Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Christmas Gift...A Mama story


I made a needed trip to the Grocers yesterday and like a lot of times ran into people I knew or who knew me. I was looking at a particularly nice standing rib roast when I heard a young voice say "someones looking at you." I glanced up to see if I was being spoken to, but saw a teen aged girl looking at my walking stick, which rested in the buggy. She was looking at the face of the Old North Wind which had been lovingly carved into the hickory wood that formed the cane. She was talking to her mother. "Isn't that beautiful, though, " her mother said. I explained that the stick had been a gift from me to my mother Christmas 1999 and that a friend, Pete Barfield, had hand carved it for me. She looked at me and asked, "was your mother's name Grace? I mean, you look so much like a lady I loved named Grace that you just have to be related. " The woman in front of me was about ten years younger than me and I wondered if I should know her. "Why yes, her name was Grace. Do we know each other?" She told me her name and how much she had loved Mama and it all came back to me in one fell swoop. I could feel Mama standing there, nodding and shining as the story unfolded once more in my mind.

I was just fifteen when my Dad was offered the Ruby Clinic. He and my mother had made a decision to leave Washington (DC) and start up a private practice in her home county. Big hospitals and big cities had been our lives for so long, but we children had spent most summers with our Grandparents, so we were not strangers to small town life in any way. We looked forward to being with family year round and excitement filled the house. The feat was accomplished, and we moved into a big old barn of a house that was next door to the school we younger girls would attend. Mama and Daddy worked at getting the clinic furnished with needed supplies and furniture, too. There was an x-ray machine to be had, a surgical suite to be taken care of and three hospital beds for the overnight visits of new mothers and babies. Daddy, being a GP, did it all. This was in the day when bills were sometimes paid by the bushel or the brace, not always money. Anyone who thought we were rich couldn't have been more wrong.

I would sometimes be allowed to help out in the Clinic after school. I often met the patients and knew most of them by name. There was one particularly sweet lady with a little three year I'll call Mrs. Smith. Mrs. Smith and her husband had been married for ten years when little Giselle was born. She always called her the Miracle Baby. One day in our first summer of living in Ruby, Mama had come home from the clinic very distressed. I remember she went to her room and stayed for awhile. When she came out her eyes were red and swollen. The housekeeper asked Mama if everything was alright. She shook her head, and said no, that one of the patients had cancer and that the news had been so overwhelming to them all that she just had to come home for a bit. Daddy came in for lunch a bit after that. We could tell that he had been crying, too.

For the longest time, we had no idea that Mrs. Smith was the patient. Even in those days, privacy was uppermost in their minds. It was early in December and I had stopped in at the Clinic before going home to do homework. Mrs. Smith was in the lobby and had baby Giselle with her. I noticed that Mrs. Smith had a toboggan pulled down over her head where once long thick dark blond hair had shone. Giselle was dancing around, laughing and playing. Mrs. Smith, her face looking tired and drawn, asked me if I minded watching her while she went in to see Daddy. I assured her I would watch over her and told her not to worry. She petted my hand, smiled and went back to the exam room with my mother.

That night I went into Mama's room to ask her a question. She was in the closet, pulling down the wig box that rested on the top shelf. I have no idea why Mama had wanted that wig when she bought it in the early 60's. It was human hair and styled in a pageboy. It had cost the earth and Daddy complained bitterly when he had discovered the purchase. Eventually he forgave her the purchase indiscretion and the matter was never brought up again. But Mama loved that wig and looked beautiful wearing it, though she didn't wear it that often. Now, the box sat on her bed, she held the wig in her hands and she was calling her beautician. "Bernice, I need a big favor of you. I need my wig washed and styled tomorrow if you can fit it in. I need it by 3 o'clock." Bernice assured her that she could do it and the matter settled, she hung up and turned to me. Her face glowed. For some reason I felt like crying. I knew that Mama was not getting that wig washed and styled for a party. But whatever she was having it done for, it had made her look happier than I remember seeing her in years.

The next afternoon, just before three, I went by the Clinic and there was Mrs. Smith and baby Giselle and so was Ms. Bernice. I spoke to them, Mama told me to watch the baby and Mrs. Smith and Bernice went to the back with Mama.

Mrs. Smith came down the hall, walked into the lobby and looked as near like any treetop Angel as I have ever seen. She had makeup on and a pale lipstick and if I hadn't known it was Mama's wig on her head, I would have thought it was her own hair. The smile on her face lit the room. The door opened, and Mr. Smith came in. Mama had called him to tell him to come drive Mrs. Smith home, because her ride had to leave suddenly. When he saw his beloved wife, the look on his face was beyond description. They left, he carrying little Giselle and holding Mrs. Smith's hand tightly in his. Mama later told me that after the chemo, Mrs. Smith lost her hair and had not been to Church since. She was ashamed at how she looked and frankly didn't want to answer a lot questions. Mama said that she felt her Church family was going to be very important to her in the coming months and she didn't want her to have an excuse not to lean on them.

