with it a different, yet equally difficult, set of emotions.

My mom is still with me, and I’m grateful for every day. My dad, my brother and my sister are all still alive and healthy, and I know I’m lucky for that blessing as well.

To those who faced the loss of anyone you loved in the past year (and I include beloved pets, because their loss brings its own pain), may you find peace.

Peace, and purpose.


Photo Credit: © Bigstock

Another Year Older (and deeper in debt)

Well, tomorrow is my birthday…the years keep rolling by…I plan to celebrate! But it brings to mind this much-loved song from my childhood (well, a little before, but I heard it a lot as a kid):

You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store

— music and lyrics by Merle Travis

Well, whatever else may rain down on me, at least I’m not a coal miner. I know those who built their lives around the mines are often profoundly loyal, literally to a point of death, but from my lofty vantage point, there’s little return for the workers.

Abstract background of Department store interior , shallow depthWhen I worked part-time at a department store, I used to joke I “owed my soul to the company store.” Hey, my full-time job, at least in theory, paid the bills, so that was extra cash to spend as I pleased…and I did. I kept track, and about half of what I earned there went straight back to the company coffers.

Thirty years later, I still have some of the Marimekko dishes I purchased, one place setting at a time, always on sale, until I had nine settings (eight, plus a spare). So not everything was thrown away on clothes and makeup. The first setting I got on my birthday from my sister, Beth, who thankfully has good taste.

But I digress from my original point. Where was I going with this? Oh yes! Tomorrow is my birthday! Yup, another year older…but not really deeper in debt. Except for the debts of gratitude I owe so many people in my life.

  • My mom, who is always there for me in every way. She will sacrifice just about anything to help me. I would give her the moon if I could (although cash may be more practical).
  • My brother, who has proven his love and commitment to me in ways I can never repay. He has shown me the value of family, and more importantly, myself.
  • My dad, who is so in tune with my thinking (or I suppose it should be stated the other way around since I’m his offspring) and never fails to surprise me with just the right support when I need it most.
  • My friends Beverly and Bill, who, like family, gave me emotional and practical support, often at personal expense.
  • My best friend from college, Laurie, who “gets me” like few others — and still loves me!
  • My friend Deb, who thinks nothing of putting others before herself and finding the right gifts on any day of the year.
  • My blogging buddies, for all the support you’ve given me in the past two years, as well as the gift of your friendship…and blogs!!!

So many others, but I’ll keep the list concise so it doesn’t lose meaning.

Thank you, everyone of you, and have a piece of chocolate cake (or whatever) this Saturday — it’s my birthday, and I want to celebrate with you!

birthday cupcake

Another year older, and deeper in debt — to all who have given me love and support.


Make yourself smile today with this catchy tune from Tennessee Ernie Ford, which spent a combined 16 weeks at the top of the Billboard Top 100 and Top Country hits lists back in 1955-56.

 

 


Photo Credits: (Department Store) © torsakarin – Fotolia; (Birthday Cupcake) © Studio KIVI – Fotolia

All Who Are Weary, Eat

This Thanksgiving I’ll be with four other people who find themselves in much the same position I’m in: living in a city without family nearby to spend the holidays with. I have some cousins, second cousins, actually, living 20 or 30 minutes away, but seeing them would be much like seeing strangers.

I’ve had three invitations from local friends to join their family, and there’s a part of me that would like to have accepted their generosity. But truthfully, there’s a bigger part of me that looks forward to the time after the meal, when I come home and spend the time with my cats, knitting and watching classic movies.

I’ll enjoy my holiday, I have no doubt about it, both the time with friends and the time alone. I know two of the four people who will be sharing a meal with me; I believe I’ve met the other two but have barely spoken to them. Still, the two I do know are fun, and one of them in particular “gets” me. I’m free to be myself, quiet or goofy, whichever side comes out.

