Posted in Memoir

Tucked Away

With piles of Katie’s clothes all around me, and my Aunt Peggy sitting across from me on the floor, I lifted one tiny, pink item at a time, and shared a precious memory with each.

They were stories of firsts… day at the ocean, Christmas morning, visit from the Easter bunny, journey to Maine, camping trip.

We wouldn’t need those clothes any longer. We had two children…a girl and a boy. Our family was complete.

My cousin has a baby girl, sweet, beautiful Penny, to whom I wanted to give those clothes.  I knew that my cousin would love them as much I had.

I separated a handful of things that I couldn’t part with, the ivory floral dress that Craig chose for her that she wore home from the hospital, the pink and white seersucker outfit that she wore on her first birthday, her first pair of Mary Janes…things that held so much emotion in them that I will forever keep them.

Perhaps one day, I’ll pass them on to Katie, but, probably I won’t.

My aunt patiently listened to all of my stories, she was exactly what I needed for her to be…curator of the love tied up into those clothes. She gently folded each item and we shipped them all back to Maine.

We wouldn’t need them.

Matthew was our last child.

But, somewhere, deep inside, in that place where you tuck things away that you are hesitant to speak of, Craig and I weren’t certain that we were done.

One night in January of this year, over a quiet dinner, Craig and I admitted to one another that we’d like to have just one more baby…that we still have enough love in our hearts to welcome one more child into our family.

So, we’ve taken a detour. A happy, unexpected detour.

We are hoping for just one more baby.

Boy or girl, the next baby will be wearing Matthew’s clothes, because we gave nearly all of Katie’s away.

And if you have any baby dust to spare, we could really use it.

For berries…

I have a surprise for you, Chole.

My Aunt Judy, my godmother, always had a surprise for me. Always a lovely little indulgence.

Let’s go out into the garden.

I reached for my shoes and noticed that she had left hers behind.

Look over there, past the hydrangeas…

The grass was silky and sleek beneath my feet as I skipped along.

look beneath the elm tree…

With my chubby hand, I shielded my eyes from the harsh noon sun.

just there, against the white fence.

There, in the cool shade grew hidden treasure…brambly, plump wild raspberries.

Pull those branches apart, that’s where the sweetest ones hide. Choose a crimson one….the others are still bitter.

We had no money for berries. Our fruit bowl held Macintosh apples, navel oranges, bunches of bananas.

Give it a gentle pull, it will come off easily if it’s ready.

We often had no money. For doctors. For books. For rainboots.

Be careful, those thorns are like tiny fishhooks.

I swiped away stray strands of my sun-bleached hair that were blocking my view.

Got it? Okay, now taste it…

I had seen raspberries before, I’d tasted raspberry flavored Kool-Aid before, but this was different…so much better.

Have another…

We had no money. The grown-up apologies in my mother’s hazel eyes told me so.

May I have one?

In the shade of the elm, we ate our entire bucketful.

I couldn’t wait to share these with you…

There, with juice-stained hands, fingernail beds, and lips, those wild raspberries made me feel rich.

 

This post is in response to the this week’s RemembeRED

prompt that asked us to write about our favorite fresh fruit or vegetable.

 

 

 

Happiness is a choice…

A few words before you read…this post assumes that you know about my father’s death. If you are new to my story, you can read about it herehere, and here.

Also, I have exceeded my word count with this story and it is truly sentimental. But it is mine and to cut words would be to cut meaning. I just couldn’t do it.

My grandparents stepped in to fill the void left by my father’s death and to offer me a sense of connection to him.

My grandfather, honorable, and upstanding, strong and true, was a leader in the community.

My grandmother, soft and loving, tender and compassionate, taught me to express my feelings, talk when something bothered me, and listen when someone confided in me.

There were no silences, no empty spaces where words should be.

They taught me that happiness was a choice, to see the sunshine and smell the flowers, to cherish my life.

They taught me that I could have more and be more than I ever dreamed.

I spent every weekend with them.  Looking back on that time now that I am a mother, I can’t fathom having Katie and Matthew gone every weekend, can’t imagine those days without them.

My mother let me go for their sake…to help ease their pain from the loss of my father.

My grandparents offered me routine…predictability.  They were constant and true.

Friday nights were for settling in and entertaining company. Friends or family came to play hands of Bridge and 31, but before they arrived, my grandparents played Spite and Malice with me, teaching me the joy of game play.

On Saturday nights, after supper, baked beans and homemade macaroni and cheese, we settled into the living room, where Lawrence Welk greeted us.  Once I made it through the boring polkas, I was rewarded with The Love Boat.

Hands were never idle in my grandparents’ home.  As we watched television, my grandmother taught me to knit and crochet, always giving me a task perfectly suited to making me feel both challenged and accomplished.

Before bed, I helped my grandmother roll her hair, then climbed into my bed, in my own room at their home, the sheets ice cold.  It’s such a funny thing now to think about.  How strange it is that something as simple as a properly made bed can make such a difference at the end of the day.  The ritual of peeling those covers back and feeling the crisp, cold linens, inviting you in for your warmth, is a truly magical thing.

Why didn’t I make my bed at home?  Why didn’t I realize that I could create that routine for myself?

I would lie in bed on those nights and imagine what it had been like to be my father, their child.  They  pushed, yet comforted him.  They had high standards, yet comforted and encouraged him after a failure.

