Air and Space
November 19, 2012 § 6 Comments
I am out of sorts all day and I can’t figure out why, until I realize this day would have been my parent’s 51st wedding anniversary. It snuck up on me. I hate when that happens. It’s like certain days are marked in my brain, like when you can feel Christmas coming on, or your birthday. Certain days make their presence known, whether you want them to or not. I decide it’s as good a time as any to open one of the Rubbermaid boxes full of papers and photos my sister has brought from my parents’ storage unit. Why not, I think. I won’t feel worse, and who knows what could be in there? Maybe it is a receipt from some old lunch put on the credit card in a long line of debts. Maybe it is my mother’s birth certificate. Her filing system defies logic. Most of her life defied logic. All the seven or eight blue plastic boxes have equal stature. Come to think of it, every person or event in her life did too.
When I lift the lid, there is a smaller box inside. It holds a Christmas ornament, a brass cut out circle with an airplane inside, from the International Women’s Air and Space Museum. I didn’t know such a thing existed either. Turns out, according to the box, this place is in Cleveland, and strange enough, for the first time in his life, so is Jeff.
I ask him to go to the museum—it’s probably tiny and maybe hard to find—to get me a commemorative ornament for this year. Mom would like that, I think. That would be a good present, something to brighten the tree—the holidays are so full of memories, good and bad. This one will reflect the light.
Jeff goes, and since he has no shy bones, he talks to the women at the counter. Sheilagh Wagner, he says.
Oh yeah, the lady says, I know her.
From Cincinnati? No, Kentucky!
Yes, Jeff says. From Kentucky. He is blown away. They adored each other, Jeff and my mom. Wild energy kindles itself.
Turns out, the woman knows that my mom won an air race, that she was a 99, that she was.
Jeff texts me this and I am stunned. They want a photo, a bio, any memorabilia we’d like to share. They want to remember my mom. They want strangers to know about her.
I am convinced that all we leave in this world are stories. We leave people who know us, and markers to tell stories, so we can live and live. Otherwise, we evaporate, even if we were rich, or briefly famous, or very kind. You think about these things when people close to you die. I thought about whether what I want most to do with my life, to tell stories, mattered and I decided it did. Doctors may save the body, but writers and artists bring people back from the dead, even after they are nothing but dust. We give them back to people who might have never known they were gone.