My mother-in-law passed away very suddenly in 2009, before she had the chance to see any of her grandchildren get married. She died about eight months before our oldest son's wedding. Our firstborn's wife, Regina, did get to meet and spend a few days with her future husband's grandmother during the summer of 2008, when she came to a Pearl family get-together at the old homestead on Lake Champlain. But unfortunately, Preciosa, Braveheart, and Ginger, the three other girls who have joined our family since Mom's death, never even got a chance to meet her.
It would be impossible to describe this amazing woman in one blog post. To tell you the truth, trying to put into words what she was like and how I (and so many others) felt about her simply overwhelms me. It can't be done.
But she did have a smile that lit up the world.
I've been thinking of Mom a lot lately. I can hardly help it, you see. My husband and I have been staying at his childhood home this summer, with all of her things about us. It makes sense for us to stay here, rather than in our NH home, because it's right down the street from Oyster Haven and that makes it easier for us to manage our VRBO property. (And while we're at it, we get to enjoy the lake that's right in the back yard; there's that, too.)
My husband had to commute to work and fly a trip to Rome, and I'm here all by myself for a few days. So I thought I'd make myself useful and do some housekeeping and cleaning. I've been organizing drawers and cabinets, dusting, sorting through some of the clutter and figuring out which items are keepers and which we can donate or toss. The family has already done a lot of culling and sorting, and yet there is still much to go through. There are still lots of knickknacks ("objects d'art," Mom used to call them, in her best French accent) gathering lots of dust on the many shelves throughout the house.
Mom was a collector. She collected china, silver, crystal, religious medals and devotionals, Hummels and other figurines, fabric, high-quality linens...and so many other interesting bits of bric-a-brac. Many of her precious tchotchkes are of very little monetary or even sentimental value (on a number of them, the TJ Maxx red clearance tags are still stuck to the bottoms). Those are easy to find new homes for. But some of Mom's things are essentially priceless. They either belonged to her own mother, or were acquired during travels, or were given to her by her children. They tell a story of a life filled with curiosity and purpose, a life well-lived and filled with love.
One of my favorite showcases for some of Mom's memorabilia is this high narrow shelf in the kitchen. It's been there as long as I can remember (and I first visited this house in 1973, when I started dating my husband); every inch of it is filled with mementos of Mom's beautiful life.
But how in the world could we ever decide which of these well-loved bits of pottery and china should go? They all meant something to Mom and held special memories for her--and not one of the sweet knickknacks on this particular shelf has a TJ Maxx sticker on it.
Well, Mom, I know you'll be happy to hear that I put every single piece of your china and pottery right back where it belongs up there on that shelf above the island, all shiny and clean. Lined up in the same order, each piece in the place you assigned to it decades ago. And if this house is still in the family decades from now, I'm sure the whole collection will still be right there, where it's always been, reminding us of you every time we walk into the kitchen.
Oh, and one more thing: I love you, Mom, and I sure do miss you.