Ever since Christopher Plummer died, I’ve been hearing lines of songs from The Sound of Music wafting through my brain. I can’t remember whole songs, just a line or two, but my mother could belt out entire tunes from musicals with, in her younger days, a few dance steps thrown in. She thought Christopher Plummer was a “babe,” (although the musical love of her life was Neil Diamond,) but I’m sure if Mom were alive right now, she’d be singing songs from The Sound of Music too. “Edelweiss,” “Maria,” and of course, “My Favourite Things.”
My own favourite things have helped me get through this pandemic year, especially during the lockdowns. Books, of course. And not just mine, but many of Mom’s, which came to me after she died during the first lockdown last March. I inherited Mom’s three tall yellow bookshelves too, which was a relief, since my own shelves were overflowing. I finally had time to sort and curate them, and make room on the shelves for other little treasures that reminded me of her.
(To be clear: I’m not a hoarder, although my husband may not agree, especially when it comes to books. I do part with books that I don’t think I’ll read or refer to again or that don’t “spark joy.”)
I only saw Mom once, briefly, during the lockdown. I’d been working on a story based on a trip our family took to western Canada and Alaska when I was four. I had a postcard from the trip, one she’d passed on to me a few years before, because I’d always been drawn to it, haunted by the image of the snow coach with its wheel tipped over the edge of a crevasse. I only had a handful of vivid memories from our trip, and that was one of them – the thrill and terror of peering into the crevasse.
One day during the second week of lockdown, Mom found some other postcards from our trip. She rang the doorbell and left them on the porch. By the time I slow-poked my way to the front door, Mom was already in her car, waving good-bye. It was the last time I saw her.
Three days later, around midnight, she was rushed to the hospital with chest pain and shortness of breath. My sister was allowed to see her through a window but I was warned to stay away from the hospital because I was “high risk” (my MS medication makes me susceptible to infection.) It was the worst night of my life, knowing my mother was dying and not being able to be with her, to hold her hand and tell her how much I love her.
Oh, this is strange to start out writing about my favourite things and end up writing about Mom’s death. Or maybe it’s not so strange. She was one of my favourite things.
With her funny Christmas poems and wind-up toys, and mountains of delicious baking;
her busy, creative, crocheting hands and busy, creative mind;
her singing when she was happy, and whistling when she was really happy;
her beloved, devoted, wrinkly pug, her companion on the couch
her never-empty mug of coffee, loud TV, passion for politics, and deep quiet faith;
the way she held space for others when they needed it;
the way she’d do anything for family, even deliver postcards during a pandemic.
When MS bites,
When MS stings,
When I’m feeling sad,
I simply remember my favourite things,
And then I don’t feel so bad.
(Apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein)
Some of my favourite things (that I meant to write about in the first place):
Photographs, postcards, maps, stamps,
new books, old books, children’s books, quirky books, falling apart books (because I can make things with the pages),
The Hundred Acre Wood, Narnia, the Leaskdale Road,
Friendly cows, funny goats, trilliums, Lily-of-the-Valley,
Boulders, spider webs, mossy rocks,
meandering streams, accessible trails,
meadows with benches, trees with forts,
Pooh Stick games on little bridges,
Spotting the Great Blue Heron,
shady woods, roots of trees with holes and hollows,
candlelight, twinkly lights, notebooks, pens,
sunsets, butterflies, birds, turtles,
jumbled gardens, weeping willows, white pines,
beach treasures: pebbles, driftwood, sea glass,
wide open roses, peonies, daisies,
forget-me-nots, dandelion wishes,
cemeteries with old stones,
old china, pretty cups,
frog ponds, puddles,
sunny days, rainy days, rainbows,
Mist on the lake,
Purring cats, snuggling dogs,
Laughing with Rob,
Hugging my daughters, hearing their hearts beat,
Do you have favourite things that help you feel better?