Sunday mornings were lovely.  My grandfather, up before the sun, greeted us as we made our way to the kitchen to collect hugs and my grandmother’s steaming hot coffee.  We went back to her bathroom, where I helped remove her hair curlers and place those soft rollers and plastic picks back in their bag. She fluffed and comb her hair and spritz on her perfume.

We ate the same thing every week…thick, greasy bacon and eggs fried it the fresh bacon grease.  Biscuits and baked beans from the night before finished our meals.

We dressed for church and drove the short distance to take our seats in the very front, in a pew with a brass plate that bore my father’s name.  The bibles in our tiny little chapel, were donated by my grandparents in my father’s memory.

There was something about reaching for and holding one of those bibles that made me feel connected to my father.

These people knew him.  They knew my grandparents.  And it was one of the very few places that I can remember where I didn’t feel shame…shame of being the child whose father had been murdered.

There, I was accepted and encouraged.

I was hugged and kissed and told a million times over that I was my father’s child through and through, his spitting image.

The relationship that I shared with my grandparents couldn’t have existed if my father had lived…of that I am certain.

With the loss of my father came something so very beautiful and important.

I wouldn’t be me without them.

I welcome concrit on this piece…I feel like the structure should have been different somehow, but my mind just couldn’t pull it together. Every time I write about my grandparents, I’m swept away by my love and memories of them…it’s tough to see things with any perspective. Any suggestions?

This piece is linked up with The Red Dress Club. Our challenge this week was to find beauty in something ugly.



We floated

One, two…fourteen…twenty…thirty-seven stars.

We floated there, on our backs, quietly counting them.

Night after night before our wedding, hopping over the low fence in front of our room to float on our backs in the Caribbean Sea.

Craig’s fingers so close to mine, touching, yet not grasping.

Dark, but for a few twinkling lights in the restaurant.

Silent, but for our dreams, spoken there, as we were but buoys in the gentle water.

There is beauty in words spoken in the darkness…words carried by the air between us.

There in the darkness, his words, forever…happiness…promise.

Mine…echoed back, gratitude…love…always.

We floated there, in those calm, lapping waters and listened…to each other, to the water, to our hearts.

His fingers so close to mine, touching, yet not grasping.

Before our children, our world was filled with dreams, with hopes, with plans, with only each other.

We floated.

I love yous.

And, the stars faded before our eyes…

Thirty…twenty-two…twelve…three.

Then rain, so soft, it began as mist. So gentle, so quiet.

Eyes closed, silent smiles, and love.

We floated.

This post is linked up with The Red Dress Club.
The prompt for this week was “Water gives life. It also takes it away.”

Nightcrawling

Summer nights in Maine are amazing.  The days can get so unbearably hot…the humidity just hangs in the air and can feel so suffocating.  But, after the sun sets, that same humidity that made you completely miserable during the daylight, becomes a comfortable, delicious wrap in the evening, a thin layer that shields you against the cold.

My step-father and I would often sit outside, just beside the front door.  We sat side by side in our folding lawn chairs, the aluminum kind with the woven plastic mesh seating.  The ones that lasted just a handful of summers before the webbing frayed.  (I’ll never forget how the hard edges of that plastic webbing cut into my plump adolescent thighs, the way I had to peel my skin from them when I stood.)

We would just sit and, there in the peacefulness of those humid evenings, we would talk.  Or we would simply take in the silence.  But the distinguishing part was that whether we spoke or not, we were comfortable.  There was no tension.  It was as though in the relative darkness, we saw each other.  He was kind in those moments, which made the horrible ones even more painful.

There were nights when he would ask me if I wanted to go nightcrawling.  We would gather up the necessities, a good flashlight with fresh batteries, a bucket, several handfuls of wet dirt.  Out on the moist lawn, I was tasked with shining the flashlight beam and holding the white plastic bucket while he grabbed hold of the earthworms before they shimmied back into the warm, dark earth.

There’s a technique to nightcrawling, you have to be so quick…good hand-eye coordination is key.  We filled our bucket with the squirming, fleshy worms and placed a snug lid, complete with air holes, on top to keep them for fishing the next day.

I remember many nights of nightcrawling, but so very few days of fishing.  Perhaps I didn’t get invited on those fishing trips.  I only remember the nights prior, the nights when I was his helper.  When I was good enough and he went easy on me.  Nights when I hoped that he would come to see that I was a good girl. That I was good enough.

But, those nights didn’t last.  In the light of day, I was no longer his helper, his right hand, his companion.

When the sun rose, I was stupid, lazy, and fat. My name was no longer Nichole, Babe, or Hon, it became Idiot, Dumbfuck, Moron and a slew of others.

He never hesitated to lay me bare in the daytime.

In the day, he probably hated his life.  In the evenings, when regret kicked in, he was softer, more able to see me, to pull me in.

If he had been consistently mean, I could have disengaged, written him off as a horrible human being, devoid of any redeeming qualities.

But, it wasn’t that simple.

None of it was that simple.

This post is linked up with the memoir prompt over at The Red Dress Club.

About me

Nichole Beaudry @NicholeBeaudry Location: Northern California
Each and every day, I strive to appreciate the wonder, beauty, and whimsy in the small moments, the moments that, when strung together, form a lifetime.
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