Today would have been Mama's 64th birthday.
A few weeks ago, my sister Jacqui and I finally opened Mama's closet to clean up and give away her things. We've been planning to do this since she died in September, but it's not the kind of thing one gets excited about. After endless rain checks, however, we decided to just do it one cloudy afternoon, over the long Christmas break.It was kinda sad and funny, sad for obvious reasons and funny because we found silly photos and other stuff that made us go "What on earth..?!" like psychedelic pantsuits from the 70s. Those were really cool by the way, and looked perfect on Jacqui's long frame. I'll try to get a photo of that crazy outfit.
We discovered that Mama didn't really have a lot of clothes. Towards the end of her life, my always stylish mother gave away a lot of her things as she focused more and more on serving God. But she did keep some fabulous dresses. I took home this gorgeous dress, which Mama owned when she was in her 20s.I also took home this cream sheath dress. A few years ago, Mama had seen it in a store window and said she liked it. I had snapped back that we couldn't afford it. A few days after my rude comment, I scraped together some money and bought it for Mama. I remembered that oftentimes when I was a teenager, Mama had eaten Skyflakes crackers for lunch just so she can save up to buy me a new dress or shoes. I got Mama her dress and sent it with a sorry note. She loved it, of course, and forgave me, as usual. Now this dress is hanging in my closet. It doesn't fit me but I like touching it now and then.I also took home these lovely evening bags. They're actually my grandmother's, passed on to Mama, and now they're mine.Aside from her closet, Mama's jewelry box was also almost empty. When I was a little girl, that box overflowed with the most wondrous sparkling things. As our finances dwindled to nothing, those lovely works of art were sold or pawned so that we can eat or go to school or have new clothes.
When Mama died, Jacqui and I had the difficult task of choosing what she was to wear in her coffin. We chose her prettiest silk chemise to wear under her two-piece pale yellow quilted suit that she had worn proudly to my younger brother's wedding. Then I picked out her favorite pearl earrings and her pearl choker. When Jacqui and I opened Mama's jewelry box again weeks ago, there was hardly anything else left, just inexpensive pieces that a pawnshop wouldn't even consider. Looking at the few remaining items, we kinda got teary-eyed, remembering how Mama would cheerfully say, "Oh, don't worry about your tuition/project/field trip. I think I still have a bracelet in my jewelry box to sell/pawn. We'll be alright." I took home this gold necklace with a tiny disco ball diamond pendant, and I wear it every day.The rest of Mama's jewelry, Papa and I gave to Jacqui. She, being 19, didn't want any except for Mama's pearls and only because the pearl is Jacqui's birthstone. But I told her a girl's got to have jewelry of her own and not to depend on a man to buy her her rocks. So Jacqui kept the diamond ring, a couple of pearl bracelets and necklaces, and a choker made of amethyst, Mama's birthstone.We packed away the rest of Mama's things and have sent them to charities and distant relatives in the province. We're not done yet, however. We still have to go through her books, photos, journals... This time, we're no longer dreading this task. It's like rediscovering Mama all over again, seeing her not just as our mother, but as a faithful wife, a devoted friend, a thoughtful sister, and a true champion of Christ.