Thursday, July 10, 2008

A whiff of past embraces...

Yesterday, I literally sat in front of my computer screen for 10+ hours. Big deliverable in the summer school class due last night. My brain still hurts.

So, today, I wanted to NOT sit in front of the computer screen (yet here I am, interesting…).

The plan was to sift through all the detritus (read that word in Terry’s blog today – good word) in the bat cave (my Harry Potter under the stairs office) and the library and at least get everything off the floor so the carpet can be cleaned.

Well, there is still lots on the floor, but at least everything is in one stack or another and I can put the stacks NEAR where they are supposed to be filed, stored, etc.

Problem was, I got distracted.

In the middle of the room sits a large cedar chest my grandmother gave me. It’s not delicate and pretty like a hope chest. It’s hand made and sturdy. It’s a great place to sit down and look through a book you’ve just pulled off the shelf. Inside is a bunch of stuff, mostly from high school. I thought, well, as long as I’m cleaning, I’ll just throw some of this stuff out.

I just need to embrace that I am a “keeper.” I attach lots of emotion to things. There are tons of letters from dear friends, especially Lisa during her European travels. An original Kermit-the-frog. Some totally useless things - Old mums and corsages, pom-poms. Of course, nothing was getting thrown out.

But what got me was a cotton house coat of my grandmothers. Her death was very difficult for me. She had lived with my family until I was twelve and was my biggest fan. She never did get to see me onstage in person, but I always knew she was rootin’ for me. Anyway, I had forgotten, that among some small things that I had brought home after she died, was this housecoat. Its this awful little yellow and orange floral print with the big metal snap buttons and two big pockets on the front. Its been worn and washed a thousand times and is even frayed a little around the neck.

I took it because it smelled like her.

It still does.

"When nothing else subsists from the past, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls, bearing resiliently, on tiny and almost impalpable drops of their essence, the immense edifice of memory" -Marcel Proust "The Remembrance of Things Past"

I sat in the floor and breathed her in and missed her so much my heart ached. She’s been gone for nearly twenty years, but it didn’t matter. For just that moment, she was right there beside me.

I carry her with me every day. She helped me learn to read. She helped me learn to write. I make my cursive capital letter G just like she did. She taught me how to sit quietly on a bank and wait for the bobber to go under. She showed me how to grow tomatoes the size of a softball, and Dahlias the size of my head, although her green thumb never quite transplanted to me. I say words in class like, cattywhumpus, and shimmy-shewobble. Which makes my students laugh at me – but I don’t say them for effect. If a desk isn’t straight in the row, its cattywhumpus, that’s just the best way to describe it. These words, from a woman who was born in 1906 in a hollar (yes, you read that right) in Snowball, Arkansas, are just a part of the wonderful gifts she left with me.


I was so lucky to have my Ge. She gave me so much, the most valuable of which was just a part of her – her time, her attention, her values, her love.

We, all of us, are the sum of the people who care about and invest in us.

Never take those people for granted and continue their legacy.

Who did you invest in today?

1 comment:

Steven said...

Wow, really lovely. I wish I had something of my grandmother's.. something tangible, I mean.