Kids in the ClosetPosted: December 3, 2013
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?