October 12, 2011
On Monday I had The Cough that in my compadre verged on pneumonia. On Tuesday I was just achey enough to think some germs might ride my coat tails into the care center where Mother lives.
I"m leaving today, in an hour, or maybe two, depending on whether Laramie gets a bath. She got a new winter coat, bright pink with huge white polka dots, for the viewing pleasure of Mother and her colleagues, so a bath seems appropriate. Maybe a dab of Chanel No. 5 while I'm at it.
I spent hours last night at Mother's request writing notes to people who've been in touch with her since my father died. On my last visit, she gave me the precise wording of appreciation. More notes need to be written, but I can't put my hands on the sympathy cards and notes I received on her behalf. I did find the envelope containing all of the Christmas cards they received in 1999 and the list of all of the relatives I phoned in February 2000.
Going to see Mother is more complicated than simply walking out the door, even when correspondence isn't the issue. I always have a car full of treasure to take along. Last trip, I took along photos of baby Amy and a pink and green and glitter banner reading HAPPY BIRTHDAY). I stretched it across the top of her curtains, hoping people would notice and ask, "Oh, is it your birthday?" thus jumpstarting her memory and a reply of "No, I have a new great-grandchild. Would you like to see her picture?"
--Two of four small claw feet holding crystal balls that I bought at a yard sale. Mother said she recognized them but couldn't recall what they ordinarily attached to.
--A bottle of wine with which to toast the baby's arrival. (We forgot to drink it.)
--A plastic box in which Mother kept a chatelaine given to her in 2000 (I found the note about it this morning in the box where the sympathy cards weren't). Inside the lid of the box, Mother had taped one of her first granddaughter's portraits.
--A covered milk glass box with interesting designs painted on.
--A coal stove pencil sharpener (how cool is that?). Mother's vision is pretty much gone, but she recognized the coal stove immediately.
--A milk glass shoe. I saw it in an antique shop and called Mom to ask what she thought of the price. I'd never seen one before with a lid, nor had she.
Driving back last time, I thought I need to find a dollhouse for Mother. Two reasons: she'd wanted one since she was a girl and never had one; and a dollhouse would give me a goal when popping into flea markets (doll house furniture) and also create concrete conversational material not only between me and Mother but between Mother and anybody else passing by.
When I went to Spartanburg the following week, I was telling my friend Terry about my need. She had a dollhouse in its original packaging that she'd have been happy to donate, except we both knew I'd never get the thing put together. Then her daughter Amy called, and the two of them talked things over, and Terry handed me the phone to explain to Amy why I was looking for a dollhouse.
"Oh, yes, you can take ours," she bubbled, so happy at the thought of the beautiful farmhouse with gingerbread trim Terry had made years before Amy was born. I well remember the X-acto knife and little tiny trim she cut out and thinking I'd go bananas with that particular project. And so I've had a green dollhouse in the back of the Jeep for a month.
I found last week, for $2.00, a baby in a porcelain bathtub as well as the matching sink and toilet with wooden seat. I also lucked up on a Peggy Nisbet doll ($6.00) -- especially a treasure because I'd found a Peggy Nisbet queen ($5.00) in Ohio and gave it to Mom on my last visit. The newer find is a Court Guard, complete with fancy duds and spear. .
And now I'm off!