Posts Tagged ‘memories’

A friend traveled to Turkey and returned with a gift, a hand-painted bowl. The bowl inspired me to change my tablecloth from paisley to red to accent the bowl and then the colors of the bowl inspired me to buy clementines. Cherries came to mind as well except I don’t really like cherries. This morning, with light filling the bowl, I was able to reach for the fruit. As I ate the fruit and the air filled with the scent of oranges, I thought of gifts. My aunt told stories of post-Depression Virginia where her Christmas present was an orange and peppermint candies. Of late I’ve been on the cusp of worrying about all the Christmas cards not mailed, the presents not bought but as I held the fruit in my hand I let go of a bit of the guilt.

I’ve received lots of gifts this late autumn edging into winter. A shell from a young man as I walked along Revere Beach. He saw me stopping to collect and inspect and occasionally photograph, and so he came over to me and held out a speciman and simply said, “This one is beautiful.” I agreed. He kept standing there, shell in hand.  “Is this for me?” I finally asked. He nodded. I took it. We separated and spoke no more.

A woman I’ve met on occasion, who can come across as rather brusque, she stopped to talk with me. As I helped her make a purchase, I admired a bracelet she wore. “It’s tiger agate,” she said, sliding it off of her wrist. I held it and then tried to give it back. She refused. “It is yours, “she snapped. “See? It does not match any of the other jewelry I wore. Clearly God made me wear this today for you. You are a tiger.” I must say, I’ve been called many things, but that may have been the first time I’ve been called a tiger.

Gifts come in many forms. I will treasure the bracelet but mostly because of the memory it will evoke. I will treasure the shell, and all the shells given.  And, of course, the bowl and the oranges and other fruits it will hold, and the memories that rise with their fragrance.

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He kept asking for money but that I would not do.  In part, because I had too little of it myself and because I could not trust him.  He would most likely spend it on alcohol.  If he did not spend it on alcohol, I was worried that “friends” might siphon him dry.  I did want to send him something, to stay in touch, in addition to the occasional chat by phone.  I wanted him to know that I cared about him as much as I knew he cared about me.  I was still his baby sister and I respected that he was one of the big brothers who so carefully looked out for me as a child.

I think one day, with those thoughts in mind, I looked up into a cabinet and saw the dusty box.  I took out a couple of bags, dropped them into an envelope, included a note that said something like “Drink this and not that other stuff!” When I told him what I had done, he just chuckled, as delighted as a child.

I became a connoisseur of tea design and flavor profiles.  I was not especially picky.  Whenever I stayed in a hotel I’d pocket the teas left in the room for guests with a goal to send them to him later.  While grocery shopping, I’d occasionally splurge on an herbal tea sampler and split up the packs to send him different flavors.  Later, I’d quiz him about which teas he’d liked and didn’t like.  Blueberry was a favorite but all flavors were welcome, I was told.

They had to fit inside a standard envelope (which I occasionally decorated).  Ideally the weight was such that I would only need at most two stamps so that I could drop my packages in a blue box on my way into work.  I didn’t want to wait in line in the post office to mail a larger box.  Sometimes I’d jazz up the mailings with little packages of coffee but I knew from childhood memories that he was more of a tea drinker. He and my mom would sit at the kitchen table drinking Lipton tea, her dark cup sweetened with just a bit of sugar, and his almost white with milk.

Why does this story surface?  Well, it has been a long summer in some ways.  Aside from a few mailings of seeds to family and friends and postcards to my kids club, I did not do much other mailing.  This weekend I was on the phone with this brother. We were having a good chat and as I was about to hang up he said, “Hold it. What happened to it?”

“What happened to what?”

“My tea,” he said.  “You haven’t sent me my tea.  It does help, you know.  When I have tea, I don’t drink.”

“Okay,” I said brightly. “I’m on it.”  Both laughing, we hung up. And then I cried.

That night I pulled together a short pile of envelopes and addressed them all to him.  The next day I bought a box of tea, many flavors.  Yesterday, I mailed him honey vanilla.  We’ll see what the next week holds.  Maybe strawberry. I think a big box of blueberry will wait until Christmas.



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There is an elderly woman who lives in my childhood home in Virginia.  My brother tells me that she loves to grow tomatoes like some people grow wildflowers.  In every available space, as a border to the porch, in the spots where the roses and hydrangeas grew, all now tomatoes.  While wonderful to see such eccentric growth, it was also hard for my brother to see.  There was a part of him that wanted the old yard back, the flower beds and vegetable garden and the swathe of green grass just big enough for children to run about with clothes lines arching above.  He wanted the fence line back that separated our property from the neighbor’s, a wire fence covered in honeysuckle and milkweed and edged with wild mint.  And he wanted the trees, the maple, the plum and that short-lived apricot.

