Everybody takes away something different from a Thanksgiving Day gathering. I’ve found that most of my memories come from the times we went to my grandparents’ farm. Grandma’s dinners were always huge, so it wasn’t the meal. It was the night before—sleeping in the front bedroom that had no heat and piling on the homemade quilts, smelling bacon and coffee with sunrise the next morning, walking in the woods on the family land with my dad and grandfather. Thanksgiving afternoon—my dad and uncle climbing up and shaking the limbs of pecan trees to make the nuts fall.
My first published essay was about Thanksgiving in the country. My best friend went with me to my grandparents’ house the year we were sixteen. Thanksgiving morning, we rode a horse double down the dirt roads for miles. “I looked at red dirt, green pines, and fields of golden broomstraw swaying in the breeze. Trees hanging on to dried leaves in red and gold. Idle fields, brown and barren. A muddy pond here and there. As we rounded a curve, I saw a small white church with a tall steeple. It had a tidy, fenced-in family cemetery off to one side and a stand of tall trees to shade summer dinners-on-the-ground. We walked through the unlocked front door, past rows of old walnut pews, the wooden floors echoing every footstep. I sat on the wobbly, creaking bench of a musty upright piano and plucked the keys to a favorite song. What a fellowship, what a joy divine, Leaning on the everlasting arms.”
It was postcard picture, and it was stamped in my memory for all time.
I wanted something like this for my own grandchildren, twins, now four. I wanted them to have a memory. I don’t have a house in the country, or horses, or an old church to go to. But the first time I looked at my new house, when I went into the master bedroom closet, I thought, My gosh, this is big enough to sleep kids in.
And so I did. I made pallets on the floor of my closet for the twins. I put neat things on the bottom built-in shelf next to their bedding: a flashlight, my old jewelry box from the early 1960s with old necklaces and bracelets in it, my mother’s old train case from the 1940s with crystal rocks and arrowheads inside, two tiny purses chock full of change, and a Dream Lights pet pal that shines stars on the ceiling and changes colors. I knew they’d explore, and I wanted them to find treasure. I topped their polka-dot sheets with Toy Story and Hello Kitty blankets and pillows. It was a hit, even though Jillie couldn’t open the jewelry box.
The seven-year-old was highly offended that she didn’t get to sleep in the closet. So the second night, I extended the pallet, and I had three kids on my closet floor—shining flashlights and looking up at the stars in red, green, yellow, and blue and making memories.
How do you make a memory?
This is the big day!
This is the big weekend! The book’s debut! I have two signing events for Remember the Dragonflies: A Memoir of Grief and Healing. Friends and local writer colleagues, please come say hello! They are both come-and-go events; just stop in, shake my hand, look at my book, buy it if you want, or buy something else, or buy nothing. I’d just love to have your warm friendly smile and your presence and your support!
Tonight — Nov. 22, Barnes and Noble Cool Springs, 5:30-6:30, as part of Discovery Friday.
Tomorrow — Nov. 23, Brentwood Library, 10:00-3:00, as part of the annual Author Fair, 8109 Concord Road in Brentwood.
I hope to see you there on this, the weekend before Thanksgiving. I am grateful to be able to share my journey with you and to share a bit about the man who was my husband.
The waiting room was full. I sat facing the other way from the door that went back to the catacombs with tiny rooms and monster equipment. Imaging Center. They take images there so they can see what’s on the inside of you that shouldn’t be there.
I was supposed to be at the Red Cross making Christmas cards for veterans with Susie.
I like to leave a chair between me and the next person, but that was not an option Tuesday afternoon. I occupied an end seat next to a woman in a red blazer. Across from me a man did what I was doing—trying to lose himself in his cell phone. Checking for emails over and over. Looking at Facebook. Messages? Looking for distractions. He never looked up. We never made eye contact.
The door whooshed open. “Kathy Rhodes.”
My stomach dropped. I clenched my purse, made an audible groan, and for some reason, slapped the top of my leg as I moved to get up, like, “Well, this is it.”
I had gotten a call back on my mammogram. When I got home from a business trip, there was that flashing light on the answering machine. I somehow knew what it was. I didn’t check it. I let it flash for four days. I was aware I hadn’t gotten a letter saying all was well with my screening, which was the procedure. They call you if something is wrong.
I finally braved myself enough to push the button. “This is Vanderbilt Breast Center…” I slapped the countertop. What’s with all this slapping?
