“You go, girl! ” Anne’s best friend, Becca, gave her a thumbs up. “I’ll be back for another load in an hour.”
Anne knew Becca was pleased with her helping with the rummage sale. She'd been gradually drawing Anne into the ladies’ class which sponsored it. Having been widowed a few years back, Becca understood how difficult it was for Anne to fit back into church life after losing Ken to his heart attack last year.
Anne surveyed the surrounding chaos in her normally neat home. She had agreed that the rummage sale seemed a good place to start. What she hadn’t known until later was that this sale had a unique twist. As each member sorted through their belongings for donations, she was to choose one tangible thing which brought to mind a special blessing or occasion for giving thanks. Then, during their class sessions in November, they were expected to share that item and its memory with the group. They laughingly called it their grown-up “show and tell” to celebrate the Thanksgiving holidays.
Anne frowned, cringing at the thought of such personal openness. Besides, so far, nothing in particular stood out to her as a “blessing reminder.” She briefly wondered if grief had numbed her sensitivity forever.
“Where do you want this, Mom?” her youngest son Nick came puffing up the basement stairs, lugging a big box. “I think it’s the last one, but you’ll have to check. I’d better get back to work. Thanks for lunch.”
“Sure,” Anne hugged him. “Thanks for coming. I filled those boxes so full I couldn’t get them up here,” she laughed, as he grinned and rushed off.
With determination then, she turned to tackle the hall closet, bulging with old clothes. Starting with those on hangers, she worked her way slowly, sorting and tossing most of them into the donations pile. Squeezed against the very back wall, she suddenly spied the purple shirt.
Oh, I’d forgotten all about it. Tattered, faded, and old, it brought tears, then a smile to her eyes.
The flannel shirt, which had originally been a shade of deep purple, was a gift from Ken. He’d put it with her birthday gifts one October, and had watched her unwrap it, his face like a little boy’s, unsure of himself, yet eager.
“I hope you like it. It just looked so practical, and I liked the color. Purple is for royalty, you know, and you sure are the queen around here,” he had joked.
Though it wasn’t a color she would have chosen, Anne had smiled.. “ I love it. It’s so soft, and will be super comfortable.”
She had bought a sleeveless top a few shades lighter, toning it down a bit, and worn them with matching pants. There were pictures of herself and Ken that November, taken by the kids on a great family vacation, showing Anne laughing and happy in her purple shirt.
Two years later, Kyle, their first grandson, had been born, and the memory of his early days were still visible in a spit-up stain on the shirt’s left shoulder. Anne remembered Kyle’s warm little body and tiny arms resting there in perfect trust.
And there’s the paint smudge. Giggling now, Anne recalled Ken and Jon, Becca's husband, painting the den. She and Becca had ventured in, offering unwelcome advice. Ken had gotten mad, they had words, and Anne had stalked out, brushing one sleeve through wet paint on the door.
A few years after that, as she and Ken were ready to take one of their long walks together, she remembered him calling out to her.
“It’s a bit chilly out here. Better get your purple shirt, ‘Queen Anne!’” And she had. Only by that time, it was somewhat threadbare, along with its life-damage.
Anne knew the shirt couldn’t go in any rummage sale. Placing it back into the closet, she suddenly changed her mind. Tenderly she removed it from its hanger and slipped it on. At that moment, it seemed as if she felt Ken’s arms around her, and heard his teasing chuckle.
Sometime later, Becca opened the back door.
“Okay, let’s get this show on the road,” she stopped short at the sight of Anne just sitting there, in an old purple shirt, half-crying, but peaceful and still.
“Guess what, Becca?” Anne raised her face and laughed, “I found my ‘show and tell.’ ”
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