After my mother passed away,
it fell to me to sort her things.
Some were easy: pots and pans,
Pictures, candles, her clock that sings,
Her sweatshirts, and clothes
that I wish I could wear,
Her lighthouse collection,
and my old teddybear.
Harder were books- all her favorites :
paging through Thackeray, Frost and Donne,
from when I was young
What I knew would be hardest,
I kept until last—
Her ‘treasure chest’ full
of her memories past.
In fact, I brought it home ‘for later,’
until the grief of her passing had fled
And there it sat for months all alone
at the foot of the guestroom's canopied bed.
Until one morning several months later,
a misty morning when lilacs bloomed,
for some reason I simply couldn’t fathom
I knew it was time to go to that room.
I had no idea what was in the trunk
more of Mom’s stuff she’d kept many a year--
So I settled in with bags and boxes,
Coffee and tissues to catch that tear
Or two I knew would fall. I opened
Her memory box and was hit with her scent.
She felt so there, so alive, so close
I sat there stunned, no clue what it meant.
A breeze came in and across that chest--
Youthdew perfume wafted through the air
I really saw her, heard her laugh
truly it was as if she were there!
I sorted through pictures I’d made as a child,
Report cards, ribbons, a pressed butterfly,
Her nursing cap, a set of keys,
a picture drawn of a kite way up high.
My dad’s goggles and leather flying helmet
Black and white photo of me as a kid—
Playing dress-up in his navy gear:
I turned back the years and saw all that I did.
Poems I’d written and sealed with a kiss
For Christmas and Valentines, birthdays too
Toothfairy teeth, beribboned curls,
Doily heart, a small bronze shoe.
Pictures of boyfriends she’d had before Dad,
My great grandmother’s christening gown,
My birth announcement in Redbook featured,
Newspaper clipping when her house burned down.
Overwhelmed by images, sent back in time
I leaned against the canopied bed
And simply let my mind’s eye wander
Remembering all the things she’d done and said.
The last few weeks she’d seemed so far,
A distance I could not traverse or travel
She felt so close to me today,
And in that closeness I began to unravel.
Down at the bottom of the trunk
Wrapped in linen, tied with twine
I found a packet of handwritten letters
And the name on all of them was mine!
Letters she’d written before I was born,
Her hopes and wishes as to what I would be,
One written on Mother’s Day, ‘54
The day I officially became me.
One when I was teething,
One when I was terribly two
one when I told a ridiculous lie
another one when I was sick with the flu.
Each letter showed me her boundless love,
As she shared those moments from beyond time
Knowing that down the road I’d read them--
She wrote knowing someday they’d be mine.
Some years she wrote ten or twelve letters
And other years perhaps one or three,
As I grew older she wrote of my writing,
The world through her eyes I might see.
She shared her sorrows when my father passed,
She shared her joys as grandchildren came,
She wrote of weddings, baptisms and deaths,
Of carrying on, forgetting blame.
The very last letter was written the day
Before she died, saying she missed my dad….
Telling me she’d be with him soon in heaven,
The doctors wouldn’t say how long she had,
At last we kids all were settled;
she was tired and ready to go.
Remember I love you, I’ll be in your heart
She told me this would always be so.
She packed away that very last letter
Deep in the chest for me to find.
I sat there smiling through my tears…
‘I love you, Quit crying!’
Was how it was signed.