my sweet momma was an optimist. growing up, she’d wake me up in the morning with a cheery, “good morning, merry sunshine” and she would happily start her day. she would jot everything on her desk calendar (the kind with the base, two metal rings and sheets for each day that were replenishable yearly.) for her, everything counted. she would write down all of it, in her personal shorthand. to read her calendars now is to see all parts of life – the magical parts and the painful aspects. but momma? she just had a way of listing to the magical side.
we drove down to florida nine to ten times in the last couple years of her life. we’d visit and laugh and listen to stories and catch her up on our life. she was in assisted living then so we would listen carefully if she mentioned something she clearly wanted from the home she and my dad had shared. her finnish wood carvings, a certain sweater, a jacket, a movie in the entertainment center…all things back home. we all worked to be sure she was surrounded by things that meant a lot to her.
one day momma started to recollect another of the rich stories she and my dad had experienced on their trip to europe decades earlier. she spoke of the brand new vw bug they ordered ahead and picked up in germany. she spoke of roadtripping for six weeks around the countryside. and she spoke of a red notebook in which she wrote down all her impressions, all their doings, all the adventures during their trip. she wrote of tender moments and of the simplest of pleasures. she wrote of what made that trip magical and painful challenges they had. she didn’t write of the grandiose or the impactful tourist spots. she wrote of what made that trip theirs and theirs alone, a deeply personal account. and as she spoke of it, you could feel the presence of my dad by her side. these were cherished stories and precious time she spent with her beloved husband. clearly, she pined for this notebook – written memories of that magic.
we went back home that evening to my parent’s house with a mission – find the red notebook. we started in the office, scouring the desk and the closet, going through bins and boxes, our eyes searching for a red spiral. defeated in the office, we moved on. every nook. every cranny. we opened every bin and box in the house, rifling through, trying to find it.
we moved on to the garage. tall filing cabinets stood against the wall (for basements are somewhat inconceivable in florida). i started pulling out drawers. david headed for the stacks of plastic bins, piled in another part of the garage.
we kept at it. determined, but losing some hope.
david opened the last plastic bin, the one on the very bottom of the piles. he shuffled through the papers in the top; his eyes fell on a brochure. a travel brochure. from europe. his pulse racing, he continued to dig through the bin.
and then he saw it. a BLUE spiral notebook. on the front was penned the word EUROPE.
the last time i saw my momma – ever – was the very next morning. when we left her, she was clutching the blue notebook to her chest, tears in her eyes.