Monday, March 31, 2014

What You’ll Miss


MaMa sends Hollie mail every week.

It’s a kind of devotion that I admire. I used to write to my Nana sporadically. I respond to my cousin’s letters almost immediately. But they’re sporadic, too.

I have a friend who has never failed to send a card for appropriate holidays. Her mom sends them, too. They arrive within days of one another.

I am not that organized.

So my mom’s weekly ritual of filling out the note and folding it into the envelope and dropping it into the mail box is one that demonstrates her devotion to my daughter. And we’re so blessed by that devotion.

As we age, the rituals of our lives together fade.

We used to swim on the summer league team and dad would make us milkshakes before meets.

We used to open one gift every Christmas Eve, it was always new pajamas and always from my Dad’s mom (though we learned later my mom had bought them, wrapped them, and signed Nell’s name).


Kristen and I used to go to NASCAR races together. We always got two twelve packs each: one in bottles for tailgating before and after, one in cans for during. And yes, we each drank an entire case of beer at a NASCAR race.

Charlie and I used to drag Saturday’s cooler of beer into the living room and lay on the futon in front of the television all day watching the NFL on Sundays. Naked.

So many things have changed over so many years that I have a sort of cynicism for ritual. I don’t value traditions the way some people do. I don’t see the point of trying to replicate the same experience we’ve already had. Let’s have a new one.

But my cynicism may be the root of a terrible weed.

When I handed Hollie her MaMa’s card out of the stack of mail the other day, she dropped it on the ground and walked away.

I know she’s five and easily distracted. I know she’s a kid and she doesn’t understand that was disrespectful. I know she’s learning that every day is fresh and that the same-old same-old can be taken for granted.

I paused, stunned, a few paces behind her.

“Hey!” I said. “Pick that up.”

“Ugh, mahhhhhhm,” she moaned.

I stepped closer to her, stood over her.

“Where is Nana?” I asked her.

“What?”

“Where is Nana? Answer the question.”

“She’s an angel in Heaven,” she said, meekly, not sure where this was going.

“That's right,” I said, “And I would give anything to have a note in the mail from her. But I don’t. You have one from your MaMa and you better start recognizing how lucky that makes you.”

And then I took a deep breath and swallowed back the tears that had welled in my throat and said, “Now pick it up.”

She did. Then she stepped toward me and wrapped her arms around me. “I’m sorry,” she said.

I could tell mom to stop sending them. We see mom several times a month, so really, why does mail matter?

But the ritual matters.

For mom it’s sending a message of love to someone she values.

For me it’s a reminder that my mom loves us, all of us, and that she’s dedicated to us.

For Hollie it’s a lesson in gratitude. 

Other children don’t have people who love them like this. There are thousands of children who will never know that kind of love. Who will die too young because no one cared enough to save them.

She doesn’t know that now. She couldn’t fathom it.

But someday she’ll understand and she’ll see those cards as evidence of the devotion her MaMa had to her. 

"Someday," I told her, "MaMa will be an angel, too." 

And Hollie will wish with every breath in her body that she could go to the mailbox and find one of those envelopes. In MaMa’s neat print. With Hollie’s name and address.

And love. So much love. Tucked inside.

This is in response to the Wordsmith Studio weekly prompt. Click here.

6 comments:

  1. you made me teary. i laughed about the naked ritual, but i am a traditionalist. my family is often annoyed that i make them follow through on rituals, but i do it anyway. some things are worth keeping in tact. a note worth remembering.

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    1. Families need traditions. They're part of the fabric that holds them together, especially as distance and circumstance take them away from one another.

      Thanks for reading, Bolton!

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  2. When I was Hollie's age my Ma-Ma Russ lived close by and your uncles and I stayed with her and Pa-Pa while your Nana and PaPa worked. I did not receive mail from her until we moved 25 miles away and I started school. I send cards to Hollie Russ because I know one day she will look back and remember just as I do how very much she is loved. She is a sensitive little girl who asked me recently, "Are you going to be an angel soon MaMa?" I answered her, "Well some day I will be but I don't think it will be for awhile." Her response was "I'm glad because I want you to stay here with me." Rituals and traditions are important and showing our children and grandchildren those rituals and traditions is what makes up the fabric of family. We, however, cannot get so bogged down in our rituals and traditions that we don't start new ones and embrace the new ones with the same fervor as we do the old ones. I loved the piece and I know you miss your Nana very much and so do I. Your Nana probably got a chuckle out of your reprimand to Hollie Russ and thought to herself, "she sounds like her mother." I love you my darling daughter!

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    1. Thanks, mom. It was a tough moment. We have those now and then.

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  3. Aww . . . you made me teary, too! What a wonderful post. I love and miss handwritten letters, too. I always have my kids send thank-you notes, hoping to teach them the importance of taking the time to create a gift from the heart. I enjoyed reading, Kasie!

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    1. Thanks, Linda. There are some manners worth preserving and I think Thank You notes is one of them,

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