“Go in this little room [blah, blah, blah] and I’ll explain what we’re going to do when you come into this room.” She pointed to the big room with the big machinery.
“Wait, what did you say to take off?” I was melting into the floor. I couldn’t absorb any words.
I put on the gown and walked into the Big Room. There were two monitors with images. I saw lots of white in the image on the right. Oh Lord.
They needed to check the white out. If they used a bigger paddle and pressed harder, the white should go away. If the white didn’t go away, I would have to get an ultrasound.
Three films and she put me back in that little dressing room while the radiologist looked at the images. I sat on a wooden bench-like board and tried to breathe and wanted to cry and every muscle ached in waiting and I just wanted to go home. I looked down at the floor and saw big globs of dust. I remembered the floor of Vanderbilt’s Big House when my friend Neil had his surgery and walked the halls, and his yellow socks were coated in layers of dust. Vanderbilt apparently doesn’t clean floors.
“You’re good to go,” the tech said. “Nothing to worry about.”
I asked some questions because I thought I needed to. And I left wondering whether next time, I should just come here to this Imaging Center for the big paddles and not fool with the smaller paddles at the screening location. I don’t like call backs.
I walked out the catacomb door into the waiting room. The man that had been sitting across from me looked up and made eye contact. I gave him a half-smile. He kept looking at me, his gaze following me as I walked. I got the message that he wanted to know if I was okay. I smiled the biggest smile I could smile at him.
I dug in my purse for my phone. I knew my son was on pins and needles waiting. He’d already called five times. I needed to let a few others know. Susie, Neil. Neil was a few blocks away sitting in his easy chair taking in cisplatin and gemcitabine. Chemo. What’s wrong with this world?
I got in my walk at 5:30 this morning. Rain is just west of here, about where 840 meets I-40. I keep watching the green on my iPhone Weather Channel because I want to get the dog out many times before it hits. She doesn’t like her feet to get wet. It’s dark out at 5:30. And windy. The wind hit me head on and pushed hard into me when I walked the north-south leg of the block.
Now it’s 6:00. What am I going to do now? I’ve had two cups of coffee, exercised, checked email and Facebook. And now?
My writing schedule is normally from five to seven or longer.
It feels funny not to be writing. I should be writing. I should be working on something. Essay? Novel? But here I sit. At my desk. Tapping out a blog post. The window beside me is open, and wind rushes in.
All I’ve done for years is rush.
I need the peace. I need to be still and quiet. And think. Just think.
The dog and I stir early. I hear the three-beep alarm on the coffee pot that says it is ready. I smell it already filling the bedroom. I look at the clock. I know it is really three forty-five. I didn’t set the time back – FALL BACK – before I went to sleep last night. We lie there a moment. She looks at me to see what I’m going to do. I look at her to see if she’s ready to go out. And then I push the covers back and crawl out of a warm bed.
Except for the darkness much too early in the afternoons, I love this time of year. Fall is my favorite. Every fall, I am reminded again of why I love Williamson County, Tennessee. Fall is beautiful.
Friday morning as I drove to downtown Franklin to meet Susie at The Coffee House at Second and Bridge, I slowed and looked at the countryside. Golden trees at the roadside and off on the distant rolling hills. Some brilliant reds mixed in. All against the contrast of deep evergreens. Red barns. Silos. Brown wooden fences holding in horses swishing tails. Blue sky. Just beautiful.
Especially in fall, I am abundantly grateful for the quiet beauty and rich scenery in the land around me.
Remember the Dragonflies: A Memoir of Grief and Healing is now available. To order, click the icon:
Or…you may order a signed copy from me. Or you may order from amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com or have your favorite bookseller order it for you.
What does a girl do when she’s had a blog for six years and now she has a hard time being regular with it? Well, she gets another blog.
It’s kinda not working out so well yet, but I hope to change that. So in the coming days, if you see I’m still not doing well with it, drop me an email and tell me to get my act together. I don’t mind at all.
I hope to do one or two posts a week on my blogs — this one and rememberthedragonflies.wordpress.com. Come follow! Come push me along! Come and criticize. I don’t mind.
Here’s the dragonfly post: http://rememberthedragonflies.wordpress.com/2013/10/20/please-come-with-me/
Now, the best I can do today for Kathy Rhodes at WordPress is a guest blog I recently did for my friend Tracy Lucas and her Writing for Your Supper. It’s a blog on writing, titled “Yanking the Door Open.”