Tag Archives: family

An Orange in the Toe of Your Stocking

This morning, when I tied the last few bows around the last few presents for my kids, I remembered a similar feeling from when I was a teenager, many Christmases ago. I loved wrapping presents. Loved it loved it loved it. I wrapped all the gifts my mom had bought. Then I went up the road and wrapped presents for my Aunt Dixie. Then Mom drove me into town and dropped me off at Pop and Grandmama Irene’s house for an afternoon so I could wrap presents for them, too.

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Grandmama pulled everything out of the hall closets and made sure each box was labeled on the outside (so I wouldn’t have to peek inside to see what was what). I laid out the tubes of wrapping paper, the scissors and the tape on the braided rug in their bedroom, right in front of the warm gas logs. I worked along steadily in my own happy place. After a while, Grandmama came in to check on me. When she saw that I had it under control and there was nothing she needed to do, she stretched out across the white coverlet on the four-poster bed.

Like so many things in Grandmama’s house, we kids walked carefully around that bed. And woe be unto you if you so much as laid a hand on or god forbid leaned against the spindle that ran between the footposts. That bed was so old that it had been made by slaves owned by Pop’s side of the family. I had seen Grandmama lie down for a nap before, but never across the bed to chat. She stretched out on her side to watch me with one hand propped under her head. Her feet hung off the side of the bed like a teenager at a slumber party, with her shoes clear of the perfect white chenille spread.

“I sure am glad you like to wrap packages because I surely don’t.” She grinned and bounced her foot. I remember feeling that I needed to be careful, to not break this gentle magic. Grandmama was almost always busy and not much of a chatter. Most every action and word in her world had a POINT. I wanted to keep the conversation going, so I asked, “Did you like to wrap packages when you were my age?”

“Oh, we didn’t have any such as that when I was your age.” (I want to type that as “yo age” because that’s how she talks, not a terminal -r to be found) “For Christmas, we might get a piece of candy and an orange but that was it. Daddy always got us an orange.”

Grandmama was born in 1918, so her teenage years were the dark years of the Depression. Aunt Eula, Grandmama’s older sister by a few years, had come to stand in the doorway. “Irene, remember that year we got an apple AND an orange?” They went on to tell me about life on the farm down along the river, how they each had two dresses–one to wear and one to wash–while I sat there wrapping gifts in shiny paper and tying ribbons.

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Twenty years later, I told that story to Richard and my dad one morning while we were sitting out on the deck in the sunshine. Daddy was born in 1942, but his brothers were 10 and 13 years older, so they were young in the Depression. Their father made a living cutting lumber for furniture makers in Atlanta and business had just about dried up. Nobody had money for furniture. Daddy told us how things got so bad one winter that his father had to leave a guard with the team of mules in the woods so that no one stole the animals for meat. That winter, my Grandfather Joe didn’t know how he was going to pay his hands, much less have anything left to make a little Christmas for Uncle Kenneth and Uncle Charles. Then just a few days before Christmas, he got an order for lumber, and it was enough to, in Daddy’s memory of hearing the story when he was a boy, “pay the hands, buy a little wooden train for Kenneth and Charles, and surprise the family with a bag of oranges.”

These two stories explain why Santa puts an orange in the toe of my kids’ stockings every year. This year, slogging through my own cold Depression, I keep hearing my grandmother saying “Daddy always got us an orange.” I think about how this might be the saddest Christmas of my life because I won’t hear any stories from my dad. He won’t be baking pies or slicing tenderloin for Christmas Eve dinner. He won’t be wearing a red and green tartan buttondown shirt under his flour-covered apron. He won’t make us a bag of oranges to take home from the box Uncle Kenneth sends up from Florida.

Those oranges in my kids’ stockings remind me that our family has had it worse. We’ve lived through some lean times and mean times. Some years are so bad you gotta worry about hungry folks boiling the mule. And some years you get an apple AND an orange.

I am the product of many generations of people who found a way to hold some sweetness, even in the darkest time of the year.

And that is why there will always be an orange in the toe of your stocking, kids.

A Little More Light

light and darkness

I’m struggling, y’all.

Not every moment of every day, but enough moments of most days that I feel like I am dragging a bag of wet cement in each shoe.

I’ve written 20,000 words…in my head. I’ve rolled out from under the covers every morning and gotten straight to beating myself up for not being up already. For not exercising. For not writing. For not being happy all the fucking time.

