Cardinal feathers and gold coins…


It has been a few days since my show closed- quite successfully, I might add and so I am finally able to rest. Unloading from the theatre  finally ended on Monday, Tuesday was a blur and then on Wednesday, I celebrated my mother’s Birthday early with my older sister for a brief minute, before returning to work.  The rest of the week was…how shall I put this? Very, very interesting and then there was yesterday.

But for you to understand how special yesterday was, I need to go back two weeks. You see, two weeks ago I decided I would get a  jump stat on the holidays and pull things from the attic: namely the outside lights and garland. Now, my attic is not tremendously large and so it is difficult to wander about gracefully and pick and pluck from thirty plastic storage containers, bags and furniture to find just the right box all this was hiding in. Finally after bumping my head on two different rafters, one antique rocker and boxes of tax records…I finally found what I was looking for. Before exiting the attic though, I decided to rearrange some of the nonsense to make a larger path and accidentally tore a hole in a large plastic garbage bag as I went by. The fabric I saw was from an old comforter that had curtains that matched. Seeing as I have two windows that look out over the lake, I have left them without dressing and wanted to see if the curtains were both still intact, so that I might possibly use them in my bedroom. Upon opening the bag the correct way, I saw other goodies I had somehow missed while packing and unpacking several years earlier. By the time my fingers dug to the bottom of the bag for other potential linens, I realized that I was touching was no longer fabric, but cardboard. I dug the box out, only to find there was another lying just beneath it. Once all was out and in the light…I began to tear.

The two boxes were of small hook rug kits with feline motif that my mother had asked me to hook for my older sister the year before she died.  Being that it has been 7 years since her death, I can only imagine that in my grief I packed it away with other things meant for other holidays and projects and lost in another move and simply never revisited. Both the comforter and the request became part of an era I no longer wished to visit and it was soon forgotten after her death.

So there I stood… or rather crouched in my attic, uncertain what to do. Eventually I called my younger sister and together we decided it was right to complete the circle. My older sister has had a terrible year, delayed grief can crush you and so this last year has been very difficult for her. Not that it hasn’t been rough on us all. My mother passed then 3 years later my father and for us all– our true North lost. My dilemma was: to gift the rugs to her finished as my mother had originally requested, or to allow my sister the tangible therapy to work through her grief as she hooked the rugs in memory of my mother herself. In the end, I opted for hands on and so the eve of my mother’s Birthday, I wrapped them up and then met her for a brief moment on my way to the theatre and told her how they came to be discovered. When she got out of the car, I said I had something for her. She said she had something for me too and gave me a small gold coin that had angels on both sides. I popped it in my pocket and thought nothing of it until much later. You will see…

Now, those of you who know me also know that I truly believe that the universe brings us what we need- not always what we want- but what we need and so with confidence in my mantra…I truly believed that the gifts would mean more now, than they would have 7 years earlier in the throws of numb despair.  To think that my mother had orchestrated my finding them, at just the right moment to effect the right saving grace- I delivered them with a happy heart. I knew it would bring a plethora of sentimental tears and yet- it was necessary for me to complete my appointed task and for her to receive. Naturally, once she opened them and the tears began to flow- I second guessed myself right into oblivion and then later that night prayed I had not been so blind in my faith that I assumed others would see the beautiful synchronicity of the moment and understand the blessing that I thought it was. I however, am stupid.

Of course, it dawned on me that it might be difficult for her to bear. Of course it dawned on me that they would be a reminder of our collective loss- but they were also a beautiful reminder that my mother had not left us- that my sister had been remembered too and that was what I was going for. Eventually, I decided that it was what it was and that, at the very least I had honored my mother’s wishes and done a wonderful thing. I spent the next few days quiet in reverie, taking the heat for my decision and then said a small prayer asking my guides if it had been the right thing and if not, that I would be inspired as to how to fix  things to make it better. Naturally- nothing came immediately to mind and so I let it go and let God, secure in the knowledge that I would have loved to have been remembered 7 years after the fact.

Yesterday morning I awoke, exhausted and congested from a cold and so decided to take the day off to physically and mentally regroup and avoid the flu. The weather was temperate and since my husband had taken the dogs out several times for me during the night, I allowed him to rest and took them out into the gray mist myself. The fog on the lake was mystical, the air damp and chilled and the landscape before me spectacularly painted with leaves of every imaginable configuration, curl and color.  Giving thanks for my humble abode and awesome view, I looked down to find my darling Miniature Dachshund wrapping  his leash cord around my ankles just before he took off after the shadow of a squirrel…Frantic to be free from rope burn, I hopped and tugged myself right out of the cord and half out of my housecoat! (Thank God we are relatively secluded from prying neighbors and their eyes!) In the milieu of chaos, I lost a slipper and so barefoot and half naked, I hobbled about to get to something back on my frozen foot and body. As I lifted my wet slipper from the ground, I saw something stuck to its bottom. Seeing as I was outside at 6:30 in the morning for a specific reason- I assumed that was what was stuck was my Miniature Dachshund’s poop. Much to my surprise and absolute delight, it was something else; a small clump of red feathers. Immediately I looked at my Dachshund’s mouth and hollered that he let it loose. Had he found a dead bird and decimated the carcass during my psychotic slipper dance? I yelled at him again, but he had nothing to spit out. His face showed no guilt-he had nothing. I smiled, he eyed me casually and then began to sniff the backside of the dog to his right.  It’s good to know somethings will never change! lol.

