“Do you know," Peter asked, "why swallows build in the eaves of houses? It is to listen to the stories.” ~ J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan


this story starts with a friend named skye

she's a quilter, and a generous, heartful, heart-full soul, and she said to me to pick out some clothes of my mother's, that she would make a small memory quilt for me, a pillow, whatever, and you know, she would do that with her own two hands, and it touched me that someone would go to so much trouble, but in the end i couldn't do it.  i'd not saved anything of my dad's, not clothing wise anyway, but i thought i would do so this time around, this so-much-harder time, and i told my brothers and niece and sister-in-law to take what they wanted, that i would pack the rest of her clothes; i knew it would be hard, i wanted to do it alone so i could cry all alone. and then another too kind soul, my wonderful wonderful sister-in-law offered to do the packing for me, to save me the heartache and the heartbreak, and i told my brother, her husband, to tell her i needed a day to think about it and then i fell apart.  into little pieces on the floor, onto my knees as i hung up the phone, sobbing and crying and snotty and sobbingsobbingsobbing and it wasn't pretty.  as i said, i just fell apart.  could not stop.  i was here at work and i just dissolved into a puddle of noisy gasping sobs and tears and the ever-wonderful michael could do nothing but put his arms around me, and lilycat even rubbed against me, trying to soothe me, and eventually i did, i stopped, or at least it got less awful, and i even stayed a little late and tried to catch up on the so much stuff i am behind on, and eventually i truly did stop, and i sent my sister-in-law a message telling her thank you, but no, it was something i needed to do.  had to do.  that i would do it in a day or 3 or 4. 

and so it was i found myself alone on a friday night, or maybe a sunday night, beginning the saying goodbye to my mother's clothes.  and what i found was what i knew in my heart to be true all along.  the clothes i remember her in best are not clothes i want to keep.  like that pink striped robe, i forget the name of the cotton fabric, only that when i was a child she made me a pair of blue striped pajamas from that fabric, trimmed with rickrack, and we traveled all the way to st. louis to visit a cousin of hers who was dying. i loved those pajamas, but her robe was worn and ragged and i just couldn't keep it. the memories are too big.  she had more silk shirts than i'd thought and she was tiny - nothing would fit me - and we had different tastes, but i put aside a few shirts, i thought skye can use these, but i will think about it, all the time knowing i would have to tell her i just couldn't do it, and feeling pretty bad about that, but knowing i couldn't all the same, hoping she would understand.  i kept folding and separating button down shirts from knits and suddenly i found myself staring at some heart shaped buttons on a shirt i barely remembered, remembered mostly the high collared neck the way she liked, buttoned all the way up, perhaps that's why the buttons said so much, and i wanted them.  those buttons.  they spoke volumes.  i will just keep them, i thought, and that will be enough.

and then a third person entered the story.  theresa, she of the magic massages.  i told her about the buttons, and she said i could make some art with them, like that thing you did of your dad, she said, but the instant she said dad i knew what to do and where the buttons would go.  i have 2 tin mexican nichos on a bedroom wall - small glass display boxes, each barely bigger than a matchbox, tin stars surrounding them; they don't match, but they are a pair, just like a relationship.  in one there is a mica fish, blown from a windchime that once hung on the tree next to my father's grave; i'd found it one day laying next to his tombstone and taken it home.  the other box held a pearl and a penny just because i liked the way they sounded together, but no more.  now her buttons plus that pearl.  it is perfect.

and so thank you skye.  for making me look.  and thank you judy, for your offer and for unwittingly bringing the hurting tears that took so long to come.  and thank you theresa, for lulling me into almost not thinking, where the real ideas live.  i kind of hate wasting the good stuff on art anyway.



i will be moving into my mother's house

apparently.  caretaker/fixer upper/ tlc-er.  my brothers and i now own it, but my mother requested that, in the event of her passing, i live there with her cat until the event of the cat's passing.  yes.  my mother loved that cat that much.  you will meet her soon - that's her in the picture above, looking so much like maggie the cat, but so not.  her name is skye and she has her own story to tell. 

