I woke up grumpy today. I’d spent the past three days helping my dad dispose of the last of my mother’s things as he prepares to move out of the house he shared with her for thirty years, and which he sold earlier this month. It was a difficult task, in many ways. We foolishly decided with just over a week’s notice to hold a moving sale. He and my sister-in-law and I gathered everything throughout the house that hadn’t already been claimed by offspring or grandchildren and arranged it on tables in the front two rooms of the house. There was a lot of “stuff.” My mother was sentimental, and kept everything anyone ever gave her, which included a lot of trinkets and angels and glassware and figurines. She was also a collector of inexpensive souvenirs from trips she took with her sisters and her friends. Little bells and spoons and mugs and shot glasses. None of which were particularly valuable, but all of which were valuable to her. Literally hundreds of items that we set out for display, then plastered with little yellow price tags on which we tried to determine the value of her treasures. Daddy had already moved out the beds, except for the one he slept in, so I spent two nights on a love seat — not exactly comfortable sleeping arrangements.
Our sale was less than successful, considering all the work we put into it. Their house is in town, but off the main roads, so gets little drive-by traffic. Because we had little notice to plan the sale, we were too late to do much advertising. And it was the first weekend of deer season — a big deal in Arkansas. The event was emotional for those who knew my mom. Family members and friends dropped by, some of whom had not visited the house since she died of cancer in August of last year at a still-vital and active 75 years old. More than a few burst into tears when they entered, which certainly didn’t help me. By the end of the second day of the sale, even after we gave away mementos to those sentimental family members and friends, there were still dozens of little items sitting on the tables. My son and I boxed up everything to take to local charities. It was difficult for me to part with the things, because they had all belonged to my mother, but I couldn’t keep it all. I have enough “stuff” of my own, and I had already brought home those possessions of my mom’s that had the most sentimental value to me. So by the end of the day yesterday, I was exhausted, sore and emotionally drained — as was my poor dad.
I live about a half mile from the local Air Force base. My family and I enjoy the annual air shows, and have attended many. I had planned to go today with my husband and son, but as I said, I woke up grumpy and sore. It just seemed like too much effort, and the guys had things they needed to do around the house, anyway. I was catching up on laundry and doing the Sunday crossword puzzle when I heard the Blue Angels take off from the flightline. We can’t see the runway because there are trees between our house and the flightline, but we can watch the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds flying formations above the trees from our patio. They fly directly over our property during their landing patterns, so close we can read the numbers painted on the wings. We’re accustomed to seeing cargo planes on a daily basis, but the sexy F/A-18s of the Blue Angels are a treat. On an impulse, I grabbed my camera and went out to the patio, even though I’d seen them so many times before and was feeling a bit jaded.
When the first F/A-18 roared over my head in the cloudless, vivid blue sky, so loud I felt the vibrations in my chest, so fast it was all I could do to snap the camera shutter before it was gone, I found myself grinning like an idiot. My husband joined me to point out the six jets as they zoomed around us from all directions, and it wasn’t long before we were both laughing as I spun so fast with the camera that I made myself dizzy. I remembered that my mother used to love making the forty-five minute drive to my house on air show days to watch the planes with us from our patio. I could almost feel her watching with us, pointing and smiling and oohing and aahing at the amazing skills of those talented, hero-material pilots flying those powerful machines so fast and so daringly close together. It was a perfect fall afternoon, and I found joy in that half an hour that lingered with me as I came back inside to finish the laundry and prepare dinner.
This is what I hope to accomplish with my books. I hope my readers are able to escape into my stories from the difficulties and drudgeries that are a part of even the happiest lives, to find a few smiles or an unexpected laugh, or simply to be entertained for a couple of hours. Maybe I’ll escape into one of the books on my always mountainous “to be read” pile for a few hours this evening. Mother loved to read, and she shared that joy with me, just as she tried to teach me how to find pleasure in the little things in life — bells and angels and trinkets and figurines — and free air shows watched from my own patio.
Thank you for that reminder, Mother.