Memory Keeper

My sister says I save too much “stuff”. My husband would probably agree, and once, long ago suggested I get rid of a few shelves of old books to make room for new ones. That did not go over well. I explained that each book on my many bookshelves had a certain significance and just because I’d read them three times, did not mean I wouldn’t read them again! But it wasn’t just about the content. Some books were given as gifts, signed with a heartfelt note. How could I get rid of them?? My husband never asked that question again. Instead, he built me more bookcases!

But, I’m not talking about saving books. I’m talking about the intangible collections that I call memory keeping. What sorts of things do I save? Cards and letters, art projects from when the kids were in grade school, my previous dog’s collar…painted necklaces made from potatoes and macaroni…

Two weeks ago, I was cleaning out an old briefcase—yes, that was definitely from another life—when I came across the card on the left. It was from my middle daughter. She was so young! I thought of those times and how she’d grown from a wide-eyed, curious young girl to a strong, determined woman. Overwhelmed with emotion, I sent her the picture in a text message. I didn’t hear back until the next day, with a response that said merely, “LOL”. Obviously, she is not yet a mother and doesn’t understand how a child pulls at a parent’s heartstrings.

I donated the briefcase and stuck the note in a drawer for safekeeping. When my middle daughter is home at Christmas, I’ll pull out the card, look into her eyes, and tell her how much I love her. She’ll smile and hug me. Then she’ll say, “Love you, too.”

And that will be a memory keeper.

Four days after I sent her a copy of the Mother’s Day note, she sent me her own text message. It was a picture of her rescue dog and her hand—with an engagement ring! Maybe one day, she’ll become a memory keeper, too.

Believing in the Make Believe

My mother used to say the whole house could be falling down and I’d be on the floor playing with the girls, lost in our make-believe worlds. True, but they were GREAT make-believe worlds! My daughters still remember dressing up in tutus and tights, their long hair pulled up in buns, as they danced to “Beauty and the Beast.” Of course, they were princesses when they danced, but they spent plenty of time creating their own adventures. Recently, I asked them about those make-believe days and here’s what they said:

Tigers. Not just any tiger…Siberian tigers. Ballerinas and Cinderella when we cleaned floors. Dogs… and dolphins when we would swim. A bit older…Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (Daughter #2)

We slid across the floor like rock stars on our knees, and “climbed” trees. I remember using a forked tree in the backyard as a “slingshot” to jump up and down. (Daughter #1)

Now that’s imagination at work!

The comment from my mother served as foreshadowing for a future career where I could create people, towns, and all sorts of emotional turmoil from my imagination. Of course, that career didn’t happen overnight. I took a few detours along the way, but eventually, I found my passion and the job that didn’t feel like a job at all…

My two-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter is my latest make-believe pal. We play “tea time” with measuring cups when she’s in the tub, and I use my best British voice to entertain her. There’s also a “house” my husband repurposed from a box one of his woodworking machines came in. (No, Mr. Campisi, you’re not buying another machine, so you can re-use the box!) He cut out windows, a door, and taped photos of family and friends inside the house. I’ve thought of adding drapes to the windows from fabric remnants, and decorating the outside of the house. Who needs a fancy playhouse when you’ve got cardboard and your imagination?

This might all sound silly and somewhat crazy, but playtime relaxes my brain and opens it up to new writing ideas. Of course, playtime also creates memories, and for a grandparent, it doesn’t get much better than that

Fourteen Months of Patience

Hello from Ohio:

As many of you know, I’m an avid gardener and love spending time with my perennial flowers. It’s truly relaxing and when I’m digging in the dirt, it’s one of the best ways for me to think about my stories. I love a good plant “challenge” and I’ve encountered several over the years, but the biggest one was from “the orchid.” For years, I limited my indoor flowers to African violets and Christmas cacti. (I’m talking eight or ten violets at any time, and the same amount for the cacti.) Do they bloom? Of course. They’re beautiful. I understand exactly what they need and I’m vigilant.

And then I decided to try an orchid. I bought one, brought it home and admired the delicate beauty. It lasted all of three weeks, before, one by one, the flowers shriveled and died. Apparently, I gave it too much attention. Too much attention? I’m a nurturer—there is no such thing as too much attention. I asked for another orchid for Christmas. I got three. Oh, they lived a while, but then the flowers died off, too, leaving me with sticks. I almost threw them out because I was disgusted, but friends gave me advice. Leave it alone. Don’t give it too much attention. Don’t water too much. Be patient. I took my inability to make the darn thing bloom personally. But I listened to the advice and moved the “sticks” to an empty bedroom and left them alone. I visited once a week, watered…waited. Fourteen months later and ta-da! I’ve got a bloom. The other orchid is full of buds! Patience and persistence, the mantra I use in writing seems to work with orchid growing, too!


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