Looking for Signs

Today, 39 years ago, I remember packing  your hair dryer in the blue Samsonite case. It was the same one you’d had since you were nineteen. You were now 35. You hadn’t been feeling well during Christmas, so Dad was preparing to take you to the hospital.

I was used to these regular visits to doctors – checkups for things of which I had no knowledge, save the fact that I knew your skin was getting harder and harder by the day. Your fingers cracked and bled, you had difficulty holding a fork to eat, and now, you were so physically exhausted, a wheelchair had been rented.

I didn’t know that the scleroderma you had also weakened your lungs and caused pneumonia.

I also didn’t know that, sitting there on the bed beside you as Dad packed a few things, this would be the last time I would ever be this close to you.

You died in the hospital five days later.

There are so many times I have rehearsed in my head the things I should have said to you. The things I should have asked of you. How I wanted us to have a”secret sign” that would let me know it was you, paying me a visit on each day I graduated. When I was recovering from the hysterectomy. When I turned 50 a few weeks ago.

But I was eleven. I had no idea those things would be so important down the road. I had no idea I would outlive you.

It never gets easier each year. I just learn to deal with it the best I can.

And I still sit, wait, and look for signs. Just like I think you did

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Momma on her favorite pier – Bogue Pier, NC. 1975.
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All of a Piece

Today was International Women’s Day. A good friend of mine (and an amazing writer) shared her submission to the book, Letters for My Little Sister.

It’s about the “M” word, ladies… I think you’ll love this. I know I did.

Apologies for the shaky start to the video… I’ll go ahead and blame it on the menopause!

The Writer Doesn’t Fall Far from the Tree…

Tonight was one of those nights where I needed a little “perking up” and some inspiration for writing, so while rummaging through the boxes of old photographs acquired over the years (and yet to be properly archived), I came across something so very unexpected – a “confirmation” of sorts.  It was a little booklet that my aunt had made and shared with the family shortly after Granny (my mother’s mother) had passed in 2004.  It contained poems she had written in 1937, when she was 22 years old and not yet married to Pa-Paw.  Even more exciting was the fact that a poem written by my great-grandmother in 1940 was included. She was 62 years old when she wrote it.

Not only was this a wonderful surprise, I also found it quite interesting that my great-grandmother’s poem was about a bird – now, the mystery of my strange attraction to them may have finally been explained.  Apparently, bird lovers run in the family.

Apparently, so does the love of writing as well.  Not only did Great Grandma Archy enjoy writing the occasional poem, I learned from my aunt that she also wrote for the Charlotte Observer sometime in the 1920s and 1930s under the pen name, “Ichabod.”  During that time, I suppose women weren’t strongly encouraged to write for the paper, so she found a way to get around that barrier.  (Way to go, Great-Grandma!) I am currently in the process of contacting the archives division in Charlotte to see if they can help me find more information…and hopefully some of her articles.

At the back of the booklet were some loose pages.  Brown and ragged at the edges – I discovered they were the original handwritten poems.  There was something about holding those pieces of paper in my hand and lightly running fingers across the words that made me feel as if, for a moment, I was right there when they were being crafted over 70 years ago.

Gr Grandma Archy's Poem 1940
Granny's Poem 1937

Digging deeper into the box, two yellowed envelopes also appeared.  They were typewritten – addressed to my Granny from my Momma.  They had been returned to me after her death, and I never realized exactly what they contained – until opening and reading them tonight.

Mom's Letter 1974

Before me was three generations of writing – and I couldn’t help but see a similarity in my grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s style.  But what touched me the most was the letter from Momma to my Granny – 40 years ago, just after Pa-Paw had suffered a heart attack.  Momma had graduated from a business college and worked for a while as a secretary for J.P. Stevens Company in Greensboro when I was young.  I vaguely remember us having a typewriter, and I also think I remember her allowing me to use some of her onion skin typing paper and “practice” now and then.

But I digress.  Momma’s letter was dated 1974 – less than four years before she died.  As the years go by, it’s growing more and more difficult to remember little things about her.  But this letter brought all the memories flooding back when I saw how her writing reflected the deeply caring nature I still remembered and how she expressed specific concern over making sure that a close eye was kept on Pa-Paw because “he was used to doing what he wants to.” She mentioned me in the letter and that I was excited about going to see Elvis (yes, I saw him!) and that she regretted not buying a ticket for herself.  When I read that sentence, I couldn’t help but feel a pang of deep regret also – had she bought another ticket to the concert and joined my neighborhood friend, his mother, and me, that would have made for just one more fond memory to add to the small handful I was able to gather in her short time here with me on this earth.

Great Grandmother Archy’s poem was written about a Mockingbird, but it reflected a mother’s sense of loss after her last child left the “nest.” She needed to “keep on singing” after her children left home, as did the Mockingbird, despite losing her own “nestlings.”

Granny’s poem was an ode to her mother – the one who was her best friend and her “lighthouse.”

Momma’s letter to her mother was one of deep caring, compassion, and encouragement in a time of difficulty — and a precious, unexpected and much-needed gift of memories for her daughter 40 years later.

Three generations of mothers expressing themselves through writing – and confirmation to me that what they say about apples… well…

 To My Mockingbirdby Archy Harris Morrison (1940)

Oh, little bird, come sing your sweet song;
With your notes full of cheer the whole day long.
You sit on your bough and sing to me;
As if you are happy, as happy can be.

And, oh, mockingbird, sing on your sweet song;
Put pep in my step and cheer up the throng.
Who chance to pass and hear your sweet song;
Sing your sweet song, sing on, sing on.

Sometimes the cruel cat your nestlings take;
And you are left to mourn your sad fate.
But you sing your song from early morn;
Oh, who could guess you were left so forlorn.

May the sweet melody that you make;
Cause us some joy and courage to take.
That when our home ties are broken may we;
Still scatter sunshine where ’ere we be.

 

Mother – by Willie Morrison Taylor (1937)

You, mother are the dearest
Of all my friends to me.
You’ve been the inspiration
Of all my childest glee.

Tho’ all the years have passed
Since I was but a child
You have been my lighthouse –
Even your bright smile.

You’ve cheered me when I’m lonely
And helped me when I’m blue,
You’ve made the burdens lighter
And skies of brighter hue.

I hope when life is over
And our days here are done
You’ll have a crown victorious
With every battle won.