Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Talk

This might be brief today because I’ve got a lot going on. I am dividing my time today between making a new foot bridge across the creek and sewing a dress. I can’t remember the last time I actually wore a dress. Wait, yes I do—at Emily’s wedding about 15 years ago. And judging by the way I look in this dress you may never see me in it. Lately, I’m a lot more accomplished at carpentry and brush-clearing than dressmaking. The rustic little foot bridge should look great. The standards for a foot bridge are much lower than a dress and that’s a big help.

I’m also planning my biggest party of the year. Actually, two parties. But one is almost too small to call a party and I’ve decided to just serve the same food at both parties to make it a lot easier.

But the big party…..Oh, yes, the BIG party. It’s my favorite party of the year. I’ve done this party for going on three years now. When I hit 15 years of sobriety I wanted to recognize the day in some meaningful way. I’ve never been one to mark the day and, in fact, I’m not totally sure the exact date of my last drink. Things from that time in my life are a little fuzzy as you might expect. But I do know it was the last of May. So about three years ago when I hit 15, I cooked a huge elaborate dinner for the ladies at Morgan’s Mercy Mansion, the drug and alcohol rehab here in Winnsboro—we just call it the Mansion. I go to bible study with them every Monday and prayer on Thursdays so we are good friends. Every year I perfect the dinner a bit more and now it’s just so much fun I could die on the spot. I’m expecting the 12 ladies in the center now plus any of the graduates that want to come celebrate with me; oh, and their kids. I’m going to just cook my fool head off. So I don’t have a lot of time to write today.

But I do have a topic for you today besides the party: We had “the talk” at my house over Mothers Day weekend.

It wasn’t the sex talk; it was the talk where you show your kids where the will and medical directives are. It started out with a little fine-tuning to our wills for what our lawyer calls the Doomsday Scenario. We are taking a family vacation that requires every single one of us to be on the same airplane and we are such a small family, there’s no one else. Hence we made a little adjustment to prevent our stuff from ending up in the hands of our esteemed state officials. God only knows what they would do with it and I don’t even want to think about it.

One thing led to another and Mothers Day was the perfect time to get all four of our current descendants together to talk to them about what they will inherit when we die. Beaven immediately decided he needed to go to church even if the rest of us didn’t. So it was just us girls.

First I got out all the paperwork and showed them where we keep it. This amounts to nothing more than the wills and medical directives (or the “Pull the Plug on Mom” papers as the girls like to call it.) There’s also paperwork to will our bodies to Southwestern Medical School. This is almost a vanity move on my part to think that someone will be interested in my body at this age. I take what I can get wherever I can get it.

Then we moved on to my favorite part: the jewelry. I had gone to the bank and taken the family jewels out of the safe deposit box to show the girls and the grands. I’ve never been much on jewelry but my step-mother was and Daddy liked to make her happy.  So I do have a lot of diamonds and, even though I don’t wear any of them, I still get a kick out of looking at them once in a while. And there's plenty of gold also. But, to me, it’s more about the stories than the actual jewelry. It’s all family heirlooms that came to Beaven and me by way of each one of us being the only surviving child in families who kept up with stuff and never threw anything away.

It’s really a lot like the Crown Jewels: The Queen wears them once in a while when she’s opening Parliament but she can’t sell any of them. They're priceless because they will never be sold therefore there’s no price to be considered.

Most of this jewelry the girls have never seen and I really wanted to tell them the stories of where each piece came from. There was my grandmother’s cameo and I have an old black and white photo of her wearing it as a young girl. I also have almost the same shot of my mother wearing it AND a color photo of my wearing it. There’s Beaven’s great-grandmother’s gold pin, my great-grandfather’s award from dental school dated 1881, and a variety of watches on both sides of the family with engraving to show who it belonged to. One of the watches was given to my grandmother in 1901 on her 18th birthday and I can vividly remember her wearing it. Every Friday she would dress up (including gloves) and take the streetcar to downtown Dallas to have lunch with her friend. I would watch her little ritual as a young child: the corset, the watch and the gloves. Every Friday.

The girls were fascinated that anyone would engrave their name on a watch. Nobody even wears a watch nowadays; you have one right there on your phone. And nobody keeps anything that long anymore. We live in a disposable society.

By now I was on a roll. I led them through the house and explained the furniture and where it came from. I’ve ended up with not just one but three dining tables of my grandparents and parents. Like their watches, they kept them in good condition and never saw a reason to dispose of them. I have had two of them cut down and rebuilt to use as occasional tables because I couldn’t bear to part with them. A fourth one – Grandmother Stuart’s kitchen table-- sits in storage waiting for another generation to bless it with family stories, to sprinkle laughter over it and soften it with their tears. I don’t need it right now because I have my mother-in-law’s dining table.

Blanche only used the table once in all the time I knew her because she was afraid that by using it we might do something to hurt it. I feel strongly that there is a big difference between taking care of something and protecting it to death. Furniture was designed to be used. So I feel a personal obligation to just use the hell out of it.

We ended up sitting around Blanche’s table, finishing up a carton of ice cream and telling our favorite family stories, the stories that will make up who Sarah and Essie are every bit as much as their DNA.

Stories. It’s all about the stories.

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