It was the slipstream of spring light that caught my eye.
The tableau of treasures was inadvertent.
I’m still unpacking from the move I had to orchestrate from our house–more accurately, my husband Jim’s beloved home–after our loss. Slowly, family belongings have begun to settle into new spots, but I’m not much of a decorator. (It was unadulterated irony when Jim dubbed me a domestic goddess.) I had set several things on top of a bulky piece of furniture in my room without thinking much about the array.
When we were about to move, three of my children were home and another daughter was across the globe with only a backpack to hold a small stock of worldly belongings. I had them grab something to hand carry to the new house.
From the blue-flecked gray granite kitchen counter his father had selected, one son wordlessly picked up a clear square vase filled with cobalt blue glass marbles. It held sprays of dried wildflowers and baby’s breath from an arrangement my parents had sent for Jim’s memorial service.
His brother’s most treasured memento, I discovered, is a battered baseball, a game ball signed by all of his eighth-grade teammates soon after our son had finally returned from a harrowing hospital stay. My son remembers the kindness. I flash back to those awful eight days, then forward to Jim’s diagnosis, when I sobbed irrationally to my friend Judy. “I thought nothing could be as bad as when he”–our son–“was sick.”
Our younger daughter carried the Les Paul–her father’s guitar, which he’d acquired when he was a teenager. It was safely ensconced in butterscotch velvet in the sturdy black case he’d bought shortly before we met.
“We could sell this,” he had mused not long after he was diagnosed.
“No!” my daughter and I had cried out in tandem.
The Les Paul provided the accompaniment when she sang a song dedicated to him at an evening prayer service after he had died.
Hey, little girl
Black and white and right and wrong
Only live inside a song
I will sing to you
You don’t ever have to feel lonely
You will never lose any tears
You don’t have to feel any sadness
When you look back on the years
How can I look you in the eyes,
And tell you such big lies?
The best I can do is try to show you
How to love with no fear
My little girl
You’ve gone and stole my heart
And made it your own
You’ve stole my heart
And made it your own
Some of the same dried flowers my son had picked up to transport by hand ended up in my accidental tableau, tea-dyed buds glowing white where the sun dallied above them. They ended up in a basket within a basket: the smaller one is oval, a filigree of curled wicker. My cousin Jacobina carried the small basket when she was a bridesmaid at our wedding and it held a tussy mussy of summer buds that was presented to my beaming grandmother, who is now long gone.
The outer basket made its first appearance when cousin Chris dispatched not one but two glorious summer bouquets to our first home days after our first son was born. When the flowers’ brilliant lavender and yellow had been exhausted, the basket remained on a dormant wood stove whenever the house did not need warming.
In our next home, the same basket held birthday gifts friends brought to Jim at a surprise party for what we all knew would be his last birthday, when our home was brimming with family and friends and music and laughter. It had rarely been as full. Now, in our new home, it holds cards and letters sent to us after Jim died.
My eyes travelled to the left when I re-examined the picture I’d taken.
My treasures, you might say. Continue reading