Last week when I was with you, when we got ready to take a ride I took your jacket from the back of the closet. Hidden in a pocket were very old cookie crumbs wrapped in a piece of plastic, along with what might have once been apple or peach slices. You squeezed one and shrugged, saying, “Hmm, well I think we can throw that away.”
Thinking about that still makes me smile, Mom. It also reminds me of the surprises we found five years ago when I moved you and Dad to Presbyterian Village. It had been hard deciding what to leave behind at the big house and what to take to the two-bedroom apartment.
It was only a few miles, and the movers had carefully transported the bureaus and display cabinets and chests of drawers in tact so we wouldn’t have to pack and then unpack the contents. The next morning as we settled into the apartment, you and I discovered some unexpected items. A moldy partial sandwich hidden at the back of Dad’s sock drawer; your missing driver’s license tucked beneath a chair cushion; your gold PEO pin stuck in the toe of a shoe.
We were amazed at some of the things we found, shocked by others. Remember the leftover fabric you once stored in the bottom drawers of the big green cabinets, planning to someday make baby quilts for friends. As you and I emptied the colorful squares and scraps of ribbons, at the back of the drawer we found mouse droppings that lead us to a little skeletal carcass. You wrinkled your nose and said, “Well I think we can throw this away now, unless you want it for something.” Cringing, but also laughing, we emptied the drawer into a garbage bag and I hurried it out to the dumpster. Then we scrubbed everything with strong cleaner. When one of the staff came to see how you were settling into your apartment, you and I were drying the drawers with a hand-held hair dryer, and Dad was sitting in his chair, shaking his head.
One of things I carefully saved from the drawer, Mom, was a piece of linen rolled in tissue paper. The pattern was partially completed with your careful, colorful stitching. Flowers and cross-stitch borders surrounded little children’s happy faces, and in the middle was this verse: “My Day Is Complete…I Heard A Child Laugh.” I took it home and carefully washed it, Mom, and then I matched the thread and finished the handwork.
The framed sampler now hangs in the hallway near your great-grandchildren’s rooms. On the back I’ve written information about when you started the handwork, when I finished it, and how this reflects your love for children and your philosophy that a happy child is one of the great joys in life.
Your mother had the same dedication to children, and for years she was the Sunday school teacher at their Brethren Church in Plattsburg, Mo. You were a kindergarten teacher in Kansas City, and a Sunday School teacher and a CASA volunteer in Fort Scott. Your daughter, son-in-law, and numerous nieces and nephews and great-nieces and nephews have been teachers. Your granddaughter has been a Head Start and Reading Recovery teacher and is now devoted to teaching adult GED students to achieve their dreams. And your youngest grandchild has continued the tradition in China, where he teaches English to young children of all ages.
The framed stitchery piece is a reminder of your devotion to children, and the wonderful continuing values of your family. It also reminds me that sometimes you have to be willing to dig through the messes in life if you’re going to find the buried treasures.
You’ve been a great teacher, Mom, in many ways. Thank you.