Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

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.


paulmerrill said...

As always, a great story!

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Paul, I appreciate that! Thanks.

tangobaby said...

That's just so adorable! I loved this because I can relate completely. Since I was little, I've been drawing a particular smiley face that, although very simple, looks very much like my dad. It adorns every card I give him and sometimes I even draw my own wrapping paper with it.

He saves them all and has for years. If I was to give him a regular card without the face, he would be very disappointed. Isn't it funny the little things that our parents treasure?

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Tangobaby, "although very simple, looks very much like my dad." That's really sweet :) That face has then become your signature, to the point where its absence would be noticed- that's wonderful. A trademark :)

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