Mama wasn't perfect, and I don't want anyone to get the impression that I thought she was. We had arguments that could have started off any world war, we had periods of separation when pride on both sides would not give in to forgiveness. But she had a way with people, of reading them and knowing what they needed. If it was in her power to provide that need, she'd move heaven and earth to do it. If at times her own family suffered from her generosity, well she'd make it up to us some other way, some other time. Mrs. Smith died in early Spring. But her last months were not lonely ones, I'm told. No one ever let on that they knew she was wearing a wig. It was the most special Christmas gift that Mama had ever given anyone. It wasn't because of the cost of the wig, but the value of it to the giver. I don't think a recipient of a gift was ever as grateful or expressive as Mrs Smith was, either. I know that at this time of year, I miss Mama most. She loved Christmas. And Mrs. Smith's little Giselle misses her Mama this time of year, too. She told me so yesterday, standing in front of the rib roasts.

89 comments:

© Jennifer Raley said...

Wow. I'm speechless. What a story. What a blessing.
Thanks for sharing that.
Jenn

Donna said...

I Knew I wouldn't make the day without crying...lol...Loved the story but sad that it's true...(((HUG)))

lakeviewer said...

I'm in tears; this is so touching. Thank you.

jabblog said...

This is an amazing story and it made me cry too that someone should know instinctively what another soul in pain needed. Would that we all had that gift or could develop it.

Nessa said...

This is such a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Name That Christmas Song

Carver said...

What a great story. I got goose bumps reading it.

Anya said...

Hi Sandi
Its a really touching story
thanks for sharing it with your blogfriends !!
hugs
Anya

Akelamalu said...

Sandi that was the most wonderful story of the true spirit of Christmas that I have ever read. I think I would have liked your Mum very much indeed. x

jinksy said...

A wonderful 'trith is stranger than fiction' story, thank you! :)

Lynn@ The Vintage Nest said...

You never know how an act of kindness can touch a person's heart and live on for soooo long. When my Dad died I was told so many stories about him at the funeral....acts of kindness he did that I or my family never knew about. But I always knew he was special. :)

Maggie May said...

That story seemed particularly poignant to me!
Beautifully told.

Nuts in May

Woman in a Window said...

Love, love, LOVE how you tied this up - so very neatly, much like a rib roast:)
xo
erin

♥Mimi♥ said...

Ohmygosh, you got me all choked up and tearful.

I know what you mean about our parents not being perfect and the wars that would take place but, yes, I also know the special parts of our parents that would shine as bright as any star and sparkled long after they had left us and gone to heaven.

bj said...

What an awesome and touching story. Thanks so much for sharing.

Your playlist is just awesome...I have listened to it all afternoon....
xo bj

bj said...

oops...meant to say that I was totally and forever in love with Tom Jones at one time...still love hearing him!! ;O)

Jeanne said...

Oh Sandi, what a wonderful gift it was to run into her. Beautiful story!
RYC: Isn't Oliver a sweetie. He spent the better part of a period of the hockey game 'we' were watching curled up on my chest. That boy brings me such joy!

Sally said...

Such a sad yet sweet, sweet post, Sandi. Thanks for sharing. ((hugs))

Mary Isabella and Kiley too! said...

I set with tears running down my face as I read this. You Mother was a beautiful person to do such an amazing act of kindness....hugs..m.

Gill - That British Woman said...

what a lovely story and a small world we live in.

Gill in Canada

katney said...

Well told, and I am crying, too.

SandyCarlson said...

That is touching. I am honored to know you via your blog. Thanks.

Lib said...

Wonderful!As all of your Post!
Blessins',Lib

Penny @ The Comforts of Home/Lavender Hill Studio said...

Oh Sandi,
What a wonderful story. I am so glad you had a chance to see Giselle again.....You have such a wonderful way with words.
Hugs,
Penny

RBK's Realm said...

What a beautiful story and what a writer you are - I say this as a professional editor. I hope you are going to put all these stories and your writing in a book one day. It has been a while since I have come to the blogging world and your story made my day!

RBK

Kat said...

Such a sweet memory!

Hugs!
Kat

Jeni said...

Oh Sandi -what a beautiful story, for sure! And yes, it brought the tears on for me too. For one thing, remembering how my own relationship with my mother was more often than not very strained and often did create a lot of warfare in our household, for sure. But she was like your Mother, in that she was a nurse -R.N. -and often was called on by folks in and around our neighborhood and the village too, when folks were sick, needed shots, stitches removed and even transported to the local emergency room at times as well. Aside from her personal problems with her rebellious, often wayward daughter, she was a quiet, giving soul and this post brought that remembrance of my own Mom to my mind tonight. For that, as well as the story itself, I thank you. I need to remember more of the things about my Mom that put her in that light.

