Sunday, August 12, 2012
The forty-five minute gift, thirty-five years in the giving
It was just an old box of cassettes, one of many boxes of mother's things to be sorted. If you have lost your parents, then you know the drill. The tapes were perfectly organized--classical in front, then some Perry, and of course, quite a bit of Bing. I closed my eyes; mom and dad were sashaying across the dance floor. Oh, what a couple. The books on tape were next. Her presence surrounded me. Sorting the box was a comforting reminder of how mother loved to read, her amazing style, beautiful hands ...
There was just one tape left, an old, obvious do-it-yourselfer. "Click," I hit a button on the cassette player. Mother's voice filled the room; it took my breath away. She sounded as strong as ever, but then she would have, because mother had made the tape 35 years earlier.
Mom opened the recording by addressing her older sister who then lived in Texas. Ever proud and tactful, mom tries to explain the "tape project" to my aunt. She avoids saying what I know to be tugging at her heart--a daughter is 2000 miles away at college, and homesick. I (me! GeneJ) have asked that she try to send voice recordings. "Turn on the player. Pretend we have time for a few rounds of canasta at the kitchen table, and just chat away."
She describes a letter left atop my bed as I had dashed to the airport; the letter was found elsewhere among mother's things. It was a wordy attempt to thank my parents for eighteen years of love and care.
It is that season of the year. My father has been at the hunt club. He's due back later that afternoon, no doubt with several finely feathered trophies. She has a pot roast ready to go in the oven for dinner. Dad passed away in 1988.
Her mother, then a widow of two years, is coming to visit for two weeks, in two weeks. All the arrangements have been made; she talks about what they'll do. Mom mentions each of the relatives she plans for them to visit across the state when it is time to drive her mother home. My grandmother died in 1987.
One by one, mom describes my brothers’ busy lives--what happened last week; what’s on deck for the week to come. Her comments are sprinkled with love and a good dose of hopes and dreams.
Ever so fondly, mom talks about each of her brothers and their families. She remembers her oldest sister, who had passed away in 1969. The children, by then adults, seem to be getting along okay. She expresses a hint of concern about her widower brother-in-law. They had talked by phone the week earlier; she suspects he might be working too hard. My uncle passed away within the year.
It had taken her much of the day to make the 45-minute recording. Here and there, you hear the sound of the tape being stopped and restarted as she entertains a daily routine. She may have scheduled a bridge game, or run some errands. No doubt she finished a few chores around the house. The pot roast is about done when she closes out the tape, and it is time to set the dinner table.
As she was often known to do with grace and ease, mother had transformed an ordinary afternoon into something quite special.
For me, it was nothing short of an extraordinary 45-minute gift, 35 years in the giving. One more thank you to add to that old, wordy letter.
Note: This was written for Myrt's "Share a Memory" contest. Maybe you have a memory to share, too.