Very early this morning, I sat perfectly still staring into the darkness. Everyone knows you can’t make noise before dawn. It is rude and is sure to disturb Mother Nature. I was gently comforted by the sound of the coffee maker as tears streamed down my cheeks. My mind was reviewing all the women in my family. I am next to the oldest woman in my direct line now. That may sound like a weird statement but I grew up with a mom and stepmom, grandmothers and step grandmothers, and great grandmothers and step great grandmothers. There were aunts and aunties (best friends of moms.) There were great aunts and great-great aunts and many cousins who were more like sisters. We were many – and there was a huge security in that.
It was also a culturally rich upbringing that included German, English, Dutch and Cherokee traditions. We were good, mid-western small town folk. Many had either a small farm right outside of town or used to, and still talked about rain and the prices of corn and cattle.
There was pickle brining, pie baking, beef roasting (way over cooked for my taste) and lemonade making. There was every flavor of homemade ice cream and cobbler. Each summer we could count on gardening with mandatory weeding, always before treats. We were told that the work made the treats taste sweeter and I can tell you it did. The little ones collected eggs, a certain right of passage. There was canning and freezing and butchering. We snapped beans and peas, cleaned corn and told stories.
There was embroidery, quilting and lace making. And there were hands, always hands. Those hands stirred, cleaned, wrung the necks of chickens and bandaged wounds. Rings spun around slim fingers with swollen knuckles that had lost their strength but not their love. My closets and cedar chests are filled with my inheritance from those hands. I see their hands in my dreams. If I’m lucky, I get a glimpse of their faces always with smiles and sparkling eyes.
I am glad I have my mom in all her 82 years. My heart is filled with the love of all the women of my family. Today I miss them – terribly. I feel them around me and know that I am loved. I also know that my inheritance is greater than their work. I am beginning to have their hands with wrinkles and liver spots. I notice that my rings are a little looser these days. I feel like I have been accepted into their circle of wisdom – a little.
My mind questions, “Did I honor you enough?” “Did I show you how special you were to me – enough?” Did I make you laugh enough?” “Did I love you enough when you were here?”
Please know now and in that pre-dawn moment that I love you and miss you, and wish we were snapping beans on the back porch. I would be watching your hands and laughing with your heartfelt stories.