my mother bought this house less than a year after my father died, needing much less space, needing a change, perhaps needing some walls to paint.  she moved into it with a broken heart, and i will admit right here, now that she is gone and i feel it's okay to say aloud, that it has always felt like a broken heart to me.  she was full of fear and loneliness and barricaded herself with dark draperies and carpet and furniture and felt fine with her pepto bismol pink bathroom and the too-too-teal privy, and she surrounded the backyard with a tall wooden fence, and there are locks everywhere, and it always made me laugh, but it always made me a bit sad also.  by the time she began to feel better, happier, began to paint, changed the kitchen to apple green, she developed health problems and painting wasn't allowed anymore.  so the house stayed put.  half broken heart, half looking forward.

things will change.  my heart is broken, but i have no choice but to move forward.

i am filled with over-the-top anxiety about this move. even knowing i will make changes, changes that will make the house more joyful, changes that will fill it with light and air and art.  it feels too fast.  we are beginning a race against the clock to decide what to do with her things - what goes where? who gets this?  do we sell that? - while i also move my things in, decide what small changes i can make at first.  carpets will come up and i will live on the concrete until wood goes down.  those bathrooms will be white and will be expensive to change, but change they eventually will.  the walls will be painted.  i will have a studio.  a back porch.  i am terrified, and i have until the end of april to be there.  i am not sure it is where i want to be.  i am shaky while there, my belly unhappy.  i feel trapped and i want to run away. 

the ever-wonderful michael says i am still too close to the the event of my mother's death to see much past it right now, that it is still too new.  that the last month has been so awful it is clouding my view.  he is no doubt right.  but it is still her house, and i am not my mother.  she would be the first to tell me to make it mine, make it livable for me, to exorcise the ghosts of her sadness and fears, to open some windows.  and i will try - am, in fact, trying.  it is harder than i'd thought it would be when i told my mother yes, i would do this for her, back a couple of years ago, when i didn't know what lay ahead.  and i may change my mind, may decide i can't do it, may decide to take skye the cat and find another place.  one of my own choosing.  we may sell the house.  i will do the best i can do, and that is all i can do, and one day at a time is all i can manage.

this neighborhood is not charming, not enchanted like my neighborhood of now.  it is more suburbia, and i am afraid i will turn into someone else.  the people here live apart - instead of watching the street, i will watch the backyard.  but there will be plenty to keep me busy, walls to paint (always the best soul and heart easing therapy for me) and  i can grow tomatoes where my mother grew tomatoes.  i can plant flowers.  there will be fresh figs and turtles in the yard.  there are so many reasons it will be okay.

but. i am overwhelmed with these last few weeks.  i am more than overwhelmed by the idea of the next few.  so many more changes.  so many.  too manythey never stop.  but i am still here, and i will figure this out - somehow, someway.  i am scared but hopeful,  full of tears and ideas.  her house will be my dollhouse project.  there is a reason i could never build that january room.  life was waiting for me.

and now, i need you to tell me it will be okay.  :) 
my scared girl is showing,
but my softening girl doesn't care. 




it's a bit chilly out there, i'm wearing a sweater,
but the sunshine is warm and feels easy on my toes and across my shoulders. 
just me and lily and the sun
and a coke and a cheap novel on the kindle,
and only one phone call today.

i could ignore what's happened,
pretend it hasn't, but it has,
and dear god, but how i've underestimated uncomplicated.
i am much more appreciative this sun day.

my mother's funeral was thursday
and in my not thinking,
i'd brought home baskets of flowers,
thinking them potted plants,
or really not thinking at all, i suppose,
but nevermind, it's okay,
a purpose to everything under heaven;
i gathered all the rose petals from all those baskets
and today,
in this sun,
scattered them across her grave and my father's,
at last together,
and took no picture because it was too sacred,
too new.

and then to here and lily and that novel
and the sun.
uncomplicated, if only for right now.