Happy 59th Anniversary to my parents! They were high school sweethearts. On May 29, 1961, they exchanged vows at 21, just a couple of kids.
Raindrops fell and lightening thundered. Water gushed from the rooftop of our home without gutters, and my dog Rain hid beneath the couch where I sat. Thirteen years ago, someone found her, just a puppy, walking in the rain. She may have some post-traumatic stress. Then three years ago, I found her swimming in the rising hurricane waters of our home. I’m sure that didn’t help.
Rain crawled out from under the couch and looked up at me. Her whole body shook. I patted the throw pillow beside me, and she jumped up on it. I covered her up with a blanket, held her with extra pressure, and breathed into the top of her Chihuahua head. She whimpered so very softly. Her shaking subsided. Sometimes the world is noisy and scary and overwhelming, I thought. Sometimes a tight hug and the closeness of someone’s breath is all you need.
Recently I told wrote a story and later realized—There’s no way that’s true. Honestly, I believe my Grandma convicted me from on high.
My mother has Alzheimer’s, and do you know how often I wish I could ask her a question? Do you remember a time, let’s say, in your twenties, when you were all consumed and your mother told you something, maybe even something important, and you have no recollection of it at all? The older I become, the more I need help filling my own memory gaps, and my mom can’t help me anymore. I just have to trust myself.
It’s about my grandmother’s pearls. At some point in the 90s, I can’t pinpoint when, my mother gave me a box of costume jewelry including a strand of real pearls. Did it come from her mother, my Grandma? Or did it come from my dad’s mom, my Granny? Or was it some sort of combination? I don’t remember, and I don’t think anyone else knows. At some point, I started wearing the pearls and calling them my grandmother’s. It would’ve been true either way, but without knowing for sure, I attached the pearls to Grandma. I don’t know why.
After I told wrote the story, I started thinking.
I’m not so sure that Grandma had pearls, AND she had seven granddaughters. How would I have been selected from my older sister and all my cousins for Grandma’s pearls? I believe my Grandma planted that thought. I don’t know why.
Granny had three granddaughters and a jewelry stash. Suddenly, I realized my pearls belonged to Granny.
But I picture my grandmothers together and smiling down on me. I picture them sharing whatever they have with each other, and so my pearls now represent them both. My Grandma’s dignity and kindness. My Granny’s wisdom and sass.
For the last few years, I’ve picked a word to guide me. In 2018, the word was hope. My house had flooded in a major way, I lived in a hotel for ten months, and I hoped for the best. In 2019, the word was believe. Home again, I believed in better for my son who battles illness and for my entire family. In 2020, I picked two words—honesty and courage. This year I’m writing a memoir, but not without honesty and courage. And I felt convicted to tell you the truth of my grandmothers’ pearls.
My son Drew is a cellist. These days he doesn’t play often. His cello stands in its case next to the media console in our living room. The voices Drew hears stand in the way of his gift.
But—I have a vision. I believe in better days and a brighter future. I decided long ago that I can choose hope or not, and I choose hope. I wouldn’t know how to do that without God, and I lean on the words of the good book:
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalms 147:3).
“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness” (Matthew 9:35).
“Then [Elijah] stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried out to the LORD, “LORD, my God, let this boy’s life return to him! The LORD heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived” (1 Kings 17:21-22).