Shadow said...

what a moving story. christmas is one of those times when we do think back to our parents, when we were children, and then the memories flow...

Protege said...

What a touching story; of lovely memories and coincidental meeting...
Have a lovely Friday and weekend,
xo
Zuzana

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

Lovely, lovely story. Yes there is no doubt she was there with you. Christmas is my favourite time too and I miss my mum dreadfully. But I get up on Christmas morning, think about my missing friends and relatives, raise a small glass to them all and wish them well. Then I get on with the business of being happy for the day. What a beautifully written post.

Kathy's Klothesline said...

You obviously had a wonderful mom, but it was obvious before you shared this story...... you are cut from the same cloth! Enjoyed reading your story about your mom's generousity.

Pondside said...

Thank you for that story, Sandie. The telling was as beautiful as the subject.

Kanak Hagjer said...

Sandi...thank you for sharing this amazing story. So beautifully told, it moved me to tears. I'll need to come back and read it again. Lovely, lovely post!

Suldog said...

Magnificent story, perfect for the season. Had my eyes moist, I can tell you without any shame. Thanks!

Brian Miller said...

what a tender post...dont mind the wet cheeks...a chance meeting, a wonderful memory....

Mushy said...

What a wonderful post...you always had the gift! Thanks for sharing it with us.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS AND MERRY CHRISTMAS!

ds said...

What a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it. You have pasted Giselle and her mother on my heart.

Louise said...

What a beautiful story.

Thanks so much for stopping by my blog. I'm so glad I came here, not just for the good story, but it's more than that. On Friday nights during the winter I take a bath a read a book full of holiday stories--meaningful ones like this. I was going to do that tonight, but was running late, and I was trying to figure out which book I was on (it's a series that gets a new one each year), so I just decided to respond to comments to my blog instead. (I'm way behind, so that's what I should have set out to do in the first place.) But what did I get but a story just like something I would have read in those books. It brought tears to my eyes and spoke so strongly of the spirit of the holidays.

I do not know what processes are gone through for this book every year; I know they get dozens or maybe hundreds of submissions and can only pick a few, but I would love to find the submission information for you if you are interested. This is a timeless story that has already touched many lives and I know could many more.

Lee said...

That's a lovely story about your Mama, Sandi! That she was able to help Mrs. Smith and that you ran into Giselle again after all these years provides a wonderful sense of connectivity. I guess that's what this season is all about.

Hugs,
Lee

Retiredandcrazy said...

Sandi, you are one wonderful person, just like your mama. That story lifted my heart, just when it was needed.

Tom Bailey said...

This is such a powerful story and it speak to the love that you are carrying with you now. Thank you for sharing.

Kindest regards,
Tom Bailey

CatHerder said...

omg sandi! I MADE ONE OF THOSE for my husband years ago...i carved it and then wood burned it...i believe its in the closet somewhere, i will have to take it out and post a pic. thanks for your post btw...im fine!!! I just hit that "old" wall now and i cant eat, drink, or party the way i used to lol....the prevacid helped only a little...doc said its not meant for instant relief...i am the last hold out in my family to acquire this wonderful malady..my sis and bro are a mess from this all year..this is my first bout, no doubt due to over indulgence as i have been holiday shopping..thanks for your concern..dont worry..im in touch with the doctor on this one!!!

NitWit1 said...

A lovely story filled with Christmas love.

One of the first things I did as when I married, was provide a nearly new wig for my Mother-in Law fighting cancer. She never wore it and died 2 months after we married. I told the family to give the wig to some cancer service which they did.

Queenmothermamaw said...

Wonderful, wonderful story. I know your Mom and Dad and you also, have done a lot of good in your lives.
Blessings.
QMM

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Sandi: That was a neat story, I'm glad my crows brought back good memories also.

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

I loved every word, every little bit of this story. What a wonderful tribute post to your mom.

Dr.John said...

Now you went and fogged my glasses.

SandyCarlson said...

Thanks for stopping by, friend.

Jay said...

What a wonderful and inspiring story! Your Mom may have had her faults (as do we all) but she had a heart of gold, too. You must be proud of her.

Poor Mrs Smith, and poor Giselle. It's always sadder when people are sick over Christmas, isn't it?

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Beautiful. Simply beautiful.

CJ xx

Shrinky said...

What an amazingly touching and beautifully written recollection Sandi, and how very special her daughter still carries that special memory today.

It brought a lump to my throat for another reason too. I also once had a wig made out of real hair, an impulse buy I wore a couple of times and had stored away. When my sister's mother-in-law lost her hair, I sent it to be cut and styled for her. Sadly, she died on the very day it was ready, the only time she wore it was at her own funeral. She was such a lovely lady. Her son, my brother-in-law, said she looked so beautiful in it.

