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A Crepe Paper Memory

  Mother’s Day is a time for celebrating, or remembering. Today, I’m remembering.  We never had much, on our small Tennessee farm, tucked away in almost Alabama. But the crepe paper dress is a reminder that there was no needle my mother would not try to thread for me.   The second grade school play was coming up, and I was cast as Little Bo-Peep. Excited as I was to have the part, I am sure now that when my mother read the note from school, what I saw in her eyes was worry. Worry that we couldn’t afford the material to make the costume. No velvet. No satin. Not even cotton for a dress I’d wear just once. But after a while, we went to town and bought crepe paper. My mother made all of my clothes. Homemade was the best she could afford. She’d see a dress in the Sears catalog or in a store window in Florence, Alabama, and say, “I can make it.”   From school clothes to formals, my mother had a gift for making something out of nothing. I was much older before I understood what a lux
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A memory: Early morning, fire crackling in the wood stove, first light leaning toward us as Mama rocks me, back and forth. I’m in footed pajamas.             Thanksgivings will come and go, but this one, the first I can recall, this one has carved itself into me.             I’m the baby, too young to know grateful, but I know home, family, love.             Smell of scrambled eggs, bacon, biscuits and gravy thick in the air. My brother gets his breakfast on a tray because he has rheumatic fever. Five years, my whole life, he’s been sick. I jump on his bed, and the tray rattles. He grabs his glass of milk and laughs. Always happy, my sick brother, with dimples like mine.             I see it all, still.             My older brother, home from college, goes squirrel hunting with Daddy. They head toward the woods in their funny caps with flaps over their ears. My sister, home from nursing school, dresses me in pink corduroy overalls. Mama makes an apple pie. The long curly peels drop int

Have You Come to Take Me Home?

            “Have you come to take me home?” my mother asks, in a high and thin voice. My chest, like a balloon, inflates with guilt. It’s Saturday. Every other Saturday I make the two-hour trip and arrive in time for lunch, nursing-home starches, heavy but tasty – yummy yeast rolls and banana pudding, one of the perks of a small-town facility where somebody’s grandmother is the cook. “Not yet. It’s almost time for lunch, and today we’re having fried chicken.” I hear the false note in my too-bright voice. But she lights up. Fried chicken is her favorite meal. Nothing to compare with hers, when she cooked for her family, but good enough. I push her wheelchair toward the dining room and settle her in a line of other residents in wheelchairs, waiting for lunch. Waiting, just waiting. Lots of waiting here. The nurses say she asks the same question again and again. To the doctors listening to her tired heart. The preacher who comes to pray over her. Anyone who visits. An

In the Car with Mother on Christmas Eve

            She is eighty-eight years old, she reminds me, my small, scrunched-up mother, as round as Santa with hair as white and fluffy as his beard.   “The tenth of February, I’ll be eighty-nine,” she announces.             The car clock says it’s 1:55 as we begin the one hundred-mile trip to my house for Christmas.   This is our tradition since my dad has been gone, six years.   Two years ago my brother David died.   This year I am divorced.   It’s hard to keep traditions going.   I punch buttons on the radio, trying to find Christmas songs.   I settle for a country station that plays oldies – Willie Nelson’s twangy “On the Road Again.” Serendipity.             “Belle has the same birthday as me, the tenth of February. She’s sixty and I’m eighty-eight,” Mother says.   “She embroidered twenty-seven pillowcases for Christmas presents.   My eyesight’s not good enough to do hand-work anymore.”             All of this before we leave the city limits.   We pass the funeral h

On Father's Day

My father belonged to the generation and culture of Southern men that seriously avoided any talk of feelings. He was no-nonsense, work-from-dawn-till-dusk, back as straight as a two-by-four, but he had his gentle moments. His hands were rough, his arms lean and powerful, and he would scoop me up one-handed after a day in the fields, and I would rub my small fingers across his bristly jawline. He wiped away tears when he left me at college and, later, when we said goodbye at the airport, as I headed for the Peace Corps. My father declared his love for Jesus in heartfelt prayers, but he never told me he loved me. I don’t believe I ever told him I loved him, either.             Our family was poor, though I didn’t know it. I had everything I needed, more than   many families in our rural community. Daddy paid for medicine that other men could not buy for their children. He put men to work when he didn’t need their help. Men would come to the back door owing Daddy money and leave with

Old Dog

My husband is coming to terms with the situation. I can see it in the beam of his flashlight, a half-hearted movement of light that was so purposeful in the beginning. I can hear it in his voice. He’s losing hope.             It’s the middle of the night, and our old dog is lost in the woods.             Ink Spot is fourteen-and-a-half years old. She doesn’t hear or see well, and arthritis has taken its toll on her hind legs. She’s apt to topple over, mid-squat. The noise she makes is more like a moose than a bark. My husband tried to reassure me when we first missed her, pointing out that Ink Spot is too crippled to go far, but that was two hours ago.             Our house is on top of a hill at the end of a steep, winding driveway, a quarter of a mile long. We have four acres of land, most of it wooded. From one end of our property to the other, we have searched along the edge of the woods. We make another pass. Knowing that about all Ink Spot can see is light and movement,