Thursday, July 2, 2015

Make Some Memories ~ Today!

When The Man and I married in 1980, I moved into the 14x72 mobile home he was just a few years away from owning. It was nice enough, but I wasn’t so sure I wanted to live there for long. For one thing, it sat on a lot that flooded when it rained. The scrawny tree in the front yard looked more like an overgrown weed. And the furniture consisted of a few mismatched pieces left over from his former life.

I tried not to complain. I worked a job and made changes to the place in my spare time. Still, no matter what changes I made, it didn’t quite do the trick. I dreamed of a tidy home in a tidy neighborhood in the suburbs. But money was tight. That dream would have to wait.

One rainy afternoon, I trudged to the mailbox. Outside, the clouds swooped low in a murky shade of gray—a perfect match for my mood. Maybe there would be a letter from home. Mother’s letters had a way of lifting my spirits when nothing else could.

But there were only bills. Looking at the other mailboxes, I wondered if any of them held good news.

Just then, I spotted a thin, elderly woman coming, her head bent low under a black umbrella. When she waved in my direction, I recognized her as my next-door neighbor.

“Haven’t heard from my son in a while,” she said, fishing in her pocket for her mailbox key.

Forcing a smile, I started to pass her by. I was in no mood for merry conversation with a woman I didn’t know.

“Yoo-hoo!  Lookee here!”  She pulled a small envelope out of her mailbox, checked the postmark and, for some strange reason, kissed it. “My son never forgets his mama.”

She stuck the envelope in her pocket, and turned to go. “By the way,” she said, “I’m Mrs. Baxter. But you can call me Granny.”

“Good to meet you,” I said, not sure if that was the truth. “My name is Dayle,” I told her. “I live next door to you.”

She squinted at me from under her umbrella. “OK, Dayle. I’m always there if you need me.”

In the days to come, Mrs. Baxter and I seldom exchanged more than a casual, “Howdy!” across the lawn, but still I felt less alone, on the nights my husband worked, looking out into the dark and seeing a light in her window.

One evening, I realized I hadn’t seen Granny in a couple of days. I walked over, knocked on the door and was relieved when she opened it. “I was just checking on you,” I said.

“Oh, I’m fine,” she said rather loudly. “Come in.” She motioned me to a faded blue couch and proceeded to shuffle from room to room making small talk. I was mesmerized by her. She was an eccentric mixture of youth and age. In minutes I learned that her favorite snack was a garlic-and-butter sandwich, her son lived in San Antonio, and she had been a widow longer than she could remember.

Granny’s living room walls were completely covered with framed photographs. I stood to get a better look. The pictures told a story, it was plain. There was a chubby toddler at the beach, a birthday boy missing a front tooth, an earnest adolescent all dressed up in a choir robe, a proud looking young man on graduation day. And constantly beside him was a tall, thin woman—clearly Mrs. Baxter.

“That’s my boy,” she said as she made yet another round through the room. "Yep, lots of memories on that wall. How long you been married?”

“Almost six months. I haven’t quite settled in, though.”

All of a sudden, Granny pointed a bony finger under my nose. “Well you listen to me, young lady,” she said authoritatively. “Make you some memories. Today!” she fairly barked.

Later that evening, I considered Granny's words: Make some memories, she had said. Today! Could I possibly? Here, in this place that didn't quite seem like home?

Early next morning, filled with renewed energy, I drove to the paint store and bought a gallon of “peach cloud” paint, some paint brushes, a roller, and a drop cloth. After washing down the dark walls, I let them dry, then began painting. By evening, I couldn’t believe the difference. Exhausted, I sank into a chair and admired the result of my labors.

“I like it,” my husband said when he came in. “It looks great!”

Little by little, the mobile home was transformed. Eventually, my dad built a large redwood porch out front and when it was done, Granny walked over to share the steps with me. “Well, I’m finally settling in,” I told her. She patted my knee.


Six years later, the mobile home became home to our baby girl. We painted the walls in her room the color of buttercups. 


As the months went by, Anna Marie blossomed. Every afternoon, I'd strap her into her stroller for our walk to the mailbox. At night, I rocked her to sleep and gazed out at the once-scrawny tree, now standing stately under a dark Texas sky. I read dozens of books to her and spent many hours just watching her every move. 


Before long she was crawling and pulling up on the furniture. We celebrated her first Christmas in the little mobile home, and her first birthday.


Shortly after she turned one, we found a tidy house in a tidy neighborhood in the suburbs. In spite of my excitement, a sadness lingered as I packed and prepared for the next chapter of my life. 

When moving day arrived, I sat on the weathered steps of the redwood porch and cried. Part of me wanted to stay. I thought about all of the memories that had occurred in this humble dwelling. 


Both of my nieces were born while living here and both shared many happy days with us here. My writing aspirations began here, while laying on the couch, surrounded by "peach cloud" walls; my first article was published while living here. 

A feeling of gratitude swept over me as I remembered it all. And perhaps more than anything, I was grateful for the advice of Mrs. Baxter. "Make some memories," she had said, and I had done just that, and now there were dozens of boxes filled with enough memories to last a lifetime.



A version of this story first appeared in Guideposts. 



10 comments:

  1. Thank you for letting get to know you with some of your memories from the past!

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  2. Dayla, Wonderful words and advice. Memories....when all is said and done it is all about the memories. Have a wonderful holiday weekend....I know you will be making more beautiful memories. Hugs!

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  3. Oh what a precious story! And Dayle....you look the same! Thank you for sharing this special memory...about making memories! Blessings!

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  4. What a great story full of love, joy and encouragement.

    FlowerLady

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  5. It's a beautiful story beautifully told.

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  6. Phenomenal advice. Thank you, thank you, Mrs. Baxter!

    Hugs for the memories,
    Kelley~

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  7. This is a beautiful story. I love memories.

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  8. What a truly lovely story, Dayle! Mrs. Baxter was a wise woman, and it occurs to me that her all-grown-up neighbor is too!!

    There is no better time than now to make memories!!

    GOD BLESS!

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Dear Readers, I adore your company and your comments. If you ask questions here, I respond to them here, so please check back when you have a chance. Kind regards, Dayle