Settled in her chair, Mae touched the lamp base three times. She smiled as she remembered the lamp had been a Mother’s Day gift years ago. Still fascinated by the lamp, she touched the base again and watched it turn off, then tapped it three times, smiling as it became brighter with each tap.
As she reached for her Bible in the pre-dawn greyness, she wiped her upper lip and brow with a hankie. The cold, clammy perspiration soaked into the cloth. Her hands trembled weakly as she opened her love-worn Bible. The envelope fell out.
Mae paused…her left fingers tingled and she felt an odd pressure between her shoulder blades. Just another one of my spells, Mae thought to herself.
She gently held the worn envelope and spilled its contents into her lap. Careful not to disturb the order, Mae methodically assured herself nothing had been misplaced. There in her lap were the faces of her children, her children’s children, and their children, too. Three generations stared back at her and she smiled.
After a deep breath, Mae’s lips began to move as she whispered in prayer. The envelope’s contents were handled one-by-one. She opened her eyes long enough to see the faces of her oldest child, John, and his family.
Eyes closed again, she could here John’s little boy voice as it floated to her from the past, right on down the hallway. Ready or not, here I come! John’s young voice called out in her memories.
Mae played out the childhood vision in her mind before she continued to pray.
Hope you hid better this time! John hollered to his younger siblings. She could almost hear the giggles of the less experienced hide-and-seekers from their various places in the house.
Mae moved on to the next photo, Julianne’s family. As soon as she closed her eyes, she could hear Julianne’s soprano voice coming from the bathroom as she showered. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound. Mae hummed along before she continued to pray.
Tears trickled through the wrinkles on her face. Mae glanced outside as the greyness gradually became lighter. A sudden shortness of breath caught her by surprise. She fought to control her breathing as she wiped sweat beads from her upper lip.
Systematically, she moved on to the next set of faces. Joey, her baby, is the spitting image of his father. As she began to pray she saw a pre-teen Joey as he gathered his mitt and ball from the hall closet. Got time to catch a few for me, Dad?
If she listened carefully, she could hear the smack of the ball and mitt as Joey warmed up before a game. Mae felt deep emotions as she remembered how difficult it had been for Joey when they had lost Dad.
The next set of photographs held images of Mae’s eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Over the years, each family made sure to visit the old house and instill the importance of sharing their life with her.
Mae remembered the last Thanksgiving dinner. She could almost smell the food as the women bantered in the large farmhouse kitchen. Babies and toddlers were entertained by older cousins, aunts, and uncles while younger children slid down the banister and laughed. Mae held tight to a treasured memory of snuggling with Joey’s newborn grandson, Joseph Allen McCormick IV. Dad would have been proud.
Mae’s thoughts were interrupted, Heartburn again…wish it would stop.
She could hear birds singing as the grey had become a beautiful red-orange sunrise. She continued to watch the eastern sky perfectly from her chair. Red sky in the morning, sailor take warning, Mae reflected to herself. There’s a change coming in the weather. She had enjoyed the sunrise many times from this very spot.
“This old house is all I have in worldly possessions,” Mae whispered in prayer. “You have blessed it, Lord, with rich memories.” She lingered in silence as she felt God’s presence very near.
The hinges of the heavy oak door creaked, “Good morning, Mom, I have your mail.”
John took off his cap and ran his fingers through thick grey hair before he bent to kiss Mae on the cheek. Her face was cool to the touch of his lips. When she didn’t respond, John held her cold lifeless hand and wept. In her lap sat the envelope with photos of her children, her children’s children, and their children, too.
Suddenly, the old house felt extremely empty.
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