Cookies In The Elevator

Sometimes I take the stairs, but not today. I mean, it wasn’t like I didn’t need to take them. I had been sitting for hours; sitting and waiting. And with random people handing out free dessert, I needed the stairs today more than ever. Yes, there were times I stood, only to sit right back down again. I was greeting friends, old and new. Standing is almost exercise. And what about anticipation? Anticipation does excite the heart. Yes, we waited with much anticipation this morning; anticipation and joy. Joy was the other sweet treat distributed freely among us.

“Is she coming? Is it time?” “Almost. It’s taking a little longer than we expected,” he said. “It’s worth the wait,” I thought. “I wouldn’t miss this for anything!” I clutched my gift bag and smiled at the contents. Laughter and stories were shared; and then finally it was time.

“Are your cameras ready? Someone needs to get a video of this moment!” Someone? How about all of us?! With iCameras in hand, we silently huddled together straining for a glimpse of her. First came the husband in white and then her caregivers in blue. Then we saw her! “Yay!” we yelled. She almost didn’t see us. Her eyes were focused on one thing. She had been waiting for this moment. None of us will ever know how much. A few instructions were given and then she grabbed the rope; and moving it swiftly from side to side, she rang the bell! Yes. We heard it. We were standing there with her. But oh how it must have reverberated inside her. There were tears, of course. Tears of joy. Streams of victory and breaths of sweet release. Then one by one she hugged us all. She showed us her certificate of completion and her memorial bell. It didn’t ring very loudly- something she was determined to correct later. Then with one last look at her surroundings, in solidarity we walked toward the shiny, silver doors. All of us. And placing her in the center next to her little loves, we closed the doors, literally and figuratively; and ate cookies in the elevator.

For Shari. Thanking God she is now cancer free!

My Aunt Reenie

My Aunt, Irene was easily the most beautiful woman I had ever seen with my own two eyes. Teresa Smith was a close second.

My cousin used to go my Aunt Irene’s house without me. I didn’t know when she was going. I just knew when she came back.

In all my years, I only went to Aunt Reenie’s house a handful of times. Usually because someone needed to use the phone. And she had one.

Aunt Reenie had a vicious, pekingese dog appropriately named, “Rowdy.” (Rowdy is the southern word for vicious.) Whenever I went there, Rowdy was always outside in the yard on his leash, and he would bark up a storm at the sight of me!

Mouthy dogs always scared me as a kid, and Rowdy was no exception. But I so wanted to go into Aunt Reenie’s house; so I would wait nervously at the gate until she came out and calmed Rowdy down. Then I would run through the yard and up the steps to my Aunt Reenie’s porch.

Aunt Reenie’s house was always so clean and organized. She had wooden, plank floors that were always waxed and shiny. She had a couch and a coffee table that got pushed out of the way when she did her aerobics. (The coffee table, not the couch.) I don’t remember much about the kitchen, except that’s where the phone was. She also had a modern washer and dryer, not a washing machine with a washtub, like the one on Mamaw’s porch. In my mind, I always thought of Aunt Reenie’s house as a “real” house.

My Uncle Melvin drove a Mack truck full of coal. Driving a coal truck or being a coal miner were the only man-jobs I knew of as a kid. Later, I would find out about car salesmen, but that’s a different story. I always thought my Aunt Reenie was rich.

Aunt Reenie had beautiful hair. She was as beautiful as Dolly Parton. Everyone said Aunt Reenie wore wigs. I guess I never did see my Aunt Reenie’s natural hair. Aunt Reenie’s make-up was even more perfect. Long, dark lashes, rosy cheeks and full, shiny lips every time I saw her. Every. Time. Did I mention, she was the most beautiful woman I ever… Oh yeah, I did. Well she was.

I never understood why I didn’t get to go to my Aunt Irene’s house when my cousin did.

My Aunt Reenie was always nice to me. She even let me smoke her cigarette once. I asked her if I could try it, and when she was sure I really wanted to, she handed it to me. I put it in my mouth. I was smoking Aunt Reenie’s cigarette! (I thought I was something.) Then she told me to take a deep breath in. It was the nastiest thing I ever tasted! Not to mention, I almost choked to death! My Aunt Reenie took the cigarette back, and she never said a word about it. She’s the reason I never smoked.

My Aunt Reenie used to take us to beach. She had a tan that would rival Lonnie Anderson’s. I should know, my uncle Stevie had a poster of Lonnie on his wall. Or maybe it was Farah Fawcett. Either way, my Aunt Reenie’s tan met the highest standards.

