Saturday, December 14, 2013


Housecleaning has always been a rite, a worship, for me.  A thanksgiving, stewardship of what I have been given, what I always hope to earn, to deserve.

Here is a post about the people who were the vehicle by which I was given everything I have, everything I am.  About an artifact I hope my nieces will love someday, too.

Today is the fiftieth anniversary of my parents' marriage, and though dad's not on this plane to share it with us, mom and I had a brief celebration of sorts, doing a crossword together on the phone this morning.  We used to do them as a family, spanning the kitchen and family room, calling out clues and answers out loud; crosswords were a shared thing for us.  Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the first "word cross" puzzle, too.

I seem to like anniversary markers, though through most of my life I'd probably have said that sort of thing didn't really have meaning in itself.  But as I've grown a little older, time - and its observance (and marking) - means more to me, or perhaps I just recognize what it's always meant to me.  Mr. X being so far away probably throws this tendency into higher relief, but that's okay.

Today is also the eleventh anniversary of our first date.  I can still recall so vividly getting dressed for that date, our walking together to the restaurant - the very silly place we went - and his engaging telling of The Greatest Bike Wreck Ever Told, a story about X as a kid having what could have been a nasty wipeout and rising from it triumphantly unscathed.  To this day, that memory just makes me grin at what an adorable kid he still can be from time to time.  Not  a lot of people other than his kids get to see that side of X.  It's a nice side.

Mama gave me the wedding album when she remarried, and its images feel so close, for me - even though they all predate me by years.  Padded ivory vinyl and little brass fleur-de-lys.  "Wedding memories" in gold leaf.  Stiff, brass-cornered pages, black and white eight-by-tens, parchment leaves in between every image, every page.  Five little brass feet on the back cover of the book.  A somewhat tattered box.

The photo of my parents' hands on their guestbook, mama's pretty little fingers slim and unbent by arthritis, the ring slender and unadorned - no sapphires flanking the bright diamond , commemorating two children yet unborn and un-imagined.  The picture of my mom and grandma, the pastel hat grandma wore, which I have now, hanging in my dining room.  The picture of mom with my aunts, her sisters, putting on her garter, her appealingly turned ankle, her beautiful little sculpted heel - the wedding crystal and the Fostoria parfaits behind her on my grandparents' mantel, in front of the mirror mama bought for them, which now lives in my own bedroom.  What that mirror has seen.  I remember it, hanging always over grandma's living room, angled downward so we could always see so much, hanging so high.

One of the most striking images in the album is the one of granddaddy walking her into the church.  They're all black and white, and the wedding was in the evening in December.  A puff of wind took up mama's veil and the composition is full of movement, excitement, joy.  Granddaddy looks stoical, but mama is so young, so fresh, so pretty.  The veil rises up toward a deepening winter twilight, framing the dimmer image of my aunt in the background.  Mama, in white, is luminous, a shock of brightness.

My older cousins, little girls, white pinafores, white socks, and black patent maryjanes.  Adorable chubby knees.  Aunts and uncles.  My young grandparents, all of them, together.  These are the only photos I have of all of them together, and I so love these pictures.  I cry a little bit, that mom gave this to me.  This time capsule, this treasure.

This observation of time.  Of a date, so important.

If my mom was beautiful, my daddy was so handsome.  He was a furry fellow, and so dapper.  His hands were warm and manly.  His hair was amusingly thick, here - and yet, as he grew older, as his crowning glory grew thinner, he never looked any different to any of us.  He was a good looking man, they were a beautiful couple.  I had no idea of that, for so long, but once I realized it I have never been able to look back at pictures of them without seeing that anew.

Lace tablecloth, lace long sleeves, gleaming satin, a little linoleum-floored church hall.  Aunt V. putting her hands over dad's eyes as he slipped the garter off of mama's pretty leg, laughter, the sweet comedy of propriety meeting promise, and a couple I know were deeply attracted to each other.  Dad found mom utterly beautiful until the day he died; she always dressed and made herself up for him - until the day he died.

The bouquet, midair, the small group of smiling women - I don't know who caught it.  The photo captures the penultimate moment, the instant of promise the superstition carries, of potential and possibility ... whoever catches it, marries next ...

Mama in her pretty traveling suit and hat, little black shoes on her tiny feet now, her and dad's heads bowed as the rice flies around them, coming down the evening steps.  Out beside the car, the last streaks of light in the clouds above their heads - an image easily as striking, as gorgeous, as mom's entrance with my grandfather.  Her open, nervous, exciting smile.  Mom's smile always so wide.  Mom's smile always a defining feature of her - mom's laugh is so much a part of her self.  Like her, I know people identify me by my laugh.  Mom's youth, mom's face in love.

And the final picture.

Daddy, in the driver's seat, arm around mama, her smile rising above an almost ridiculously large pouf of corsage, the checks of her suit the only pattern in eight by ten inches of black and white and silver.

Daddy's smile.  His eyes all on her.  His peaked eyebrows, his cute nose.

His everlasting, abiding love.  My dad ... was beautiful.

Happy anniversary, mom and dad.

No comments: