Wednesday, November 28, 2012

with thanks, through tears

two years ago today my dear mother died. this morning, very early, i awoke briefly, almost two years to the minute that she died. perhaps she whispered to me on this, one of the last days of autumn, her favorite time of year. perhaps her sweet spirit reached out to touch me on a day that i have always connected with her - thanksgiving day.

it is a blue sky, sunshine, cool breeze day here. the resolute leaves that still cling to their branches are golden, and shimmer in the breeze. yet another memory of mom, who taught us the poem written by christina rosetti in 1947 - "who has seen the wind? neither i nor you, but when the leaves hang trembling, the wind is passing through. who has seen the wind? neither you nor i, but when the trees bow down their heads, the wind is passing by."

on my walk this morning several flocks of geese flew overhead, soaring and even rolling playfully as they exchanged places in their formation. i stopped and watched them, and as they passed directly overhead the sound of their wings as they propelled themselves forward reminded me of the sound the freshly-laundered sheets made when mom snapped them off the clothesline. i could picture her standing in the backyard in her well-worn yellow/blue/white plaid summer dress, her navy blue keds on her feet. she would walk from one piece of laundry to the next, unclipping the clothespins and dropping them into the cloth bag hanging on the clothesline by a metal frame. she'd snap the  sheet and fold it carefully, laying it in the basket at her feet. when the basket was full, the clothespin bag hanging heavy on the line, full of weathered wooden pins awaiting the next load, she would bring the clothes smelling of fresh air inside and put it on the big oak pedestal table in the center of the kitchen.

this is the first year since mom's death that i have been able to allow myself to think about her this much. i am still overwhelmed by the realization that i will never see her again, never hold her hand or lean into one of her wonderful hugs, never hear her say my name again. it simply can't be true, i think. how can someone with that much goodness and love and kindness be gone forever? how can i keep going from day to day without being able to tell her how dear she was to me, how much i loved her?

today, as i stood at the kitchen counter chopping vegetables and beginning to prepare our thanksgiving dinner, i felt a whisper (but only a whisper) of peace as i sensed her spirit with me. i thought about her slim, beautiful hand holding the knife with me, removing the pan from the oven with me, calculating what time we should put the turkey in to insure that it would be done by dinner time. there was always such a wonderful energy in the kitchen on thanksgiving day. we would get the turkey out of the fridge and rinse him in the sink, and then one of us would sit him up on the edge of the sink and cross his turkey legs, engaging in playful puppetry until one of us remarked on the poor fellow having to get trussed and baked. 

the leaves for the table in the light blue, sun-filled dining room were retrieved from the closet and we'd tug and pull the table apart, place the leaves like puzzle pieces and push the table ends back together, our feelings of excitement and appreciation expanding like the table as we looked forward to the family coming later in the day. the table would be laid with the light blue tablecloth and mom's everyday china, white with delicate blue and yellow and pinkish-purple flowers along the edge, with just the slightest bit of gold, not too showy. upon opening the box in which she kept the good silver the smell brought back memories of thanksgivings with grandparents and cousins when i was a child in connecticut, and in minnesota. it was a comforting smell, a smell that connected me to my past, that reminded me of the child i was. i laid the silver at each place, two forks at each place in honor of the special day and the special menu. special water goblets were set out, though mom always took the smaller one that didn't match the others. it was as though she wanted to be sure that we all felt special and included, but it was a subconscious action, not a contrived one. 

i would taste the gravy and mash the potatoes and sprinkle the french-fried onions on the green bean casserole, put the rolls in a small paper bag and sprinkle it with water so it wouldn't catch fire in the oven as they warmed up. how funny that we never thought to use tin foil, but we never did. the bag worked just fine, although sometimes there'd be a roll or two that had an especially browned spot if we forgot about the rolls in all the excitement.

we all sat around the long table then, mom at one end, dad at the other, their children and eventually spouses and grandchildren between them, the bountiful feast in the center of the table. though we didn't say a traditional grace before eating, it was obvious in the light in all of our eyes and the smiles on all of our faces that we knew we were blessed and loved and we all gave thanks for the gift of family in our own individual ways.

now mom is gone, our father suffers from alzheimer's, and we are all miles apart from each other. we haven't shared thanksgiving dinner together for a long time, but the invisible connections forged in the past remain strong and the memories of years gone by comfort me.  there is still much to be thankful for. 


  1. This was simply beautiful. I can't wait to see you today and hug you. Your writing is so personal and raw, but beautiful and delicate at the same time. Love you, babe.

  2. This is wonderful. You are a gifted writer. I could see her as you discribed everthing. The common Laundry Day and the preparation on Thanksgiving. It has brought tears to my eyes, but also a smile to my face.
    Lou said a wonderful prayer before our Thanksgiving dinner remembering both Mom and Rosalie while also giving thanks for the new blessing to our lives, Dane.
    I'm sorry I didn't talk w/ you on Thanksgiving. Just know that you were and have been in my thoughts.