For not speaking up about what is worst in the world right now. For not having gifts wrapped under the tree yet. For not making a casserole ahead of time and just skipping the pot luck. For not even trying to do teacher gifts and greeting cards and a new wreath for the front door and gingerbread people and a birthday party plan for Carlos and a haircut and cleaning out my voicemail box at work. For not. Not not not.

I can never do enough to keep the darkness at bay.

I have this little white ceramic Christmas tree that Daddy passed along to me years ago when our Aunt Mary Fuller died. She and Uncle Curtis lived in Avondale Estates for most of their lives, so they were city folk. They couldn’t walk out into the pasture and cut a cedar tree from the fence line. They had this little ceramic tree that lit up from the inside. I remember visiting them once in Atlanta. I fell in love with this tree and the tiny gold foil star that Aunt Mary Fuller had taped to the top.

Now it’s mine.

Like any inheritance, it’s past is so precious to me that I feel like I have to protect it from the present in order to save it for the future. Namely, I don’t want my kids to smash it. When Vivi was a baby, I put this tree on top of the bookcase in her nursery. Once she started toddling about, the tree stayed in its cardboard box for a couple of years, until I could trust her to not bring it crashing down. It lit up the dark nights in the nursery for Carlos’ first few Christmases, then back in the attic.

This year, I brought it down with all the other boxes of decorations. Each kid has a tree of their own now. There’s one in the living room and another in the den. Now that I could put Mary Fuller’s tree out, did we have room for it anymore?

I decided to keep it for myself, to enjoy it in the midst of my dark nights. This weekend, I set it out on a little table right by my bed, in the same spot that the bassinet stood. Vivi and Carlos placed the tiny plastic “bulbs” in the holes on the tips of the branches (and I didn’t even rearrange them to even out the balance of green and red–they were going for a lava flow effect and I think it’s pretty cool). We flipped the switch and sat in the Saturday morning glow of the 1970s. I told them how important this tree is to me and asked them to be very careful around it. I’m trying trust. We’ll see.

At night, I leave the little tree glowing after I set the alarm, write my gratitude in the journal, and turn out the light. Some nights, I cry. Some nights, I don’t.

It’s less dark. And that’s the reminder I need–a gentle push from the past. A reminder that we can only appreciate the stars when it’s dark. We have to trust our fragile hearts to a world that’s likely to break them.

 

Make Us Thankful

A Thanksgiving memory: Little Gay, Me, Joe, Beth, Jake...and that's Grant in the front. Mr. Enthusiasm!

Thanksgiving many years ago: Little Gay, Me, Joe, Beth, Jake…and that’s Grant in the front. Mr. Enthusiasm!

My dad had a theory that you could measure how Baptist a person was by counting the number of times they said “Just” while asking the blessing before a big meal. Like this would score pretty high on the Baptist-o-meter:

(with every head bowed and every eye closed)

Lord, we just ask that you just look down on us Lord and just bless this food that is just such a blessing. Just help us remember, Lord, just how very blessed we are to just have what we need. We just praise you Lord….(continue for 12 minutes)

Now, now…to all my Baptist leaning friends, please don’t get your noses out of joint. In our family, we make fun of all peoples, of all faiths, in equal measure. We even did it a little when Grandmama Eunice was alive. But not when she was in earshot.

Speaking of Grandmama Eunice, I think she was the source of the standard blessing that Daddy used: “Lord make us thankful for these and all our many blessings. Bless this food to our bodies and us to your service, Amen.” No matter how much extemporizing the blesser did, they always brought the blessing to a close with these lines.

Over the years, asking the blessing got to be more and more special to Daddy. We all gather up in the kitchen or around the dining room table. Sometimes we hold hands and sometimes we just try to keep the kids in line. (See that just sneaking in there? Raised Baptist!) Daddy would say a few words about how lucky we were to be comfortable in life and the duty we owed to those who weren’t as lucky. His blessings always celebrated our family and the deep love we shared for each other. If it had been an especially tough year for one of us, he would say thanks that it was over and we were all still together. There was the blessing that remembered Richard when he was in the hospital. The blessing that welcomed Brett back home after she got her life straight. Last year, he said a blessing of thanks that he had made it through a bad health scare.

About fifty percent of the time, he’d get choked up. And that led to one of the most enduring stories in our family lore and it’s the thing I’m thinking about as we head towards this first Thanksgiving without Daddy saying the blessing before dinner.

Mr. Enthusiasm strikes again! Grant and Jackson at Callaway Gardens.