Growing up, I don’t really remember much about how we celebrated Thanksgiving. I believe we included friends who, like me today, have no family nearby with whom they can share the traditions and turkey, but I don’t remember any of them in particular.

me-mom-and-beth-thanksgiving-c-1997
Me, my mom and sister at Thanksgiving nearly 20 years ago, when I was living in Nashville, with no family nearby — they both flew out to see me. I still have that sweater…

I do remember, in my twenties, my mom and stepdad included a Russian couple and their grown daughter, and, for that matter, her fiancé (both were medical students, as I recall). Lisa, Misha and Olga were Russian Jews who had faced persecution under the Soviet Union, and they emigrated to the United States sometime while Olga was still fairly young. Misha, who had an advanced degree, was forced to take a job delivering pizza. Lisa was also highly educated, and she learned how to do nails to make a living. She did my mom’s nails; that was how they met.

It was appropriate to have immigrants at our Thanksgiving table. The tale we’re told of the first Thanksgiving is similar, with a group of European immigrants breaking bread with the Native Americans.

So as we celebrate with our family, friends, or by ourselves, let our thoughts include all those who face adversity in seeking a better, safer life. We cannot become complacent in the lives we lead. We must remember the sacrifices others made for us to give us what we have today, and be willing to open our doors to others who seek the same for the generations of their family to come.

God bless us, everyone.

 

Treasure from the Past

Growing up, my mom decorated for the holidays. A lot of the ornaments and decorations she made herself, and I still have some today.

Of course Christmas was the real winner, but that didn’t mean Thanksgiving got left out. We had cornucopias, gourds, turkey-shaped salt & pepper shakers, and of course, the pilgrim candles.

thanksgiving-candle
The Little Pilgrim Girl candle…I’m betting some of my readers have, or had, one just like it.

Over the years I claimed the little girl pilgrim as mine. I suppose that would have meant the little boy was my brother’s, and the coordinating turkey candle may have been my sister’s. She probably wouldn’t have liked that, but she made it pretty clear she didn’t care for the pilgrim candles to start with. A born artist, she had far more appreciation for the cornucopia and the gourds, so decorative all on their own.

At some point, I’m guessing when my parents divorced and my mom threw out many of the things that reminded her of her life with my father, the pilgrim candles disappeared. I was crushed. Each year I would hope they’d miraculously pop up, but they never did. I believe Mom held onto the turkey salt & pepper shakers for a good long time, however, as well as some of the serving trays.

Other traditions also continued. Many of you Americans know the same ones: the green bean casserole, celery smeared with cream cheese and topped with paprika, and if we were really lucky, twice-baked potatoes.  And the pies…make mine pecan. Or apple. Or a “small” slice of both, and lots of real whipped cream. When my mom re-married, she and my step-dad took on gourmet cooking (well, she’d always been a skilled cook) and a few new delicacies made it to the table.

My family has the same dysfunctions any family has, and like everyone else, they are showcased at Thanksgiving. My grandfather’s bigotry, the endless questions and speculations about a sibling’s or cousin’s absence, the family gossip, distorted and one-sided as all such talk is likely to be. My tendency was to tolerate it for as long as I could, then retreat to my bedroom until my presence was requested. I can’t say I looked forward to the holiday, but I don’t recall dreading it either.

paco-bear
That’s the late great Paco sitting on the three-drawer dresser I got for helping Mark with his mom’s estate.

I continued to miss my little Pilgrim girl. Why, I’m not certain, but I did. Then one spring, my then boyfriend’s mother died. I helped him sort through all of her things and prepare them for the estate sale. While he and his brother could have kept anything they wanted before the estate sale lady took over, one of the rules of the sale was once something is priced, it is to be sold at that price. No more family members claiming what they believe rightfully belongs to them. And, family couldn’t buy anything before the sale started.

We had plenty of time to peruse her belongings before the estate sale team took control, and thankfully we were careful. We found stock certificates, cash that had been gifts in birthday and Christmas cards, and a few valuables we knew should stay in the family. For my efforts, my boyfriend gave me a three-door dresser I still treasure today.

But neither of us saw the little Pilgrim girl until the day before the sale. Marked at only 25 cents, I told Mark that despite our plans to stay away, I would be at the door promptly when the sale opened and I would make a bee-line for that candle. The estate sale lady relented and allowed me to buy the little trinket that night. I suspect she didn’t want us there the next day. It was generally considered advisable not to be nearby.

