She Loved Beautiful Star of Bethlehem. It was her favorite Christmas song.
It was her favorite because it was her mom’s favorite. Mom told me many times about how Grandma used to sing it all year long. It was more than a Christmas carol for her: it was a hymn and a lullaby, too. I think the song rings so true in part because it was written in a barn, someplace very much like the place Jesus was born.
I remember Grandma singing it to me while I sat next to her in her living room, her arm around me and my head nestled against her. I’d watch the little figures swing back and forth on the clock across the room while she sang, and listen to Grandpa turn the pages of his newspaper as he read it at the kitchen table in the next room.
This song is my mom, my grandma, my grandpa and his ever-present newspaper. It’s mantle clocks, purest love, warm cuddles on a cold day. It’s peace.
Beautiful Star of Bethlehem
You sang to me every day, cowboy lullabies, love songs, carols, and hymns. Those songs are why music is so dear to me now.
I wish I could have sung for you at your farewell but I was too busy saying goodbye.
I will sing for you now, though, Momma.
You are the song in my heart.
In My Life
My cover of The Beatles In My Life, one of Mom’s favorite songs.
She loved zinnias. Those sweet, easy-going posies that lined our walkways and fences all summer long. In the late spring, she’d start a patch or a row with a handful of seeds she’d saved from the season before. Every year after that, they’d be back on their own.
They’d grow tall and thick as hedges with strong, woody stems and faces dense with tiny petals of hot pink or yellow or green. I think she sprinkled them with magic when I wasn’t looking because even in the most scorching, dry summer, they were strewn about the house in little jars or vases with plenty more of their sisters still growing outside. People driving by would even stop and ask her how she kept them so happy in the middle of drought.
I remember the smell of their stems when we cut them to bring them inside. They smelled like cut grass and old wood, spicy and strong. When I smell them now, I think of her fingers in summer, hard at work, stained faintly green and perfumed with that simple country scent bought only with sunshine and rain.
I wish you were here today.
She loved movies.
It was what we did- movies. Seventy-five percent of our family vernacular was made up of movie quotes (“A poodle. A noodle. A doodle.” or “Where’s the Tylenol?”) and I think all of our inside jokes were actually just lines from Coen brothers films. (“Turn to the right. Turn to the right.” and “We thought. you was. a toad.”).
I always just kinda thought Mom loved movies so much because she liked to escape her ordinary-mundane-run-of-the-mill life. But then I really stopped to think about the movies she loved. They weren’t sci-fi, they weren’t fairy tales, fantasies or horror. They were just stories about people who seemed real. People I might think of as having ordinary-mundane-run-of-the-mill lives. And if there were fantastical parts within, well, those were the minutes she went to the kitchen to refill her tea.
So, when I think about it now, it wasn’t that Mom wanted to escape the life she had, it’s that she loved seeing it celebrated for everything it was, for everything each human life is. That life is comedy, tragedy, and everything in between. That it’s happiness, loss, victory and failure. That it’s loving and that it’s leaving, too. The highest highs, the lowest lows and the special in-betweens. All the same elements that make a good film.
I don’t think of the end credits as having been run for Mom yet. Her movie is still playing in the laugh lines near my father’s eyes, in my brother’s kind heart, in my love of stories. In the features of her family and the memories of her friends.
Mom remains the star in a story that’s still being written.
She loved earrings. Besides her wedding ring, I remember her earrings more than I remember any of her other jewelry.
She had small five-leaved plastic flowers, held on with diamond studs. She never wore those much but when I was a little girl, I thought they were the prettiest.
There were the gold loops, whose charms tinkled against each other when she turned her head. She would tell me what each one meant to her: the cross was God, the heart was Dad, the baby shoes were my brother and me.
Long silver coils, dotted with turquoise and etched with the ancient symbol for rain.
The curved triangles, pink and yellow and sparkly. She wore those with her white sweater.
Large round brass disks, filled in the center with shiny crimson. Those were for Christmastime.
The silver and sapphire spikes my dad bought for her before I was born, set aside only for the most special of special occasions.
But her earrings I love the best are the small silver hoops she wore every day. I close my eyes and seem them there above her neck, her dark hair curling around them, and I remember her everydays. Her Mondays elbow-deep in sudsy dishwater, a song on her lips. Her Tuesdays bent over the sewing machine, stitching together a new pair of curtains for the kitchen. Her Wednesdays pulling weeds in the garden. Her Thursdays making goulash for supper. Her Fridays, picking out a movie for family night. Her Saturdays, trying to convince Dad to close up the barn and come home for the afternoon. Her Sundays after church, dress clothes put away and dress earrings back in the jewelry box. She would sit between Dad and me, across from my brother, and we would all hold hands and pray over Sunday dinners of fried chicken or roast beef or shepherd’s pie.
Those little silver hoops were her everydays and her everydays are what I never want to forget.
Thank you for what you left me.
A legacy of
You taught me early what was important.
Who to love, what to love.
And who loved me first.
Amazing Grace Minor
My cover of Amazing Grace as arranged by The Rambos, Mom’s favorite gospel band.