Mr. Enthusiasm strikes again! Grant and Jackson at Callaway Gardens.

For a few good years, when the nephews were small, we set aside one autumn weekend to take the whole fam-damn-ily to Callaway Gardens. Piled in together in one big villa, we’d cook and tell stories and laugh and jump in the leaves and let the kids stay up late.

The villa had a long dining table, big enough to hold all of us. Before we sat down to feast on tenderloin from the grill, Daddy asked the blessing. Halfway through, he started to get emotional and took a second to compose himself. All of the adults stayed quiet, but tiny little Grant, who was about three, piped up in a very loud whisper, “Papa’s cryin’ like a BABY!” 

Daddy loved that story. We had a reason to tell it again quite often, pretty much every time we got together.

I don’t know who will ask the blessing this year. Probably Joe, or Brett, maybe even Grant, who is tall and gracious and clever (still). I know we’ll all cry like babies. That’s just the way it’s going to be.

But in the midst of sorrow, may we be thankful for these and all our many blessings. Grief is the price of love.

This picture has nothing to do with the story, but it's my favorite picture of Grant.

This picture has nothing to do with the story, but it’s my favorite picture of Grant.

 

 

Farewell to Our Loving Family

Victoria brought the Loving Family dollhouse into our family then passed it along to Vivi. One Christmas, Santa brought rooms of new furniture and a dappled gray horse for the family that lived there. The next year, he brought a silver minivan, a baby brother, a Nana and a Cousin Jake. By the next Christmas, Cousin Jake had been renamed to Carlos.

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It’s windy where Nana is standing.

I moved Grandmama Eunice’s drop-leaf table out from under the living room window to make room for the Loving Family as they grew. The house lived right there, in plain view of the dining room table, and many nights Vivi would play there while G and I finished dinner or tended to Carlos.

I never had a dollhouse like that. Every few days, grown up Ashley indulged Little Ashley by spending a few minutes tidying it up. I fetched all the scattered pieces from the floor then arranged the dining room chairs and the tiny dessert buffet next to the grandfather clock. The little girl’s room had a pink canopy bed like I had always wanted. I put the pillow on her bed and pushed the blue tufted stool under the vanity table. I placed the bassinet and the changing table in the nursery then put the teensy baby monitor on the side table in the living room, right next to the Walkman with headphones. The kitchen counter folded out–the perfect spot to set the grocery bag. In the barn next to the house, I set up the white rail fence and hitched the horse to it. Playing with the dollhouse brought me peace. Where else could I set everything to rights in a couple of minutes?

As Carlos grew, he played with it too. Mostly he would toddle over to it and wipe all the furniture to the floor while we yelled, “Godzilla! Godzilla!”

Two years ago, I moved it to the basement play room and no one seemed to notice. We’ve been walking around it for a while so I decided this weekend to make the big leap and big farewell. Actually, it was a pretty quick decision because G had the girls out for the afternoon and my friend Susan had just told me about how easy it is to clean the house of old toys with a few black garbage bags and a couple of hours to oneself.

The years have taken their toll on our Loving Family. I hung the pink doors back on their hinges and reattached the barn to the house. Wiped the crayon swirls off the floor with a Magic Eraser. I even tried to comb Nana’s hair. All the furniture went into a gallon Ziploc bag. I checked to make sure the baby had a stroller and a bottle and a bassinet. I wiped down the dining room chairs and found the tiny pieces of cherry pie on yellow placemats.

I needed to move quickly, to get the deed done before I had time for my nostalgia to catch up. It’s hard to say farewell to the Loving Family. I struggled with saying goodbye to the tiny spaces that had brought all of us some kind of joy over the years.

When I pulled it out of the back of the car at the Project Safe thrift store, the volunteer clapped her hands and squeaked with delight.

I set the dollhouse into the rolling canvas bin that she had brought to the car to receive my things. “I taped all the pieces here…and here. And all the furniture is there. I think the van is in the other bag…”

She patted me on the arm and “This will be someone’s Christmas.”

Yes.

Some little person will wake up to a Loving Family of their own next month. And Project Safe will have made a few dollars to put towards supporting survivors of domestic abuse.

But I think the gift has already been given–to me. When I think about someone else setting out dinner for Nana and Cousin Jake, or taking the horse for a gallop around the yard, my heart feels tidy, with everything in its place.

Our Loving Family is moving on.

Our Loving Family is moving on.