Today, even though she doesn’t sit up straight, she is a treasured part of my Thanksgiving celebration. I’m told she’s a bit of a collectible, just a small bit, but I wouldn’t let her go for any price. She helps make Thanksgiving worth celebrating.


Candle

More Stories Than Time to Tell Them

My mom called today, and with shaking voice, clearly in pain and a little pleading, said she’s having hip surgery, and asked if I would be there to help her when she came home.

home free III“Of course,” I said immediately. It didn’t matter the day, the week, the month. Of course I’d be there. My mom will be 80 next year, and I’m not going to miss any opportunity to spend time with her. She lives 700 miles away, and if anything were going to truly prompt me to move, shortening that distance would be it.

My boss & friend, Beverly, is planning for her mother’s 90th birthday party later this month. Ruby, her mama, is a wonderful woman, funny, engaging, and almost always cheerful. She’s also lost much of her memory. While she’s been diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer’s, no one’s quite certain if that diagnosis is entirely accurate. Certainly there’s dementia, but so many of the other telling signs of Alzheimer’s aren’t evident. Yet.

Ruby’s excited about her upcoming party. Her oldest son has flown in from Thailand, and until he arrived, she was telling everyone he’d be taking her to Hawaii for two weeks. Now she’s saying Beverly will be the one traveling with her.  Sometimes we hear about a boyfriend, Ray, and his private plane. Truth is, there’s no trip to Hawaii planned (and as far as we know, no Ray). It’s quite possible later this winter we’ll hear tales of her imagined vacation, and her memories of the birthday party may be of conversations and such that never take place. As long as she’s happy, no one cares.

dancersSome of her memories are very real, and she surprises those who love her with the chance telling of them. One friend over & over hears the story of Ruby’s engagement to her first husband, Beverly’s father.

It was the day Pearl Harbor was attacked, and Ruby and her friends were at a picnic (it was the South, so yes, a picnic in December). The food was wonderful, the sky was bright and everyone was dancing when they heard the news of what would be the start of U.S. involvement in WWII. Coy, the man Ruby was dating, told her they’d marry before he left for war so she’d always be taken care of in case something happened to him.

Beverly had never heard this story. She knew her parents had gotten married before he went off to war, but the details about Pearl Harbor and the picnic were new.

She doesn’t want to lose her mother and all the untold stories that will go with her.

The last time I visited my mom, we sorted through some pictures. When we came upon a photo of a particularly beautiful young woman, Mom told me about her best friend, Lee, who was killed in a plane crash when she was only 26.  I knew a little about Lee, but not all I heard that day.

It’s not just the stories, of course. It’s the moms who go with them we don’t want to lose, the sense of endless time to hear what they have to say.

So I’ll be there when my mom has surgery, and every other moment I can make it.

Image Credits: Top: (bird) © Vera Kuttelvaserova; (leaves) © imagincy; (wood table) © MaskaRad; Bottom: (outline of couple dancing) © inga; (starry sky) © yulias07; All, Fotolia.com

Peace, I Pray, For All

Yesterday I posted about my aunt’s death. I mentioned her daughter and granddaughter, who both preceded her in death. I want to remember them now with this picture taken a year before Zoë died in a car accident.

Sadly, Jenna was driving, although as far as I know, she was never faulted in the accident. Her best friend, Angel, also died in that crash. Angel was 25, and Zoë was four. Angel’s daughter, age five, survived and was raised by Angel’s father, who was only 41 when his only daughter died.

Jen died of an overdose four years ago. She was struggling with sobriety when she lost her daughter, and was never able to overcome her addiction.

It doesn’t take much to read the pain in this situation, and some of you have known your own tragic losses and have a blessed compassion. To all who suffer, I wish you peace here on earth.

I believe in an eternal and loving God, and a life everlasting in His presence. I pray they are living in that love now.

jen-and-zoe
Jen and Zo, December 24, 2000

Jennifer Content Moulton

October 12, 1977 – July 8, 2012

Rest in peace, Jenna, may you have found joy at last. I was always, always proud to call you my cousin.


