Wednesday, September 1, 2010
3ww: The Little Thief
It is Three Word Wednesday.
I may be exhausted, in every way that counts, so I can only offer up what I hope is a moment of beauty.
The Little Thief
I'd had twelve devotionals tucked away, all tossed into the pillowcase along with a few pens for notes I thought I might take some day. This was spiritual enlightment, this theft from my mother's church. I was not a budding Buddhist or Catholic or even a garden-variety heathen, but just a thief. I was ten.
I found them years later, at the back of the closet. The room filled with things that she thought I might use some day, I'd had difficulty reaching the closet, then more getting the door open, and finally, a breaking wave of small things, soft things, strange things, and me kneeling there as if I'd finally come to altar of my own volition. I pushed through the tide, embarrassed at the amount that was mine, thinking with a certain zealousness of my apartment in Hamden: the white walls, sheer, white curtains, the clean floors and sunshine. Over and over, as I sorted through these items, I flung myself through whirlwind imaginings of my home a hundred miles away.
The pillowcase was at the bottom. I tugged it up, wondering why it was yellow when I clearly recalled it to be pristine white. But here it was yellow, with little turtles. I didn't remember any turtles. The outlines of the devotionals moved beneath my hand. I opened the case and dumped them out.
A buttery cover between my fingers, its surface lightly pebbled. I flipped it open, the pages tissue-paper thin, covered with the word of God.
And of my mother.
For here was her handwriting, in the purple ink of the pens I had favored in those long-ago days, a little girl's pen, grape-scented. The scent was gone now. I touched my nose to another page, more of her words in tiny script.
Questions. Annotations. Referrals to other parts. But this could not be my mother's -- she was, til her last day, so devout she made my mouth pucker, a lemon-sharp Christian in shabby cardigans and LL Bean shirts. And yet the design, the y's and i's and t's, all so recognizable as hers. I couldn't fathom the woman who had written these things; where was my mother, with her obey, obey, obey?
It was Jeannie who found me there, saying where had I been, it had been hours? I looked up. The curtains, dusty magenta, were dark. Only the light from the hall to see by. My eyes blinked, as dusty as the curtains. My knees ached. A knot at the base of my spine that had been there for forty years was gone -- dissolved, I knew, like the negative glance of sugar in water, and somehow, there was a new sweetness in me.
"The church people are here. They have boxes," she said. "And casseroles."
I rose, slipping the devotionals back into their pillowcase. Hours ago, I would have handed over the pillowcase to them with a smile, gleeful. Now I walked with Jeannie to the kitchen, the only room that had been as yet de-cluttered enough to sit, to talk, to eat tuna casserole with potato chip crust. To do these things with those who had loved my mother. To do them with grace, no longer the little thief, but only the keeper of my mother's love.