Doors and Windows and Corners

You know that old saying, “When one door closes, a window opens?” I feel like that tonight, here at the end of the Dia de los Muertos when the door to the other world is shut and our beloved spirits draw their visit to a close. Well, the door may have closed, but a window opened for me tonight.

Right around dinner time, just as the noodle water was starting to boil, my phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number or the strange area code. I could have ignored it but I was kind of in the mood to snap at a telemarketer.

“Is this Ashley?”

“Yes, this is she.” In my most imperious tone, reserved for strangers who call at 7 p.m.

“Well, it’s your old Uncle Kenneth here. How are you doing, honey?” My dad’s middle brother. Joe and Eunice Garrett’s boys: Charles, Kenneth, and Sammy. I haven’t seen Uncle Kenneth in at least 10 years and I don’t think I’ve ever talked to him on the phone. He and Aunt Margaret have lived in southern Florida my whole life, so visits were once a year usually, mostly back when Grandmama Eunice was alive. Every summer, Charles and Kenneth drove their long American sedans up the interstate to Gay. And as soon as they pulled up in Grandmama’s front yard, they’d jump out of their cars and start talking about what kind of time they’d made on the drive.

Kenneth was calling to say we had been on his mind. We talked about his health, and the weather in Miami, and the ages of my children. He corrected me for thinking he was thirteen years older than Daddy–that was Charles, who died back in the 1980s. He told me his birthday, and Daddy’s birthday, then did the math.

And my window opened.

“What was your daddy’s birthday?” I asked. I never met my Grandaddy Joe. He was killed in a car accident a few days before Little Gay was born, almost four years before I came along.

“January 30. He used to tell everyone that he and FDR–Franklin Delano Roosevelt, he was the president then–Daddy told everybody that all the smartest people were born on January 30.”

I get my story-telling from these people. My dad’s death has left a blank yawning abyss between me and all the stories that he never got to tell me about his side of the family. That tiny fact–that my grandfather’s birthday was January 30–completed a story that I’ve been carrying around for almost forty years.

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One cold winter morning when I was about nine or ten, I was already dressed for school and waiting on the living room couch. Once Gay and Joe were ready, Daddy would drive us up the dirt road to the bus stop and we would wait in the warmth of the truck cab instead of out by the highway. Daddy was sitting in his orange chair, putting his boots on. He had paused to stare out the window over my head, into the hard white winter light.

“Today was my Daddy’s birthday. He would have been…” I can’t remember the age Daddy said because at that point in the sentence, he choked up and started to cry. It was the first time I ever remember seeing my dad cry. And now I know it was on January 30.

Uncle Kenneth told me stories about Daddy’s first haircut when he lost his princely curls. He told me about when he and Charles were filling out a Social Security form for J.P., the hired man who stayed with our family for 50 years. J.P. didn’t know what his initials stood for, so Uncle Charles declared him “James Pierpont Strozier.” And J.P. chose his own birthday–the second Sunday in August, because that was when his church had Homecoming. He told me about when their father died and my father wanted to drop out of vet school but his brothers wouldn’t let him. When we were talking about who was a blond and who was a brunette, Uncle Kenneth mentioned his own son, who has passed. We got quiet.

Then he took an old man’s deep breath and said, “Well, Mama always said ‘God won’t let you see around corners.’ And Daddy said, ‘Play the hand you’re dealt.'”

I’m so glad I answered the phone tonight. I saved that strange Florida number under “Uncle Kenneth” in my phone. The door may be closed for the next year, and we can’t see around corners, but he opened a window for me.

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Life and Death Decisions in Jackson Georgia

That visit I had with my dad on Sunday? That was a good trip to Jackson. When I got there, his room was crowded with three visitors–a family who had been bringing their cats to him for 15 years. We told some cat stories. Daddy told about the little kitten who chewed a hole in the sofa cushion so she could sit under the sofa in peace and stick her head out if anything interesting happened. I told the one about when we were picking on Little Gay about being a bad driver and she got so mad that she stomped outside…and ran over the cat’s tail. He told about Rufus, the last kitty he talked me into and how a few days after I brought him home he ended up covered in ringworm and Vivi lost a hank of hair right before picture day. Annie, Baby, Slick, Nashville, Puff, Mama Kitty, Mouse, Janie, Mr. Kitty, Mr. A Hole, Rufus and Jinx. So many cats.

When his visitors left, I noticed that the mom walked with a limp and hadn’t said anything. I asked him, “Was that the lady who wrote the letter?” He nodded. One of his favorite clients. She has cerebral palsy and a lot of people only see her differences. She wrote him a letter once to thank him for always being kind to her and treating her with respect, even if she can’t speak. He cherishes that letter.