Zoë Patricia Kloster

October 23, 1997 – December 2, 2001

Rest in peace, Zoë, the world was made brighter for the brief time we had you with us.

Rest in Peace

My aunt died this morning, one week after her 70th birthday. It was sudden, yet not surprising.

I’d be lying if I said we were close. She lived her life in such a way I couldn’t be part of it, nor could most of her family. The courts kept her away from her grandchildren. Her only child, my cousin Jenna, died four years ago of an overdose. Her oldest grandchild, Jen’s little girl, died 14 years ago in a car accident.

Yet all lives matter. There are some good memories, and I choose to keep those close. More importantly, she was my mom’s sister, and there is a bond there that cannot be broken. My mom is mourning her loss, and therefore, I am, too.

It’s funny how we swing to the good when someone dies. We want to remember them as their best selves. I pray she is able to be that person now.

Rest in peace, Mary Carol. Say hi to Jenna and Zoë for us.

mary-and-jenna-dec-82
Jenna and Mary, December 1982 (with Humphrey)

Layers and Secrets: A Message to My Friend, Part 1

The day after my brother’s wedding reception, the family and a few close friends gathered at his and my sister-in-law Ann’s apartment.

It was about as a casual an occasion as you can imagine, so I took out my knitting. I happened to be using some beautiful hand-carved needles for a project made of angora and lambswool. Ann’s friend David, an artist, took note of the needles.

“They’re a piece of art by themselves,” he commented, and graciously asked me about what I was making. In turn, I told him how beautifully he’d sung the night before, something I’m sure he was used to hearing. David has a phenomenal voice; at one time he was a soloist in the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus. Let me assure you that is an accomplishment.

We had a really pleasant conversation. Seventeen years later, I still look forward to the time we speak again. David later commented to my brother how nice I was, and my brother was  certain he hadn’t spoken to me. Nice? Not how viewed his sister.

I am nice, to a fault. But while I can be very, very good, I can also be horrid. Less so as I’ve gotten older, I suppose, but yes, I can be nasty. Family dynamics being what they are, I’m guessing this was a time when there was more tension between my brother and me than happiness.

December 2014
Friends typically are taken aback by this shot of me from Dec. 2014. I generally look so much “nicer.”

A few years ago I went through a hell I’m working hard to move past, and it changed me. Initially I found I was much better able to stand up for myself, and a layer of anger seemingly charged all of my actions. The anger still exists, but it’s only a small part of the whole now.

Sometimes, though, my anger and frustration can’t help but eak out, and I have to have a long talk with myself. I choose not to become someone who resorts to passive-aggressive tactics to communicate her feelings, but in order to do that, I have to monitor what I’m feeling and and why.

I am not someone it’s easy to get to know. I constantly surprise those who think they know me well with an offhand comment that reveals I’m not so naÏve or sheltered as they think I am. I frequently hide much of myself from others and conform to their image of me. It’s easier that way.

The blessing for me in all of this is I understand people are more complex than we often realize. I tend to be less surprised about someone’s hidden talents or quirks because I accept that that is the norm. We all have layers we hide beneath the everyday aspects of ourselves.

Layers, and secrets.

(A three-part series on Layers and Secrets.  Look for Part 2 next week!)

Layers

Every Word, Every Drop

Once I was grocery shopping with my friend Pam and her then four-year-old daughter Macy, who was nearly jumping out of the shopping cart seat in excitement at every turn.

“Ooooo!” she’d say, “I want THAT!” Another few steps, “And that! and that!” In vain, Pam tried telling her they didn’t have the money to buy all those things. I decided to step in.

“You know Macy, there are lots of things I’d like to have, too,” I began. “I’d really like a new dress, and some shoes to go with it. Maybe some earrings. But I can’t afford it right now, so I just put it on a list for someday.”

“But I want THAT!” Macy insisted.

Pam sighed. “There are lots of things I want, too, and things Daddy would like,” she said, “but we can’t have everything we want.”

“I’d really like some new makeup,” I went on, maybe pushing it a little. “And a new car. Wow, I’d really like a new car. One with air conditioning.”

Macy was looking skeptical.  With her eyes narrowed, she put her hands on her hips and stared at us. “What you two need,” she said sternly, “is a piggybank.”