I believe in a God who will return Drew’s life, a better life with a cello to play and the light in his eyes. And today, I have a gift for you, actually Drew does. Four years ago, Drew managed the symptoms of his schizophrenia better than he does today. He found an app on his phone that allowed him to record a four-part cello piece, and he makes it sing. It’s the gift—I hope you have a minute to listen:
It looks as though I will make it to the end of my April A-Z blogging challenge. I had some doubts along the way, but I kept doing what I do—being grateful each day. All of this goes to show the importance of our beliefs. Life is not perfect. And now for those times when my world shakes so hard that the sky falls off my life, I have a little collection of reminders to help me carry on:
A is for Apple and B is for Boozer and C is for Champagne and Chanel No. 5 and D is for Dad and E is for Epiphany and F is for Faith + Gratitude = Peace + Hope and G is for Great _______ and H is for Hatbox and Honeysuckle and I for an I and J is for Jesus and K is for Kody and L is for the Lovely Lauren and M is for the Marvelous Misti and a Dirty Martini and N is for the Numbers and O is for the Oversized Owl and P—Prayer and My Grandmother’s Pearls and R is for Ripples Colliding and S is for Siblings and T is for the Tomlinsons and U is for Untamed
Kody and I have been together since 1986. I was sixteen. He was seventeen. His little brother Thomas and little sister Gianna were three and four. Kody was so good with them. It was one of the things I liked about him. Thanks to Kody, Thomas and Gianna both can still sing the Beastie Boys to this day:
“Now here’s a little story I’ve got to tell About three bad brothers you know so well…”
Kody’s mom Dana treated me like family before I ever was. I remember going to their beautiful home my junior year before Kody and I ever went on a date. As a cheerleader, I went into a few of the senior football players’ homes and decorated their rooms with signs before the game with Coweta. I coordinated with Dana to surprise Kody. No one was home that evening, but Dana just left the front door open for me. I made Kody a poster in Guymon Tiger black-and-orange that said, “Eat a pita, Coweta!” I think he liked me for that. (By the way, the game with Coweta was tied, and Kody kicked the winning field goal. The Tigers went to state that year).
When I was a senior in high school, I taught a beginning tumbling class for kids. Gianna was four and took my class. One day, she face planted while attempting a dive roll. Tears streamed down her precious face, and I promised to take her for a Mr. Burger Coke. And I did. She’s been my little buddy ever since, and we still laugh about that time when she smashed her face. Gianna has the best laugh.
And then there’s Kody’s dad Tommy Tomlinson, Grandpa to our kids. Kind and funny, an amazing golfer and a gifted joke-teller. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard Tommy tell the same joke twice, and Kody, Thomas, and Gianna all learned the skill. My jokes are all pretty bad, but here’s one just for Tommy:
Times New Roman and Helvetica walk into a bar.
“Get out of here!” shouts the bartender. “We don’t serve your type.”
Bah-dum-dum. I’ll be here six more days.
How many times have I found myself singing the alphabet during my A-Z blogging challenge? Q R S T U. Looks like tomorrow I will be expressing gratitude for U, or is it gratitude for you? Either way, I’m so happy you dropped by, I hope you’re well, and I would love to see you here tomorrow. Past posts are linked below 😊:
A is for Apple and B is for Boozer and C is for Champagne and Chanel No. 5 and D is for Dad and E is for Epiphany and F is for Faith + Gratitude = Peace + Hope and G is for Great _______ and H is for Hatbox and Honeysuckle and I for an I and J is for Jesus and K is for Kody and L is for the Lovely Lauren and M is for the Marvelous Misti and a Dirty Martini and N is for the Numbers and O is for the Oversized Owl and P—Prayer and My Grandmother’s Pearls and R is for Ripples Colliding and S is for Siblings
I’m the baby of three. Liz is the first child. Scott is middle. Sometimes they call me the baby princess. That title was in a birth-order book my sister once read, and it stuck.
Liz left home for college after my fifth grade year, but she always made me feel missed and special with little gifts. She had a gift for monogramming things, like acrylic storage containers and plastic cups. She would say, “It’s just a little sussy.” Like, it’s just a little something. Not much. When I married Kody, Liz cross-stitched 2 Corinthians 5:7 for me and framed it, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” How many times have I walked by faith?
In her forties, Liz started a blog, and I thought, “How cool!” Liz went to law school at age fifty, and I said to myself, “I want to go back to school like Liz!” One of my favorite things about my sister these days is how she interacts with my Mom. Every time I see them together, I think, “Maybe one day, I’ll be like Liz!” Did you know that firstborns tend to be more achievement oriented and responsible?