I told him the good news about Carlos, and what books Vivi’s reading this week. He asked me about my writing. We talked and talked. He scooted his wheelchair over to the drawer and pulled out a pack of gum. Offered me a piece and I declined. He chewed four pieces then complained about the bitterness of the peppermint. He asked me what I thought of the cheap paintings on the wall opposite his bed. We agreed–every time I visited–that they looked like wet cardboard and had probably been purchased at a gas station.

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That was Sunday.

Now he’s in hospice.

He crashed on Monday and had to go to the hospital. By midnight, he was in hospice care. I drove down on Tuesday in the rain.

My brother had been there overnight. He and Big Gay and I were coordinating what needed to happen. One of the jobs was to retrieve Daddy’s things from the rehab place in Jackson. I volunteered since it was right on my way.

On that long drive, I was listening to NPR and the news turned to the story of Kelly Gissendaner, the only Georgia woman on death row. She was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at 7 p.m. That night. In Jackson, Georgia.

I listened to person after person talk about how their own lives had been changed for having met Kelly in prison. How she told them they had value and they could redeem themselves. That very day, her own children had to make the choice between seeing their mother one last time and going before the appeals board to beg for clemency. They begged for her life.

The text from Joe said, “Get the cards and the poster and bring them here. Don’t forget the vase.”

I took a few grocery bags out of the back of my car and walked through the rain to the entrance. Definitely not the baby anymore. Not today. As I made my way down the long hallway, I tried not to make eye contact with the nurse who had been so kind to him on Sunday. I just couldn’t do it.

The top of every surface was covered in cards. Every one of them had a cat or a dog on it. I couldn’t look at the names and addresses. Just made a neat stack and put them in a bag along with the poster from the people at the clinic he built. I took the tired oranges and apples out of a hand-turned bowl he made on his lathe. I tucked the slender glass vase with the giant red rose that Big Gay had cut for him in between the cards. As I bumped the petals, they released a sweet fragrance. She grows antique roses that still smell like roses instead of those new varieties that smell like refrigerators.

Rose in the Rain. Courtesy Pixabay.

Rose in the Rain. Courtesy Pixabay.

I left most of the toiletries, but I took the half bottle of Canoe and the black plastic comb. When we were kids, Daddy relaxed every night by sitting in his chair with a book and combing his hair mindlessly. I still remember how we laughed the time he combed it all straight up and looked like an onion.

I got the suitcase out of the closet and filled it with books. Spy thrillers, history sagas, right wing politics…and Geraldine Brooks’ “People of the Book.” I liked that one, too.

I opened the drawer and put the half-open pack of gum in my purse.

Just like Big Gay had told me to, I left a note on top of the dresser that said, “Please share his clothes with anyone who needs them. Thank you–The Garretts”

He’s always been the kind of man that would give you the shirt off his back.

Two visits ago, he told me that he was anxious about dying. He worried “that he hadn’t been a good enough Christian.” I was so horrified at the thought that I couldn’t respond. I’ve told him many times what I think–It’s this life that’s heaven or hell, and we make it so for each other.

Clemency. Forgiveness for what we have done. Mercy. The gift of life when we have been handed a death sentence. Standing in the rain and holding out hope, even when you know it’s running out. We all hope for mercy, right there in Jackson, Georgia.

Let Me Be the Baby For a Little While Longer

I told a little lie to my baby Sunday morning as I got ready to leave for the day.

“Where you goin’ Mama?” I didn’t want to tell him that I was going to see Papa and Nana. To him, “Nana and Papa’s house” means cousins in the swimming pool, four doggies, popsicles, searching for eggs in the chicken coop, and that drawer full of Jackson’s old Transformers and race cars. But this summer hasn’t been like that.

“I’m going to get gas…” then under my breath I mumbled, “first.” I’m going to get gas first then I’m going to see Papa in the Rehab hospital.

After a long drive and a little bit of crying after listening to Dan Savage tell a story on “This American Life” about when his mom died, I got there. But I sat in the parking lot and checked my phone. I finished my glass of tea. I cleaned a couple of receipts out of my purse. I checked my phone again. Played a game of Scrabble. The parking lot was busier than I’d seen before. Lots of people still in church clothes headed for the entrance doors. I sat there as the minutes ticked by.