Piggy bank manager

We burst out laughing. Macy didn’t get anything she wanted that day, but she was the star of evening as we told the story again and again.

Since that time I’ve thought of that shopping trip and realized something rather important: Macy knew about saving money. As frustrated as Pam may have been with her daughter’s demands, when push came to shove, the kid had the answer. Mom was doing something right.

I wonder how many times parents get fed up with their children’s words and actions and wonder if they’re doing any good at all. They see other kids in the neighborhood seemingly doing so much better, maybe, or their nieces and nephews are the family stars. Is anything getting through?

It’s getting through. It’s all getting through. It may seem futile at the moment, but the words — and actions — are sinking in.

When I was about five, my parents decided to teach me a little about money. I’d been getting an allowance, a small amount, all in pennies.  They brought me to the kitchen table, where there was a pile of pennies on one side, and a dollar bill on the other.

I was told there were 100 pennies, which were worth the same as the dollar bill. I could have either the 100 pennies or the dollar bill, but it was important I understood they were worth the same.

No problem. Got it. Give me the dollar bill. I’d never had currency before.

My parents were certain that in my fascination with that dollar bill, I’d missed the lesson. I hadn’t. I’d grasped it quite quickly, in fact.

You never know what’s going on your child’s mind, but they’re hearing every word. That’s a comfort and a warning, I guess.

You can’t be there to make decisions for them, and they’ll make some mistakes, regardless of all your good words. But you’re laying a foundation and they’ll be building the house, so make it a good foundation.

Because it never stops making a difference. You never stop making a difference.


Photo Credits: (Piggy Bank Manager) © BCFC — Bigstock; (Two Girls) © zagorodnaya — Fotolia

Happy Birthday, Mom!

My mom turns 80 today.

For 56 of her 80 years, she’s been the most important person in my life. That’s a heavy burden to bear at times. I have my issues. Yet she never wavers; her love for me is always first. I know she will be there when I need her. I know she will be there when I just want to chat.

Happiest of birthdays, Mom. All my love, Belinda

Our Simple Home a Place Divine

Great-Gram's Poetry BookI have few family heirlooms, and none have value outside of my home. Still, what I have, I treasure, and what I treasure most, perhaps, is the book of poetry my great-grandfather gave my great-grandmother on their wedding day in February, 1905.

Inscribed inside from him to her is this verse from one of the poems of Riley’s Love Lyrics, long out-of-print:

And have the shine/of one glad woman’s eyes to make, for my poor sake,/Our simple home a place divine/Just the wee cot–the cricket’s chirr–/Love, and the smiling face of her.

Okay, maybe long out-of-print for a reason.

I would like to say their marriage was a love story for the ages, but it wasn’t. It was as good or bad a union as any of its time, with one exceptional result: all of their children, including all four women, received a college education. (My grandmother, I believe, was the only one who didn’t graduate, but in her day, women going to college was the exception, not the rule, and she was as smart, and ultimately, as educated, as any of them.)

And their children were good people. I speak of them and not my great-grandparents only because they were the people I knew, and I respected them.

I’ve had several friends lose their parents this past week in a somewhat shocking series of losses, and in each case I’ve been struck by this: the legacy they left behind in their children, some despite themselves, others because of a lifetime of sacrifice for their children.

panzram wedding
My great- grandparents on their wedding day.

My great-grandparents clearly started out their marriage with all the hope and anticipation of any newlywed couple, and over the years that youthful belief in each other grew into a deeper knowledge of their spouse’s faults and failings, strengths and unique qualities.

Life is a journey, and not an easy one. We have our benchmark moments, but mostly we have day to day experiences that little by little define us, both to ourselves and others. We look for inspiration in the things around us, but we do the best we can with the power we have at any given moment.

And that’s okay. Our choices evolve, we grow, we’re inspired by others and suddenly we see ourselves in a whole new light. It starts a new path without requiring much thought at that point, because it’s who we want to be.

We want to be better, and we find ourselves seeking that good we know is there inside our souls, to show it to the world. As if the world hadn’t seen it already.

 

Sentimental