I remember the last time I saw her. She walked through the front door, purse slung over her shoulder, and said she didn’t want anything but the bookends.
My saucer eyes watched her every move. I watched her cross over to the bookshelf, the one with the books neatly stacked, with the antique white pitcher, the bamboo basket… funny how you remember things… and she grabbed the bookends. They were made from elephant tusks. I remember that too.
She took them and left. I haven’t heard from her since.
A momma is supposed to run to her child when she hurts and I always wondered why my momma never came. Surely she knew how I lay in bed at night and cried. She always called me her Little Bit. She knew her Little Bit was hungry for her momma, desperate for her. This I know.
I tried to track her down when I got old enough but by then, the trail was cold. She’d covered her tracks and was long gone, probably even dead.
But I did find those bookends.
They were sitting up on a shelf in Cole’s Secondhand Shop in Vaudeville. I recognized them right away. Old Mr. Cole told me the man who’d sold them to him said they were his wife’s, but she’d passed away and he had no need for them, could find more use with the money. I held the smooth white in my hands and fingered the initials engraved on the side, “PLD.”
“How long ago was that?” I asked Mr. Cole. “Well let’s see, that must have been 12 years or more,” Mr. Cole said.
“And you still have these?” I asked.
“Well missy, those aren’t for sale,” he told me.
I told him that I believed they belonged to my mom, the mother who had left me when I was four. I could see him soften, but he didn’t offer to sell them to me. He told me he’d never be able to sell them for what they were worth and he was fond of them anyway. So I left. But I traveled back there to look at those bookends every month or so.
Old Mr. Cole finally told me to take them. They sat on my bookshelf until I had my own children. First a boy, then a girl, then another boy. And sometimes life was hard. Marriage was hard. Parenting was hard. I wanted to leave. I thought of my momma and wondered if she had ever regretted her decision. Can you just up and quit and start all over and everything be fine?
I did wonder.
But then one day the three kids were sitting on the couch, happy like, and I saw it clear: they were my bookends. There was no where I was going without them. Out of everything in the whole wide world, I wanted them. My family.
When their daddy came home that night I told him I was starting over. I took my momma’s bookends down from the shelf and set them outside on the back porch. Then I got a hammer and I smashed them to pieces.
“You are my bookends,” I told him. “You and these kids are my bookends. And wherever I go, I’m taking you with me.”
He’d been silent… shocked. But then he laughed and wrapped me in his arms. “You’re not going anywhere, my sweet,” he told me. “Because you’ve been my bookend for a very long time and you’re not going anywhere without me.”
It was settled then. A brand new legacy. With brand new bookends.
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