My chihuahua-terrier Rain reigns over my house. Princess from the day I brought her home, prancing as if on parade with delicate feet and ballerina legs. These days she has ascended to the throne, and by throne, I mean, wherever she damn well pleases. Our king-sized bed. The top of our couch cushions. Kody and I, loyal subjects, cater to her whims. We adore her.
And to think what might have happened if I had not been in the right place at the right time. Thankfully fate intervened.
As I stepped off the plane in Mobile, Alabama, with my friend Martha, dark clouds covered the blue sky, and raindrops fell. It was summer 2007. Our friend Mona stood next to the baggage carousel waving and waiting while Martha and I descended the escalator and grabbed our suitcases. The three of us dashed from the airport to the car, the rain drenching us, yet our spirits remained un-dampened. And the rain continued full-force throughout our five-day trip. The three of us, Martha, Mona, and I, went out to eat in the rain, we shopped in the rain, and we drove by the beach in the rain, hoping it would stop. The sky would clear, temporarily, and then rain some more.
After a shopping expedition one day in picturesque downtown Fairhope, Mona said, “I want to take ya’ll to this great little country store. The two girls who opened it are about your age and too cute! You have to see their store.”
We pulled up to the store located in a two-story, Southern-styled, clap-board house with a wrap-around porch. It was nestled among oak trees and backed up to Mobile Bay. As we browsed, one of the young owners said, “We were thinkin’ about havin’ a wine-tastin’. Would ya’ll like a glass of wine?” In no hurry, we accepted the wine and moved outside to sit on the front porch and watch the rain. About that time, a gentleman walked up with a precious, tiny black dog on a leash. She pranced like a princess and wagged her sweet, little, flipped-up tail.
The store owners knew the man, who had been fostering the dog until he found her a permanent home. One of the ladies took a Polaroid picture for the bulletin board inside, and the man with the tiny black dog struck up a conversation with my friends and me. I picked up the dog named Rain. She had been found wandering in the rain, and she licked my face.
Martha said, “Crystal, I think you need that dog.” I held the dog close and stroked her ears. Martha continued, “I think you need to fly that dog back to Dallas.” Rain felt very comfortable in my arms. “I’ll dog-sit whenever you need me,” Martha said.
I had been thinking about adopting a dog, and this one did need a home, and no doubt, she was precious and sweet. So I took the man’s phone number, thinking, If I wake up tomorrow, thinking about that dog, I’m going to take her home.
Well, not only did I wake up the next morning thinking about the dog, I couldn’t sleep at all that night. That’s when I knew—that little dog belonged to me. And I brought her home to Texas, just like Martha said, on the plane from Alabama.
Thirteen years later, Rain’s once-black face and throat have become a sophisticated white, she takes advantage of her beauty rest, and she still loves unconditionally. And Martha? Well, I owe her for the arm-twisting, she has been a dog-sitter for me, and we’re overdue for another girls’ trip.
Ummm, so I realize that I could’ve categorized this post under R for Rain during this A-Z blogging challenge, but I needed a Q. Ummm, now I need an R post. 😊 And this is why it’s called a challenge and why I’m happy for another day. If you liked reading about Rain, perhaps you would enjoy my other posts. It’s all about gratitude this April, and I’m thankful for Rain and Martha and Mona and much:
A is for Apple and B is for Boozer and C is for Champagne and Chanel No. 5 and D is for Dad and E is for Epiphany and F is for Faith + Gratitude = Peace + Hope and G is for Great _______ and H is for Hatbox and Honeysuckle and I for an I and J is for Jesus and K is for Kody and L is for the Lovely Lauren and M is for the Marvelous Misti and a Dirty Martini and N is for the Numbers and O is for the Oversized Owl and P—Prayer and My Grandmother’s Pearls
How many times have I put myself together to mask my falling apart? I have a classic move. When circumstances call, I dress to impress, say a prayer, and wear my grandmother’s pearls.
