Sunday, November 11, 2012

My Cup Is Full

I posted here about the book I've begun writing, a story about a stuffed rabbit named Sarah Beth that my Grammy made decades ago for one of her children.

Christmas Eve, after the children went to bed, my husband and I set out the the gifts, including dear Sarah Beth, not wrapping her, but sitting her on top of one of the larger gifts, nestled against the tree.

Christmas morning, minutes after the kids stumbled upstairs, Pippi, Sarah Beth, and I sat on the couch, while I explained a bit of the history of the rabbit, letting her know I was writing a story of her life.

Earlier today, Pippi came to me, holding Sarah Beth, and asked me to read what I'd written.

So I did. All of it. Pippi didn't wiggle once. No head stands on the couch. No fidgeting. No yawning. Nothing that would indicate boredom. Once she said, "I love this story," her eyes a bit moisty. My mom sat on my right, my dad on Pippi's left, while my husband entertained Tommy downstairs. Everything about that thirty minutes or so was . . . I can't even think of a good word to describe how that felt.

Pippi never met my Granddad, her great grandfather. But now she knows he was the minister of Pine Burr Baptist Church, liked to chew on paper, and couldn't carry a tune in a bucket. She never met her great uncle, who died when I was not much older than our Pip, but she now knows he loved music and was unusually talented, even as a child. She now knows that my Grammy loves buttermilk, and that she washed clothes by hand, hung them out to dry, and pressed them with a flat iron.

And she knows the chorus of He Lives, one of my favorite hymns as a child.

And when I finished reading, Pippi said, "I have a Winnie-the-Pooh doll, for the Pooh stories, and Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls for their stories. And now I have a Sarah Beth doll for the Sarah Beth stories."

Whether or not the world ever finds merit in my humble scratchings, to know that my daughter puts me up there with Milne and Gruelle, is . . .

My heart is full.

Here is another sample from the stories.

Two months later, Helen ties her apron, now a bit tight, around her waist. She is now expecting their second child, and finds that her clothes have begun to feel a bit snug.

The day before, she'd dug her two maternity frocks from the cedar chest, knocking aside a slim brown package in the process. She retrieved the package, sat down on the edge of the bed, and untied the twine. She folded back the butcher paper and pink tissue paper, then lifted the soft blue cotton print and nuzzled it to her cheek. "Some day, Sarah Beth," she whispered, before rewrapping the clothes and returning them to the chest.

Now she irons the yellow dress while Barnard plays with the white sackcloth bag full of clothes pins. He works at trying to squeeze hard enough to make the closed ends pop open as he's seen his mother do time and again.

"You'll get an awful surprise the first time you manage to open one," Helen says. Barnard looks at her and smiles, goes back to his work. He holds Gus' floppy ear in one hand, the clothes pin in the other, and tries to force the ear between the closed ends.

Helen sets the iron aside and whips the dress off the ironing board. The cotton smells hot and starchy, like a hot, crispy jacket potato. A good smell.

She hangs the dress in the window, and sunlight illuminates the yellow dress, filling the room with soft buttery light. She takes up the blue dress, smooths it flat on the board and spritzes it with starch water. When the flat iron touches the moistened cloth, it sizzles, sending up a cloud of steam.

Once the blue maternity dress is fully pressed, she unties her apron, slips off her slim brown dress, then lowers the warm cotton frock down over her head, slipping her arms into the armholes. She adjusts the billowy cloth over her burgeoning waist, then ties her apron back around her middle.

"Come along Barnard," she says, taking Barnard in hand.

I hope your Christmas was filled with joy. Unspeakable joy.

Ours was.

As a year filled with money worries, cancer, tension, and uncertainty draws to a close, I can truly say

Our cup overflows.

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