there comes a point when we all have to run away. for me, it's this thanksgiving. this is the year when the two of us pack up our sicilian lasagna and meatballs - along with homemade resee cups and peanut butter cake (the closest thing to southern tradition in our home) - and head to the north georgia mountains for cold air and renewal.
the drive reminds of many i once made. as a college student and newlywed, i'd always travel to clarkesville to see mama and daddy and be renewed by mama's orange slice cake and dried apple pies. years later, there's the one i always made the tuesday before the traditional thursday to pick up my aunt sophia and her decadent chocolate cake. we'd always stop by KFC on the way home for hot wings; that was our secret.
for this drive, it was only one cooler filled with pasta and sweets.
now it's thanksgiving morning and the parade is over, the fire is blazing, and memories are invading. len is talking to his northern family - in animated italian - and becoming the talker he swears he is not. i claim the fire and think of my children. we're spread on different continents, but even distant cities might as well be a world away. thanksgiving will live primarily in my mind for the majority of years to come, a realization that i'm not sure i'm ready for. my children and len's children lead faraway lives, our parents are gone and the immediate family are not close. so we will hold memories close and even though it's just the two of us, i'm beyond thankful. i'm grateful for the life i'm so privileged to lead.
so wool socks, keep me warm! memories, keep me warm! it's almost time for lasagna.
i found a letter today as i was cleaning through some old boxes getting them ready for trash pick-up. it wasn't in a ripped open envelope. it was simply a folded sheet of white paper with the date at the top, with - "judy & children" - scribbled beneath.
i don't remember ever seeing it, although since that time in my life, there have been more battles and combat than i care to remember. there's a good chance it might have passed by my sight rather quickly and i forgot. but, i doubt that. this i would have remembered and kept in the box where you keep things you must remember for a lifetime rather than finding it layered in between the bills and the opened birthday cards.
i can see how it evolved. mama had returned home from lunch at the senior center - the joy of each day, and now, this was her quiet time. she took her spot in her tan recliner with the arm pads draped over each side. they conveniently held everything she might need at a moment's notice - the remote, her glasses (and dark visor in case the mail ran and she had to walk to the mailbox), pencils and pens, a larger-than-life crossword book turned to the exact page where she left off, tissues and maybe a piece of candy for when her sugar got too low. and, each was in its proper place. she always scolded the kids when they would use something and not return it to its place.
i can see her with a writing pad and pen and her thoughts racing. in the later years, it grew harder for her to script much more than a few letters or numbers, and connecting them into conversation or a letter meant more time and effort. it was exhausting, and i knew if i received something, it meant something. pay attention.
i still have the birthday cards she gave later in life where she had scribbled "mama" in her arched, weary style. one still makes its home in my wallet just in case i need a reminder.
this note makes plain her wishes upon death, but it's the between-the-lines that tell my mama's story. her long life - 96 years - how lucky she was to one that juxtaposed struggles and triumphs; the love of a good and hard working man that never left her side; a child in later years that completed the home; many brothers and sisters who were the delight of her existence; grandchildren that made the lonely later years
never lonely; she was rich beyond the numbers in her bank account or the visible earthly possessions, and she knew it. she wanted us to know that stuff didn't mattter; it was what was inside that was most valuable.
her faith was as stalwart as the magnolia she and daddy planted when i was a child. television was not good for anyone, she contended, but every now and then, something other than the nightly news would be alright. we would always watch the billy graham crusades, and i always wondered why mama wasn't standing beside brother billy and brother george on that podium. she was as steadfast as either of those men. she wanted for us the eternal life that she knew was coming to her sooner than later. a chance for all of us to be together again. she was counting on that.
her abrupt end puts her life in perspective. she was tired, and it was time to go. nine month later, she did. in that same tan recliner that she spent most days in.
yes, i cry each time i read this. i miss her every time i read this, and i love my children more and more each time i read this for i'm afraid that we may have let her down. she provided such an amazing example of how to tackle life and win, and when it's time to go, how to exit with grace and contentment.
although i'm tired, mom, i'll try to finish this life, this existence in a manner that i hope will make you proud. just for you. just like you.
the sound jarred me. heavy metal combining with concrete. i expected horns and tires screeching in downtown snellville, georgia, but not a sound so out of place.
i stopped at a red light on a hectic street, taking a look at my phone for anything urgent, when a sound startled me. i looked in my rear view mirror thinking initially someone had rear-ended me. nothing there except a car at its proper distance. but out of the corner of my eye - two lanes over, i noticed a man and woman on the sidewalk, just a few inches from the path of cars. in their fifties or so, dressed in jeans, not looking out of place. for a brief moment, his hand reached around her waist, pulling her closer, protecting her from the dangers of traffic. she looked up at him, thanking him with her eyes. tucked safely under her right arm, the woman held a rolled up blanket. odd, for sure, i thought. he let go, bent down, and she watched as he began his work. hoovering over a manhole, he picked up the heavy cover that lay askew. he heaved with all his might, and he shoved it to the side, crashing against the concrete. this time, it had fallen far enough away to expose the entire cavern.
and then my mouth dropped, and i forgot about the traffic.
as the man watched protectively, the woman slipped into the darkness, deep inside the ground. once she was inside, he followed. the heavy cover moved, swallowing the couple.
i sat in my car. in my warm car, sipping on my starbuck's latte and feeling ashamed. a horn from the impatient driver behind me urged me to move along. i wondered if they had witnessed the two people? did anyone else see? they had to have seen. most were lots closer than i, but as if it had been an illusion, traffic picked up and life carried on.
i've been back to that intersection a couple of times, hoping to see them again. i haven't. i still wonder who they were and why they were there. i remember their faces. not a sign of despair, only concern and worry for the one beside. i still feel ashamed of my unfettered whimpers.
so this thanksgiving, i will remember the out-of-place sound of metal. i hope that if ever i get to the place in my life where blankets and beds are luxuries rather than necessities, i will approach each day with gratitude - no matter what the situation might be. if god forbid, a hole in the earth becomes my sleeping quarters, i will be strong and hold on to my partner for strength. i will not care what others say or see, but will keep my eyes fixed on the one who loves me, for therein lies my hope. i will not be ashamed by what i must do for love or for survival.
my heart tells me its time to take another trip to snellville, just on the off-chance they are there. i hope they aren't. i hope they are inside four walls this thanksgiving, enjoying each other without the trappings of metal.
Whether it is exploring this amazing world or being content on my own piece of real estate near Athens, Georgia, I'm spinning stories and fashioning tales from a Southern perspective. As an editor and writer, I get to meet incredible people and share their stories. As a photographer, I get to cement these moments in time. As a wife and mother, I'm always excited to see what's around the next corner, For it's anything but ordinary.