Some people come into our lives and quickly go.
Some stay for awhile and leave footprints on our hearts.
And we are never ever the same.
As everyone was going through my in-laws' things at Great G's home, she looked at the boxes and piles left behind by her daughter and son-in-law wistfully. Without moving her gaze, she told me "It's amazing, isn't it? The whole of two people's lives, now just a pile of stuff to go through." I think she was really feeling the loss at that time, because of course, we are more than just the stuff we leave behind. So much more.
Sometimes, we don't even know the things we "leave behind" with others we meet in this lifetime. I know I've been surprised on occasion when someone from my past has kindly shared something they remember about me, maybe something I taught them, or something that inspired them. We don't always know the impact we have on those we touch. We may not give the moment a second thought, but we're always touching others in this life.
My ex-husband is known in the family for being an excellent cook. As we were all talking and sorting at Great G's, he told us that people often ask him how he learned how to cook Mexican food so well. "From my ex-wife's mom," he said. I spun round to look at him. Really? Yes, really. Apparently, he still makes handmade tortillas, mixing the dough, letting it rest, rolling, patting and stretching the tortillas ... just like my mom. (As kids, we'd usually take turns getting the last tortilla, which was usually a little smaller than the others.) And from-scratch beans, complete with the bacon fat ... just like my mom. And Mom's tacos, with ground beef, potato and cumin. And tamales at Christmas even! (He's Scotch-Irish, not a drop of Latino in him.) I very rarely make these dishes! Surprised, yes. And also deeply touched, very deeply touched that he thought of my mom whenever he made these things, remembering how she did them, and remembering the times when he and I were young, idealistic, hippie, married kids, barely 20, a different lifetime ago. I had no idea. It was a gift to think that someone is making Mom's dishes ... and a huge surprise that it would be my ex-husband.
One of the big finds as we sorted were Phebe's journals. She kept journals throughout her lifetime. We all giggled as my niece read from her wedding journal, writing about how certain evenings were "very lovely" ... cue the camera to pan to ocean waves crashing on the beach. No details on those evenings (thank goodness!), just the cryptic "very lovely" to leave the rest to the imagination. Other entries were so very dear and so very sweet; a beautiful love story told in those journals.
And then there were the letters. Lots of them, piled, beribboned, bound together, boxed. Do you keep letters? Do you write them, hand-write them? When I was a kid, we wrote letters. I miss them. I miss the excitement of gathering that white envelope (sometimes with a heart or XOXOX on the back) from the mailbox and quickly checking who sent it, the return address neatly written in the upper left corner, not a label. I remember the anticipation when I'd receive a letter from my cousins in El Paso, filled with all the chatty tidbits from a household of four girly daughters. Some years ago, I had a friend who moved to Hawaii; his letters included fun little drawings of him swimming with turtles or palm trees waving in the wind. Another friend used to draw little cartoons.
Mom was a consistent letter writer when we were young. Her handwriting was beautiful, the letters curved just right, her capital R (for my name) open at the top, the straight left leg slightly angled forward and gracefully flowing down to the right leg in a curvy S shape. Each letter flowed gently as it linked to the next in each word. Her writing was the most beautiful I've ever seen. An aunt in New Mexico had writing that was not as neat and took some time to decipher exactly what she wrote, but it was always worth the effort. Mom always wrote on nearly transparent, very light onionskin. The onionskin letter pads came with a lined template that one could slip under the onionskin to guide the writer's hand and keep the lines straight. Mom, with her meticulous writing, never needed it, but if I happened to use onionskin instead of some colorful paper, I always found it helpful.
Now, very few letters arrive in my mailbox. Cards are always welcome, though, and lift my heart with delight when I spy them amongst the junk mail and bills. I keep many of them, with their words of love, encouragement, celebration. I'm lucky to have some with my mom's beautiful handwriting, others with my dad's clear, neat, smaller penmanship, and still others from my brothers with especially meaningful messages. (One says that I'm his "hero.") I've saved letters from my daughter when she was away on a school trip or on a church retreat. She often copied Psalms passages for me, little gifts of encouragement for a single mom struggling each day. I treasure the cards that my granddaughters make for me, with their drawings and things glued on. (There's one from Jas with a plastic turtle - my power animal - on it.) Many of them are bound, beribboned and boxed.
Some day, someone may go through them and think of my life and what I've left behind.
Labels: blessings, Dad, family, love, Mom