I’m 46 years old, but I wanted to be the baby for a little while longer. I just couldn’t summon enough adult to walk through the doors and see how my dad is doing. I don’t want to deal with this.

Image courtesy Pixabay

Image courtesy Pixabay

Last time I visited, my sister was in town, so I got to walk beside her like I’ve done for so much of my life. I feel safer when I’m with her–she takes care of things. She’s got no qualms about the smell of Purell or the inelegant details of illness. She’s used to being in charge and I am used to letting her be in charge. But she’s in Bolivia on a surgical mission. And I’m sitting in the parking lot acting like a baby.

Twenty one years ago, my Grandmama Eunice was in this same building. We called it “the nursing home” then. I had gone over to visit Daddy and Big Gay one Sunday in February and Daddy said, “Come on and ride over with me. Mama would love to see you.” So we went, and I walked through the entrance doors next to him and let him handle things. I remember that day so vividly, because it was the last time I saw her. She lay in bed wearing that surprised look she had in her last few months. I knew she had given up on living that day because it was the first time in my life I ever saw her without lipstick and with some gray roots showing in her hair. I remember picking up a photo of one of my Florida cousins that was propped in her window sill. “What’s Jeff’s baby’s name?” I asked her. She couldn’t recall.

Just as Daddy and I were getting ready to leave that day, Grandmama Eunice reached out her thin hand and held on to Daddy’s arm. “I haven’t had a letter from your father and I’m starting to worry.” Daddy’s face got that surprised look on it that we all seemed to be wearing as we figured out this part of life.

“Mama, Daddy died back in 1965. Remember, he was in a car wreck with Mr….” Her hand fluttered up to the side of her face before he finished and she shook her head like she was being silly. She even smiled a little with embarrassment.

I kissed her on the cheek. We said our goodbyes. As we were walking down the hall, I told Daddy, “I didn’t know she was losing her memory.” He said, “Yeah, it comes and goes more lately. A couple of days ago, she told me that when she gets out of here, we need to find a house closer to town because Evelyn can’t be walking that far to school.” Grandmama Eunice was the oldest, and Evelyn was her baby sister. Even though Evelyn was in her 80s at the time, something fluid in Grandmama’s mind had her talking to her grown-up baby boy about her baby sister.

On the drive back to the house that day, Daddy and I were riding along in silence down a long straight stretch of piney highway. It was the middle of the afternoon on a sunny cold day. Before I even noticed anything moving, Daddy pointed at the windshield and barked, “DEER!” A good-sized doe bounded out of the pine woods and slammed into the truck in front of us.

She limped across the highway and collapsed into the ditch on the other side of the road, still trying to run. The black truck pulled over and we pulled over in front of him. Daddy reached under the seat for his pistol. I sat there stunned at how quickly this man who had spent most of his life tending to animals knew that there was no fixing this. He stepped out of the truck and called to the driver who had hit the deer. “You need any help?” He held up the gun so the man could see it.

“Naw, I got it. Thank you.” The man lifted a deer rifle from the rack in the back of his pickup as a teenage boy climbed out the passenger side. This was rural Georgia after all. Most of the venison we ate when I was a kid was killed with my dad’s truck on the back roads he traveled to make veterinary calls. He once got two in one season without ever firing a bullet.

Daddy got back in his truck and we went on our way. “It’s not normal for deer to be running this time of day. Something must have been chasing her.” I couldn’t think of a thing to say.

That story was going through my mind today as I sat in the parking lot. I needed to summon up the courage to be an adult, to know what needs doing and do it. But I sat there wishing I could be that baby for a little while longer. My daddy’s baby. He was Grandmama Eunice’s baby, I’m his baby, Carlos is my baby.

I went inside and we had a great visit. Told stories and made jokes. When his nurse came in for vitals, he introduced me and said, “She’s gonna be an author. I’m really proud of her.”

It was a long day, but a good one. When I got home after dark, G had the Littles in the tub with suds piled up on their heads.

As I put on my pajamas, Carlos, wrapped in a red striped towel, climbed up on the big bed. “Let’s have a pillow fight, Mama.” So we did. “Tickle me firty times, Mama.” And I did. “What’s dis spell, Mama?” He pointed to the cover of Jenny Lawson’s new book. “H-A-P-P-Y…that spells Happy.”

In that moment my little baby, I accepted that this is the way it has to work. Babies have to grow up but they always stay the baby. She loved him, he loves me, I love mine. And that will never change.

Dharwadia India

Image courtesy Pixabay