Something Old, Something New, Something Needed, Something True

A Magpie Tale

They were packing up my life.  I wanted to scream but the heavy hand of grief seemed to throttle my cries.  Only a sigh escaped my lips as I turned and let the screen door slam on the only home I had ever known.

That day seems like yesterday and the tears well they are fresh every morning when I awaken still expecting to hear her humming in the kitchen. The smell of coffee brewing and the steady rumble of that old percolator was my daily wake up call as the hot liquid boiled and bubbled up into that strange glass ball on the lid.

Today when I looked at this toothbrush I laughed for the first time since Memaw died.  That brown handled heirloom with its yellowing bristles is almost 18 years old now and looks as new today as when I first saw the thing.  I remember my Papa bringing it home with him and presenting it to her as though he had purchased the Eighth Wonder of the World.  Memaw just stood there and without saying a word she turned back to the cast iron fryer on the stove and started humming. 

Papa was a steady man and not given to much sentiment but he was not a quiet man but that day it seemed that he must have spent quite a bit of time with that cat that Memaw said could get your tongue because he didn’t open his mouth until he got out the door and about midway the yard.  Then he just sorted grunted like a hog and shook his head.  I watched him as he placed the black banded straw hat back on his head and headed to the tree line just beyond the field and disappeared.

Memaw continued cooking and the rest of the morning went as usual.  She finished a half days chore and by noon the table was set.  Papa took his usual seat at the head of the table and we prayed and ate still no words spoken between the two.   I wondered a thousand things that day but I guess I was too young to really understand the depth of true love.  But I do remember as Memaw was clearing away the table and Papa had left again for the fields that beside his plate lay one single twig from that tree down in the woods.  Memaw picked it up and sat down seemingly beaming at the pure white tip of that slender little stick.  Just as I remember seeing her everyday she began to chew on the end and she rubbed each tooth with such care.  She seemed different that day as she stood and looked out at the field and with a whisper she said, “Your Papa that’s what a Good Man looks like.” She picked up that toothbrush then and put it in the little box on her dresser where she kept important things.

I remember wanting only that box when she died because it was so important. I had never known the other contents of the box.  Today when I finally needed to look there was that toothbrush right beside a tiny little twig with well-worn ends resting upon a single handwritten note tucked under a piece of tile from their first indoor bathroom.  Memaw’s words simply said, “Gifts from a Good Man. A Reminder for His Bride” 

As I was laying the brush back into the box a single pearl fell from between the bristles..and I understood.