Wednesday, February 28, 2018
My mother was a booklover and never without a volume on her aproned lap when she waited for the Sunday roast to finish cooking. Books, magazines, newspapers, even pamphlets overflowed every flat surface in our living room. Even my rambunctious brothers paused now and then to read Dickens and other literature. And Mom made sure we visited the fine old library in our town often, where she made friends with all the librarians, including one who was a lovely young mother with an understanding smile.
I had a shyness around Mrs. Grice not only because she was friendly with my mother but also because her son was in my class. But she often made approving comments about the books I selected to take home and once she winked at me when she noticed that Little Women was again on top of my take-home stack.
In Little Women the youngest sister Amy is banished to Aunt March's until sister Beth recovers from Scarlet Fever. Of course, sadly, we all know Beth never fully recovers and just a few short years later, dies in the most poignant piece of sisterly love in literature ever written. But Amy, unlike her other siblings Jo and Meg, never had the Fever and has to be quarantined at her unpleasant great aunt's for "the duration". Naturally no young vivacious girl wants to have an extended visit with a crochetty dispirited relative but Amy bore her trial very well, partly because she made certain preparations ahead of time.
Upon reading Little Women as a child, I was immensely interested in the Last Will and Testament that Amy wrote. Like me, Amy's holdings were very small and yet, she made thoughtful provisions for all her things including her turquoise ring. Since both my sister and I were gifted turquoise rings that year from an uncle out west, we got the bright idea to draw up our own will and testament.
The dearth of our belongings and the fact that my sister and I shared so many things, we decided just one will and testament would be sufficient for our assets, including our turquoise rings. The list was not lengthy but it included, besides the rings, two small hand-painted floral jewelry boxes with twirling ballerinas beneath mirrored lids, a gold-toned brush and comb set with etched flowers, some multi-colored dimestore headbands with perilously sharp teeth, a pastel wind-up teddy bear that played Lara's Theme, and a purple book of poetry that I still own.
We set to the task of writing our will using Amy's as a frame of reference. It was all so earnest and serious. I don't remember leaving anything to my brothers but both my grandmothers were willed the headbands and we generously bequeathed the rings to Mom. Our closest friend made out the best with the book of poems, the gold dresser set, two jewelry boxes (she had a lot of costume jewelry that we coveted), and the teddy bear, a favorite of mine. I had nary a thought for my poor mother and what she would have felt to inherit TWO turquoise rings belonging to beloved daughters who just happened to meet an untimely and unexpected double demise.
My sister and I told no one about our Last Will and Testament and like most children, we quickly became engrossed in other activities and forgot about the document...at least until we were suddenly dispatched to the library. Unknown to us, our will had been returned tucked inside one of our many borrowed books for all the world to see. Having our names spelled out front and center on the will, middle names included, meant Mrs. Grice had no problem realizing who the authors were.
As much as I dreaded fetching our will from a public place, from our classmate's mother, Mrs. Grice handled it with a sense of urgency and seriousness much like Laurie did the night his carriage drove Amy to Aunt March's for her internment. When Amy asks him to execute her wishes if need be, Laurie's tender reassurance and sense of gravity comes through in his response - he will gladly be her executor and disperse her bestowals should she die of Scarlet Fever. Thus was the serene and lovely Mrs. Grice when I approached the library's check-out desk. Kindly, she pulled a long sealed envelope from a discreet place under the counter. With penmanship as neat and pretty as my mother's, she had written, "The Misses Macdonald". Inside, neatly folded, was our Last Will and Testament. I'm not exactly sure what, if anything, was said when she handed the envelope over to us. But I gratefully recall a gentle smile that had not the least bit of mocking amusement in it.
Tuesday, February 27, 2018
Long ago, I tripped upon a book while browsing in a bookshop on a dark wet December night. I was lucky my best babysitter was available to give me two blissful hours alone during the Christmas rush. I headed straight to the local bookstore for a good browse.
As always, I started with my favorite sections: Children's, Culinary, New Non-Fiction. I never seek out Self-Help but somehow noticed a simple shrimp-colored book on an endcap in that very section. The title distinguished itself as much as the color because the words sounded like a prayer. I began to thumb through it and although I knew in a few minutes it would be coming home with me, I had no idea it would change the way I look at life.
The pretty volume was a hit and not just with me. It was hit with the world too, spending months and months on the bestseller list. And I do believe that its authoress is a soothsayer for our times no matter what's happened to her in the intervening years. It is still at the top of my bedside heap. - the book I reach for in tears and sorrow, laughter and blessings. It's my go-to peace and quiet, my permission slip to take care of myself...my phone-home when I don't know where I've been.
I loved the book so much that within a week I jetted off a note to the author. That love letter netted me a seat on the most famous TV panel that ever existed. But that's quite a story in itself...
Since then, copy-cats have come and gone but my shrimp-colored book is still just an arm's length away every evening. I've read it so many times that I know exactly how to find what I need - a warming quote, solace when I'm anxious or inspiration for living by my own lights in a world that tries to extinguish our glow with appalling regularity.
The author has written other books since her blockbuster but none satisfies like her major work. And I don't care if it's sacrilege to say it's a bible to me for it is a woman's guide for living in modern times. It's a place of comfort and camaraderie too and at very least, a friendly soothing pep talk before sleep. It's always on my side and I don't mean just literally. Hope in a book. Just before bed.
Note: Thank you to Judy for the most sublime image to illustrate this post with.
Thursday, February 8, 2018
Before work yesterday, I ran into Home Goods to buy a box of the most exquisite cream-colored candles that I've seen in years. As usual, I created an extra errand because when I first saw them, I walked on by as I so often do. It was only in afterthought that I realized how pretty they would look on my winter table. And how soothing and calming they would be lit on these still-dark evenings.
In one of my most favorite movies, You've Got Mail, Kathleen Kelly writes an email to her unknown-at-the-time nemesis, Joe Fox and ends it with "Thank you Dear Void". Her comments in the email are rhetorical and they do not really require responses - she is merely relaying trails of the thoughts and wanderings that come to all of us. If you have a friend you can share with in this way, count yourself very fortunate.
Indeed, some of these random and often fleeting feelings, once emoted, make us feel less alone, especially if you have a thoughtful and silent recipient. A nod of the head or a touch of the hand is far more comforting than a worded response sometimes and if emailed, the simple answer of "Ah..." carries all the empathy one requires.
And so, in the spirit of illustrating a point, I give you:
Since I've lived long enough to know that lasting joy comes from memories and not objects, I will plan some spring excursions which include a beautiful botanical garden nearby. And I will reach out to a friend who is also nearby but I have lost touch with through these long working years. Perhaps our re-connection will be enhanced by the birth of my grandchild as I remember my friend's love of babies and children. And I will craft a mental view of myself in my new role as I anticipate what will surely be the next greatest thing to happen to me. As well, I want to read more meaningful books as I've discovered it is one of the best ways to fuel my mind for writing. Without the perspective of the new ideas and experiences of others, I can't possibly hope to provide fresh imaginings for my readers, both here on the blog and for my paid writing. I plan on calling the lovely lady who helped me with my first flower bed last year and check in on her and see if she can encourage me again during the next growing season. And although possessions may not buy me happiness in the long term, I will light my creamy tapers as I expand my spring list in all the nicest ways...
Special Note: The art is by Daniel F. Gerhartz who captures women in the most lovely inconsequential way.