All had been gone for near two decades but in that moment, of seeing those tomatoes, he fiercely wanted it all back and with it the parents now deceased and the siblings spread far and wide.  “You alright, Daddy?” his son asked.  He looked down at his five-year old who was sprouting up like an oak.  “Yes, son.  Daddy was just remembering.  Remind me to tell you about the seeds I planted in this place.” The son nodded and then said, “Okay, but can we go to the playground first?” My brother laughed, tickled his son, and let the past fade knowing it would never disappear.  “Yes, son, let’s go.  We must have our priorities.”

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As a child I remember a wire fence separating our house and yard from that of the neighbor’s.  Along this fence twined the milkweed vines so thick that we were sometimes a stop for errant monarch butterflies.  And there entwined amidst these sturdy vines were the delicate strands of the honeysuckle.

A friend taught me how to harvest the nectar.  Quite tasty though I did wonder how long would it take to fill a glass or even just a thimble.

Sometimes I’d attempt to braid the vines to make tiny crowns for my dolls’ heads (because my brothers would not deign to wear them).  The flowers adorned play dough cakes and moist mud pies.  With hindsight, I wish that I had placed them upon the dark red mulberries that I once handed to my dad on a tea set plate.

Just some of the thoughts that came to mind as I recently stood next to a wall of honeysuckle.

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A side salad of sorts made with fresh grown flowers and sprouts from around the house, with a bit of red onion from the fridge.  These salads have become a creative outlet.  Luckily, so far, they are tasty too.  Growing up, the only salads I ate were made of torn iceberg lettuce, sliced red tomatoes and maybe a chopped cucumber.  The dressing was usually mayonnaise from a jar until my mom got into creamy bottled dressings.  Recently, at a restaurant, I saw a salad being served.  On a lovely china saucer sat a wedge of iceberg lettuce and upon its light green surface was drizzled a bit of white dressing.  When I checked the menu for its price, I was a bit startled and could only think of my mom and had to chuckle.

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… I do see nebula …

… and supernovas …

… and all sorts of stellar events …

… all within a single leaf, found on the ground yesterday, as I walked home.

And as I carried that single leaf in one hand and all of my groceries in the other hand, I had to chuckle because I was reminded of how my parents worried when I went out walking by myself.  They thought that my head would be lost in the clouds.  How right they were.  Anyway … have a good day, folks. 😉

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blue stone in water

blue stone in water in black bowl

One night a year or so ago, I entered my childhood home and walked into the kitchen.  The light was low and the air was warm.  I sat at the table with my mother, feeling welcomed as always.  Just as I did when I returned home from college, I began to tell her the stories of my daily life, the ups, the downs and all that lay in between.  I told her about the people I cared about and worried about.  I opened up a bit more than usual and began to share mistakes made and the opportunities I saw on the horizon.  I explained how I felt older, not sure about wiser,  but at least tempered by life and was looking forward to trying to apply some of the lessons learned.

blue stone in water, branches reflected

blue stone in water, branches reflected

She listened attentively, as she had always done, and on occasion, she smiled as I described some silliness of mine.  As I paused to take a deep breath, I admired how wonderful she looked, the smoothness of her caramel skin, the fullness of her brown hair reaching her proud shoulders, the strength in her arms, and the brightness of her eyes.  She was the strong woman of my youth, not the more fragile woman of my adulthood.  And yet I sat before her as an adult.

blue stone in water and branches reflected, in motion

blue stone in water and branches reflected, tilting the bowl

Still trying to catch my breath, I managed to say, “Ma, I’ve been telling you stuff that happened after you died, haven’t I?” She nodded. We stood and she pulled me into her arms.  She felt soft and warm and held me tight.  “That’s right, baby,” she said. ” And you’ve got a lot more stuff to do.  My time has passed but this isn’t your time.”  I woke up gasping for breath … which is what I had needed to do since I’d been having trouble breathing in my sleep.

rocks in water

rocks in water

I have not visited my mother’s grave, or my father’s, in well over a decade.  My main memories of the site are actually based on the stories my brother told of walking through the area with flower seeds in his pocket and letting them fall when the caretaker wasn’t looking.  I don’t know if those flowers ever bloomed but I feel like I carry them with me wherever I go, just as I carry my mother.  Or perhaps, she still carries me.

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