Tuesday, October 21, 2008
“Reminiscences make one feel so deliciously aged and sad."
-George Bernard Shaw
When I lived in Ireland, it was a perpetual joke between Mater and I that she might, from time to time, find a piece of paper suddenly tucked into the novel she had laid aside for a moment, or inside the packet of biscuits she opened and turned her back on, or atop her pillow, to be found at evening.
The pieces of paper in question bore, always, a crudely drawn circle with shining eyes, and a tongue extending from a cheeky grin.
It was my token, my signature mark, and on idle days I might leave as many as ten of them around the house in various places.
I determined that for each one I hid and which Mater uncovered, I scored one point. Precisely what I intended to do with those points was never given consideration.
Mater caught on eventually and pretended not to see some of them, depending on her mood- but she often could not drink her tea or open a door without first removing one from her line of vision.
When Mater made her first Christmas visit to Spouse and I in California, I prepared well beforehand. We lived, at the time, in a small town full of history and kind people and in which Winter was a grand time for festivities that buzzed and kept the cold at bay.
Mater and I walked every day; I took her to my favourite book haunts, and when we did not walk we enjoyed the luxury that the local public transport afforded.
And so I found myself, that December, fashioning a bundle of smiling papers one crystal clear afternoon, attaching some sticky material to their backs, and setting out with Mater on our first walk around my already beloved town.
I made an effort to jump ahead just a little, which was rather easy as Mater is a slow walker and complains to this day that I never wait for her.
Whenever I disappeared around a corner I invariably found a pole or a lamp post or a newspaper vending machine- in one case, on the dusty bookshelf of a thrift store- to plaster the tiny smiley face to before I rejoined my mother.
And when, for the very first time, Mater rounded the corner and her eye caught a familiar tab of paper, it felt as though we were both at home again, playing our little tricks, as though nothing had changed.
There was Mater, walking in a town in California she had not known about until recently, strolling with me, who lived there, identifying a hallmark of another era.
I continued to place those notes of humour not only throughout the day but during Mater's three-week visit. Often, as the time went by, we would retrace our steps, revisiting our favourite places, and stumble on a smiley face we had forgotten about or which Mater had missed the first time.
I saw some, weatherbeaten and faded but clinging for dear life, for many months after my mother's visit had concluded.
And I wonder, years afterward, when I miss that dear little place for all it was worth, if there might yet be any washed out evidence of the marvellous adventures that Mater and I had, and if they ever cause a passing stranger to wonder about the origin.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 2:02 PM