Daddy always put dill on his avocados.
Dill and vinegar. And he’d mix them around in a ceramic bowl and stick them with a silver fork and then offer me some. Every time.
My first remembrance of this was when we lived in Tuscaloosa, Alabama where the dirt was red, and everyone screamed crimson, and Bambinos Pizza slices sat on our TV trays at least once most weeks. Orange Sunkist in the black and orange tin cans were my favorite then. And my white bicycle with the lilac hearts is what I rode with my neighbor friends. We got locked out of the house there once. We threw the football until we could get in again.
My Mama liked to rest her strawberry Pop-Tart fresh from the toaster on the arm of our pink and floral Texas couch. Her Dr. Pepper in a glass bottle would rest on the old side table next to her, that also held a lamp that looked like stained glass. She’d watch Regis and Kathie Lee with her legs crossed and her feet in light blue house slippers. One day she had readied her tart and all, only to have our pound pup snatch it in one swift steal.
She put her hands on her hips, as she often does even still, and made herself another one. She didn’t leave her Pop-Tart unattended on the arm of the couch ever again after that.
My older half brother had a room that always smelled like beef jerky. Slim Jims. His sock drawer was always neatly rowed, and his bed was always made, and there was never any kind of junk or mess hiding beneath it. Baffled me. He took a red allergy pill every morning with his breakfast and he liked sitting in the gliding chair when we ate broasted chicken from the Dairy Mart.
He’s a fire chief now. And I imagine that his station is the neatest, most organized around. There’s probably some jerky in there somewhere too.
My MeeMaw made the best fried steak and mashed potatoes on Cherry Lane. She always had pecans in the freezer in case someone wanted a pie. Crickets lived underneath her big rugs that laid across every archway. Her living room had a window unit that pumped out freezing air and I’d sit on the soft brown love-seat just in front of it with my knees tucked up into my Sunday dress. Sitting in that spot is one of the coziest memories I can recollect.
She was an ER nurse. She came home one night after a late shift to an intruder inside her home. We piled in the car with my Daddy’s shot gun and my Mama with strep throat to see how we could assist. She lived in that house alone many moons after that, seemingly unafraid and unconcerned. She prayed the evil away I think.
My PawPaw Jelly would bring me donut holes from the old wooden donut shop just off of I-45. He would ring the door bell and hand me a small white paper bag with little balls of glazed goodness inside. He made mistakes when he was younger, and I think the health problems that ended his life were a result of the down-deep guilt he housed all those years. He drove a blue and white Ford pickup truck that smelled like sun-kissed leather. He let me drive around the block one time before I had a license. I didn’t stop at the stop sign and he just said that I could stop at it twice next time. His fingernails were stained black from all the motor oil he worked with.
His laugh was a gasp and I can still hear it.
My MawMaw Jan always made me hot chocolate with marshmallows when we visited from Ohio on holidays. Her kitchen always smelled like a freshly lit gas burner. She usually had bags of chips in her cabinet held together with clips, and whole mini pickles in her refrigerator. She arranged flowers at a shop in town, and she painted things on old wood, and she called a boy I met at a Pat Green concert for me, to tell him that I couldn’t go out with him that night, just because I didn’t want to make the call myself.
She lost her peripheral vision at a young age. It didn’t stop her creative vision, however. She still wraps the prettiest Christmas presents and has the most beautiful cursive handwriting.
My PawPaw Robert went to the Whataburger early in the mornings to drink coffee with his old-man friends. He hobbled a bit on bowed knees, and he squabbled with my grandmother, and he ate turkey bacon warmed in the microwave. I almost convinced him to buy me a guinea pig one time as a treat. He bought me a purple trapper-keeper with paper and pens instead. Smart move.
He made wooden bird houses in his shop out back. He wrote the most organized grocery lists in all the land, with items divided up by aisles at the local HEB. My last phone conversation with him, I was very newly pregnant with my first born. We didn’t know the sex yet. But somehow, from his death bed, he did. He referred to the baby I was growing as “that sweet baby boy.” And indeed, that’s what he was and still is.
It’s the nuances. It’s the everyday scenes, and the common smells, and the small moments that linger and make up a life, a childhood.
As we wade into the holidays this year friends, let’s remember that we can’t provide a perfect upbringing for our kids, but that we can provide a purposed one. Their memories will be mixed like mine are. I’m just hoping that the sweeter ones end up ringing in the truest and the loudest.
Thanks for walking through all these words with me, friends. It just felt right to let them fly away here today.
Christmas blessings to each of you.