If I see a purpleish-bronze PT Cruiser I automatically look at the driver to see if it's her. It's strange how ingrained these things are. Strange and very jarring at times, but I think it's also probably a comfort to us. It's comforting to know that we can remember so easily, or in this case, forget so easily that someone is no longer with us.
Here are a few things that always make me remember her. (And I hope this does not read like a eulogy.)
Books. Fran loved to read, and I think my career as a librarian gave me an automatic "in" with her. We read some of the same books, and she usually liked my recommendations. I remember when she borrowed my childhood copy of The Secret Garden, she couldn't believe she had never read it before. She liked to read outside her comfort zone; she'd go from Stephen King to historical fiction, from Harry Potter to some inspirational book about Catholicism. She also loved David Sedaris and went to see him speak the same night C and I went. It was a little awkward to laugh at his readings, knowing that my MIL was a few rows back!
Coffee. C and I were lamenting our home-brewed coffee recently, as it's just as savory as the cups we've been splurging on at some of our local coffee shops. C's mom drank coffee practically all day. She always got her pot ready the night before and set the timer. C remembers weekends as a kid when he'd go out to the kitchen, pour his mom a cup, and bring it in to her in bed. Even way back then he was a gentleman!
The Sunday Ads. What goes better with coffee than lounging on the sofa on Sunday morning, flipping through the ads? We used to go to Fran's a lot on Sundays for church and then breakfast and then camp out in the living room leafing through the newspaper.
This ring. Isn't it kind of neat? The family recently went through some of her jewelry, selecting pieces that were significant to us. I chose this. It's kind of fun to jiggle it around and try to line the little beads up in different configurations. If you sometimes get restless or fidgety like I do, then this is the right jewelry! I know that she bought it at one of the summer art shows, which she loved to shop.
And the summer art shows remind me one of the more "memorable" Christmas gifts she gave me. A leather fanny pack. It was beautifully made and probably pretty expensive, but...not my bag. Literally.
But, of course the passage of time can make things seem funnier than they were at the moment. Although I was raised in a strict it's-the-thought-that-counts environment, at that moment I was thinking, "has she ever seen me wear a bag like this? Does she still not know me after all these years?" Now, it's a funny story that gets an eye-roll and a smile before everyone starts up telling of their own worst gifts.
Maybe like worst gifts, we endure grief because we're going to come out better on the other side. With greater compassion. More understanding. More ready to laugh things off. And more hopeful that we'll remember it all.