I carefully placed the slipper back on and stared down at the tiny gathering of feathers that had fallen off. Whatever had happened, there was nothing attached beyond other feathers- just 3 of them laying there before me – all alone without a body. I spent a moment in thought about my mother and wondered if it was a sign. She had loved Cardinals- worn them on her shirts and sweaters. In fact, everyone associated her with a Cardinal. In appreciation, I whispered hello- belated Birthday wishes and went on my way. Hours later with nothing in the house, my husband and I decided a trip to the grocery store was in order, but not before securing something to eat. We went to my favorite little town on the way to work- Rutledge, Georgia, as they had just finished their holidays decorations and were setting up for a Christmas in the Country Holiday festival. We ate at “Yesterday’s Cafe” and all the while, we watched as bows and ribbons went up here and there, with men scuttling about with serious tools and older women who chatted as they carried the painted Three Wise Men from under their plastic chins across  the town square, searching for just the right angle to compliment the manger scene.

The picture was so surreal, complete with Time Life Christmas music in the background- just the kind I had listened to as a child. Everything was perfect; the cloudy skies, the barren trees…the retro music and old time cafe with antiquated family portraits and retro fitted appliances. Maybe that is why I love driving through that little town so much each day.  It is a slice of pure heaven-a living photograph of my youth back in Iowa, where hardware stores still thrives in quaint down towns and people still understand how to celebrate the holidays and one another as they keep the thought and understanding of something greater than themselves alive.

In light of the earlier red feathers, the scene before me, the comfort of my husband and the cafe’ and town’s nostalgia- the experience  was overwhelming. Inspired, I gobbled my lunch, babbled about my childhood holidays- our  children’s holidays and all the while inside I thought about how much I missed the simple  joys of my youth, the era of innocence and the magic of my mother. Internally I whispered how perfect it would have been if I could have shared such a wondrous occasion with my mother and then mentally blew her a kiss. As we got up to pay the bill, I noticed a woman struggling to get through the cafe doors with a huge green wheel barrel full of holidays goodies and trinkets, all wrapped in colored cellophane and a huge red bow. I rushed to help, held the door open wider and laughed as she passed me, saying I would take one of whatever she was having!

The other woman at the register said it was for a holiday raffle and for a single dollar, I could toss my name in the ring to win it. Amazingly enough, I remembered I had just one dollar left to m my name, so I reached in my pocket only to find the little gold angel coin my sister had given me  and smiled. Perhaps it was a sign of good luck that I might actually win that wheel barrel full of wonderful gadgets and gizmos! Encouraged, I dug around in my purse-gathered up my only wrinkled dollar, stretched it out on the counter and handed it over. My husband shook his head, smiled and headed for the car to wait. As the woman at the register took down my name and number, I spotted another woman sitting alone in the booth behind where we had sat, looking at an Ipad. When she looked up, I had the oddest feeling. I told her she looked very familiar to me for some reason and then faced me full on and smiled –I began to cry.

Before me, petite and perfect in familiar attire, sat a wonderful replica of my mother in her earlier years. Frosted, bobbed hair, glimmering blue eyes and requisite rosy chipmunk cheeks- she grinned wide and I could not help myself. Embarrassed, I explained my irrational response and then asked if it would be all right if I hugged her. She smiled even wider and said yes, stating just that week she had lost a dear friend, was on the road and had not been able to make it back in time to see her in time and was having a hard week herself. I further explained my awkward need to hug her and then did so again! I cried, she laughed and it was the most precious gift of the day. We spoke a few minutes longer about her life- my life, I thanked her- she blessed me, we hugged again and then parted ways, but not before I gave her my card… hoping she might one day see this blog and know what a blessing she had been.

Grateful, I met my husband outside, teary eyed and happy that in my effort to provide a gift for my sister the eve of my mother’s Birthday, the angels had graciously decided to give me one back for my efforts. Overwhelmed with emotion, I walked to the car, reached in my pocket for my keys- fingered the gold coin in my pocket again and smiled that I too had been remembered by my mother and not forgotten by my angels.

All this to say, when we give… we often get – if we remain open. Real love can never be diminished by the veil of death.

Charley helped teach me this… thank you Charley for yesterday and every day onward from here.

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