Merisi said...

What a wonderful memory of your mother!

cheshire wife said...

Delightful story! Amazing that Giselle remembered too.

Lynne said...

What a beautiful poignant story.

Mickle in NZ said...

Sandi - you share these incredible parts of your own and your parents life with us, i read with wonder, true awe, and then so much love for you, Mac, and then your whole family. Or as my Folks sometimes call it, your whole Fam Damilly..

And then Sandi reaches out even more, ....... I know your own dear Mama is just so, so proud of your reaching out .........

You know, dear Sandi, where you got that from, right sweet lady????

Super care and love and huggles, Michelle and my Zebbycat, xxxxx

i beati said...

unique place to honor her

Carol said...

Sandi...I had chills run up-and-down my spine when I read the last line. Beautifully magical story about your beloved Mom. xoxoxoxox

Hilary said...

I love how you were reunited over your Mother's beautifully carved walking stick. What a wonderful story. And so well told.

Joanna Jenkins said...

Congratulations on your Post of the Week!!!!!! This is a fabulously written post. Thanks for sharing.
jj

Fernanda said...

Hello
I invite you to visit my blog.
Kisses.

Steve Gravano said...

Thanks for sharing this beautiful story.

Sandi @the WhistleStop Cafe said...

What a beautiful Christmas story! Thank you for the smile this morning.

Brian Miller said...

back to say congrats on a well deserved POTW!

ethelmaepotter! said...

I write this through a veil of tears; a true Christmas story, a story of love, of sacrifice, of gratitude, of heartache. I will always remember this story and the woman who so cheerily gave her treasure for another's happiness.
Congratulations on POTW. Truly well deserved.

LadyFi said...

This post is a gift to all who read it. Fabulous... Now pass the Kleenex please!

Life with Kaishon said...

What an amazing story. It absolutely made me teary. Isn't it amazing the impact the things our parents did that affected us. In this case, it was something you never even knew. I am so glad she stopped and took time to tell you. Very special!

Frank Baron said...

Terrific story, lovingly told. A fine Christmas treat. :)

addhumorandfaith said...

A beautiful story. Thankfully God doesn't use just "perfect" people to do his work. :)

Carol @ TheWritersPorch said...

What a wonderful story by a wonderful writer!! xoxo

Maggie May said...

Congratulations on POTW. Outright winner!

Nuts in May

Cabo said...

That was beautiful.. :)

Magaly Guerrero said...

Wow, how amazing. Lucky!

Now spread the cheer and the joy. I've tagged you with the game that spreads holiday joy. Here is the link if you feel like playing: http://pagan-culture.blogspot.com/2009/12/check-your-witch-and-tag-her-twice.html

TSannie said...

That is just a beautiful story. Well told and deserving of post of the week.

ds said...

Back with congratulations on your most well-deserved POTW! And it gave me an excuse to read this one more time. Beautiful.

Land of shimp said...

What an incredibly touching story, thank you so much for sharing it. It looks as if I've got a great deal of company as I sit here crying, but it's a nice kind of crying.

Hilary's POTW brought me here also, and I feel very fortunate to have seen this.

Sandy said...

Fabulous story!! Have a wonderful weekend.

Anna said...

Oh Sandy, this is heart braking story, thanks so much for sharing with us. Anna :) PS My little one is starting to call me mama too, so nice to see him learning new words, and to be so affectionate.

Margo said...

what a riveting and special story! I feel lucky to have read it :)

Kari (GrannySkywalker) said...

Your story brought tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat. Congrats on being recognized for it. It was sure worth it. :)
Love you.
Sissy

Anya said...

Have a relaxing weekend :-)
Kareltje =^.^=
Anya :-)

Take the time to relax Sandi !!

San said...

That is just beautiful, Sandy. I can certainly see why Hillary honored this as Post of the Week.

Your mother is smiling as she reads this. And I believe she's wearing that wig.

Dianne said...

Brava on the POTW

this is a beautiful story
reminds me of my Nana

smiles4u said...

Wow! Beautiful post and so worth of POTW! What a blessing to read this today.

Michelle H. said...

I don't think I can add anything more than what everyone else has given sentiment to already. A grand story. Congrats on the POTW!

gaelikaa said...

What a beautiful and touching story!

NeereAnDear said...

OMG.... I have goose bumps... chills and I am bawling my head off... goodness what a touching and absolutely beautiful story...

girl you got to stop doing that to me!!

LOVE YA
JO

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Nishant said...

...Loved the story but sad that it's true..

Work From Home

Pastor Sharon said...

Sandi, I do love Mama stories and you just outdid yourself with this one. How Beautiful!

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