Grandma passed on December 11, 1991, almost nine years after Grandpa. She had been living in a nursing home after having a stroke a few years earlier, but that’s not how I remember her. I never heard a single ugly word pass through her lips. I remember the classiest of ladies who dressed to impress and loved the Lord. I remember her picture perfect two-bedroom home with the masters on the walls. All of it on a shoestring budget. She shopped at consignment stores, possessed an eye for elegance, and lived within her means. I inherited her pearls and her Van Gogh and hopefully her attitude.
And for those times that I need to conjure strength and normalcy and class, I stand up straight and choose my clothes with care. I say a prayer and wear my grandmother’s pearls.
Do you find yourself being extra reflective during this time? These days (and the A-Z blogging challenge) have given me pause to give thanks for so many people and things in my life. I hope you have your own little collection:
A is for Apple and B is for Boozer and C is for Champagne and Chanel No. 5 and D is for Dad and E is for Epiphany and F is for Faith + Gratitude = Peace + Hope and G is for Great _______ and H is for Hatbox and Honeysuckle and I for an I and J is for Jesus and K is for Kody and L is for the Lovely Lauren and M is for the Marvelous Misti and a Dirty Martini and N is for the Numbers and O is for the Oversized Owl
A week or so ago when I pulled the hatbox from the top shelf of the hallway closet, I found a photo inside of Dad with my 4’11” Granny. It was the early 90s. She was 80ish. My dad 50ish. Granny wore a necklace, a long gold-plated rope chain with an oversized owl pendant. The owl’s eyes suspended, dangling rhinestones. My Granny’s eyes sparkle, too. Her smile warm and true.
When my Granny passed in January of 1999, I inherited her owl necklace, and I didn’t need anything else. She was born in November of 1911 (11/11), and she was 87. I’ll always remember her love of books and her seemingly endless collection of Louis L’Amour, her love of animals and her tiny Chihuahua Chip, her talking cockatiel Bird and her calico cat Calileo. I’ll always remember how she asked about my grades in school and after my report how she would say, “That’s my girl!” I’ll always remember her ability to stand on her head into her 60s and the way she took a stand when it came to other people’s shit. The owl symbolizes wisdom, in the Greek tradition the owl was also a protector, and mine will forever stand for my Granny.
I appreciate you for taking time to share my memory of Granny and for supporting my first A-Z blogging challenge! One more favorite Granny story is that time she sprayed the neighbor boys with a water hose when they were all dressed up and going somewhere, church, I think. I’m sure my Dad could supply the missing details. From what I remember, the boys started it. Granny ended it.
“Though she be but little, she is fierce.”
My other posts are clickable below:
A is for Apple and B is for Boozer and C is for Champagne and Chanel No. 5 and D is for Dad and E is for Epiphany and F is for Faith + Gratitude = Peace + Hope and G is for Great _______ and H is for Hatbox and Honeysuckle and I for an I and J is for Jesus and K is for Kody and L is for the Lovely Lauren and M is for the Marvelous Misti and a Dirty Martini and N is for the Numbers
Lauren is my Baby Girl. Born 7 ½ weeks premature with the tiniest fingers and toes and the face of an angel that matched her brother’s. She came home from the hospital still too small to cry. I would set my alarm to wake her up every few hours each night for a two-ounce bottle. She was a fighter from the beginning.
She fought her way through six years of competitive soccer and the quest for the national championship. She fought her way through four years toward a BBA with a degree in finance.
Now she’s twenty-eight, living six miles away, and fighting the daily battle of sheltering in place and alone. I wonder how I would have handled a pandemic at her age by myself, and I can only imagine, not well. And so we talk on the phone and FaceTime. And I’ve driven over to see her a few times to mix it up for both of us.
I’m thankful for the opportunity to be a mother and witness the transformation of my tiny baby girl into a strong independent woman who can do hard things. I’m thankful for her job and her ability to work from home. I’m thankful for our health and proximity. And I’m thankful to know—this too shall pass.