I’ve always loved thrift stores, second hand stores, stores where you find previously used “stuff”. Back when we lived in a house, I collected old plate ware, and I loved it most when it had tiny chips in it, signifying to me that someone had made use of this lovely item. Maybe that pretty flower patterned plate decorated a tea party table, or was used in an anniversary dinner. All of my plate ware was mismatched, held together by a common color (pink, of course), and I’d nestle mismatched glasses and silverware next to those plates, set upon a “found” tablecloth of old times. I loved those dishes. It was a little bit of a wrench to let go of them when I left my old life, but I passed them on to a dear friend who cherishes them and hopefully considers me for a moment when she uses them. I’m part of their history now.
All of this is to say, I seem to be inadvertently starting a new collection as we travel. One of my pleasures is happening upon a Goodwill store, or Salvation Army store, anything like it, in all the different parts of the country that we’ve been in, and stopping in to browse. Any purchases I make tend to be clothing (my goal is to eventually have all my clothes either be all pink or bear some pink in them). But because I am an inveterate book lover, I take time to scan the book section too-you never know what treasure may be found.
My first “find” was actually made by Handsome Husband, in Loveland, Colorado. He was leafing through a book and found, marking one of the pages, a picture of a young woman in nurses uniform. We were intrigued. Because Handsome is a researcher extrordinaire (something that is much more easy to be in this day and age-thank you, internet), he looked up common names in social security data from the time it looked like she might have been born. The uniform she wore seemed to be from around the WW2 era, and she seemed to be roughly in her early 20’s, so he backtracked to that time, and scrolled through most popular names, and we decided she would be “Madeleine”. Or, as we call her, Maddie. And she travels with us, in her place next to our GPS-our mascot. This is Maddie-
Today, here in Okeechobee, I wandered into a Goodwill store to explore, and found a book that immediately interested me, called “From Daughters to Mothers-I Meant to Tell You”. Its an anthology of letters written by daughters to their moms, telling them things that they always wanted to tell them, but for one reason or another, never did. So, just with the title, I’m already sold on the book. (Anyone who knows me knows that, with my work all these many years with daughters grieving their moms, this is right up my alley!) On Mother’s day, 1996, the book was given by a daughter, Susan, to her mom, (whose name is unknown), as a gift. This note is on the cover leaf-
Further, inside is this note, written by the mom to her daughter Susan:
(Dear Sue and Larry, Just a short note to say “Hi” and, send “snoopy” down. Thought you’d like to see what your golf balls turned into. Love, Mom and Dad” (What golf balls? What did they turn into? Who’s snoopy?)
And, extra gold! I find a picture of Susan’s mom in the pages!
I have no idea, obviously, who this mom/daughter combination is. It sounds like they had a loving relationship. I like to think that Susan read this book and maybe had some thoughts that she, too, had things she wanted to tell her mom, but never had. And, maybe, as a precursor to talking, she gave this same book to her mom, with the enclosed note, and the expectation of sitting down someday soon with her mom to talk about all the stories inside, about moms and daughters and who they each are, and how, so often, we become who our moms were, and are. And how we, as daughters, can sit in harsh judgement of who our moms were, and maybe still are, but, as we mature, we come to an understanding, and a wondering. Who were our moms, as women, before they gave birth to us and the title of mom was bestowed on them? Who were they as daughters, as sisters, as wives of our dads? My own mom, in spite of her liberal, both professional parents background, married a man who was a West Point graduate, Army career bound. She spent her life traveling with him to foreign countries and around the US, including the southern states (which might well have qualified as foreign to her). In the midst of numerous moves every couple years, she gave birth to 8 children. And, after 25 years of marriage, they got divorced. Those are the barest of facts. And then there is the rest of the story, about how she was living on one side of the country when her own mom died, and didn’t go to the funeral-probably couldn’t afford to go, and what to do with all those kids if she did? I have often, since my mom’s death, pondered about what that could have been like for her. Knowing the impact my mom’s death had on me makes me think deeply about the impact her mom’s death had on her. Having gone through a divorce myself, with 3 kids involved, I wonder what was the impact on her, after all those years of marriage, to go through a divorce? I wonder, I wonder, I wonder, and maybe I’ll write one of those letters too, that this book talks about. Maybe, after reading this book, I’ll have more insight to my mom and my relationship to her and with her. I’m a strong believer in synchronicity, and this found book, chanced upon in an obscure Goodwill store in Okeechobee, Florida, a place where I never expected to be, may very well provide another avenue to know my mom more, to be able to connect with her more strongly, even now after her death. And this thought just came to me as I’m typing this-Susan gave this book to her mom in May 1996. That’s the year I celebrated my final Mother’s day with my mom. She died the following July. Synchronicity-its happens all the time….