My Aunt Reenie also bought me my first record. Oh, I paid for it myself. It cost me a dollar, forty five. But my Aunt Reenie got it for me. She was going across the mountain into town, and she picked it up for me. Hungry Like The Wolf by Duran Duran. It was a single. It had a green label. I don’t remember the song on the other side.

I get emotional when I look back at my Aunt Reenie. We moved away when I was 14. The adult me never got to know her. Sure, we visited a few times after we moved, but you can’t build a relationship in a couple of hours once a decade.

I will always look at my Aunt Reenie with kid-eyes. My memories of her are preserved in time. She will always be beautiful. She will always be fashionable. She will always be admired.

And, like all my mother’s sisters, she will always be one of my favorites. I love you, Aunt Reenie.

The Year of Vision

20/20, these numbers are synonymous with the word vision. Yet the year 2020 seemed to lack vision completely. It was easily the most confusing, fear-filled, hopeless year of my life, I imagine yours too.

In 2020, I watched helplessly as my son and his classmates had senior year snatched from their hands in broad daylight. Instantly they became virtual students forced to spend their long-awaited senior year at home, cloaked in hoodies and pajama pants, chained to a laptop all day.

Instead of counting down their final days of high school with pep rallies and prom, they counted the days of lockdown, restarting the clock again and again with each announcement from the powers that be.

The year of vision was clouded by hopelessness. Uncertainty and tragedy was the daily forecast. Isolation and loneliness bred fear, anxiety, and depression- so many demons.

But God was merciful and man’s disaster did not end the human race. (There were days I wondered if it would.) We will always mourn those who were lost. Their deaths were uncalled for. Their isolation, cruel. Their final farewells, forbidden. I honor them now.

Two years later, those of us who made it through, now stand on the main street of society. We have wiped the ash from our eyes, gathered our scattered hopes and resolutely placed them in our backpacks, reluctantly adjusting to the new skyline.

At times, we comply and mask our faces but we will no longer mask our need for true connection. We won’t take anything or anyone for granted. It took some time, but I think 2020 truly was the year of vision.

One Drop of Patience

I wasn’t feeling well. I had a terrible sore throat. I asked my husband to get me a cough drop. He quickly pulled the large bag of unopened drops from the vanity drawer. Below the seal of the bag, there was a Ziploc® closure. He tried to open the bag with his bare hands but was unsuccessful. He moved over to my vanity cabinet, which is locked to keep my two year old grandson out of there, used the magnetic key to open the door, and took out the nail clippers.

He proceeded to clip the top of the bag, inch by inch. The once smooth bag was now jagged. “Why doesn’t he just get the scissors?” I thought to myself. “Look at that bag!” The Holy Spirit said, “Don’t look at it! Remember, he’s doing this for you. Think about the lengths he will go through to open the bag and get you what you need!” I looked away and smiled as a reminder to myself to be patient.

At last, the top of the bag was severed enough that my husband could reach the closure, open the bag, and retrieve the amazing lozenge that would sooth my pitiful throat.

Once the bag was fully opened my husband dumped several drops on the counter and then put the bag away. I watched intently as he picked up one drop. “Finally!” I thought. Then he began unwrapping the lozenge. “Really? He’s even unwrapping it for me?! This man is a prince!”

Then he popped it in his mouth.

Confetti In My Hair

I heard the clock.
I made it stop.
Then right back into bed I plopped.

And it wasn’t very long before
I was riding on a dinosaur
Through the streets of downtown Vero
In a parade, and I was the hero!

There were crowds of people, cheering for me!
“Hey, kid!” someone yelled, “You’re on T.V.!”
I could hear the sound of a big, brass band.
The president was there, and he shook my hand!

Then someone shouted, “Speech!”
I didn’t know what to say.
Of my entire life, this was the greatest day!

I took the stage with mic in hand,
And as I started to say something grand,
The earth beneath me started to rumble.
I knew people were talking, but their words were a jumble.

I stood there frozen.
I couldn’t make a peep.
I could hear the distant sound of a

Louder came the sound!
The rumbling grew
And I fell to the ground!

I closed my eyes and covered my ears.
Was all I could hear!

This was my big chance!
I felt like a fool.
Then I heard Mom yell,
“Wake up! You’re late for school!”

My alarm clock was beeping.
I was lying on the ground.
There were no crowds of people.
In fact, no one was around.

It was all just a dream.
I wasn’t really there.
But if it was just a dream…
Why is there confetti in my hair?

Mechelle Ritchie Foster