"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Monday, September 29, 2014

that time I cried over a towel

Tonight I cried over a beach towel. I mean, I didn't really cry about the towel...but yeah, I cried about the towel.

Let me back up.

A few weeks ago we had a basement flood. It was minor and contained to our unfinished storage room, but it was a flood of the Roto-Rooter variety, if you know what I mean. (Aside: those Kandoo "flushable" wipes? Not flushable, according to Mr. Roto-Rooter...and our soggy basement.) When I first stumbled upon the flood (not literally, thank goodness) I did what I normally do when in crisis mode: I screamed for Sam to come Fix It.

He did. I stayed outside with the kids while Sam mopped up the mess and got the experts on the phone and on their way to do damage control.

Fast forward to tonight: Sam was bathing the kiddos and I was folding the mountain of laundry on our bed. As I folded the beach towel we had brought along on our hike on Saturday, I was reminded of the towel I had wanted to bring, but couldn't find.

"Hey, where's that sun towel?" I called into our bathroom, as one squeaky clean kiddo came out, towel-wrapped and ready for jammies.

"Which one?" Sam responded from the bathroom, where Kids #2 and #3 were squealing with Splashing in the Bath Joy.

"You know, the big one? The one with the suns? Yellow, orange...some purple?" The clean kiddo stopped next to me to listen. He loves a challenge of a Lost Thing. He's a Finder, that one. And nosy as hell.

"Oh, that old one?" Sam called back, above the squeals, "I used it to mop up the basement...so I chucked it."




And that's all it took. My hands flew to the sides of my face and, with a faltering voice, I squeaked: "No! You didn't."

I started to cry.

My big boy, the Nosy Finder, became nervous. "What's wrong, Mommy? Why are you sad? I can find it!"

"What? No! Wait, what? Why?" Sam came to the bedroom, as he tried to figure this out. He knows I'm not pregnant. Why the tears over a towel?!

"That was Mom Mom's towel." I cried, wiping tears and reassuring my sensitive seven-year old, "It's okay, honey, I'm not really sad about the towel. I'm just sad thinking about my Mom Mom."

***

My Mom Mom passed away in May. She, Peggy Louise, was 88. She was generous and honest and sharp as a tack. She loved her grandchildren, her ocean view, and her ice water...with lots of lemon. (Mom Mom was a feisty one, too: "I'll take my ice water with lemon," she once ordered from a young waiter, "And don't skimp on the lemon, either, please. I like plenty of lemon in my ice water." The waiter returned with a glass of ice water, with approximately sixteen lemon wedges around the rim. She took the glass, looked him straight in the eye and, as he walked away, muttered under her breath "Asshole.")

She was a strong, independent woman, who traveled the world with her husband and, when he died too soon--thirty years ago, with her many friends. She was full of Class: never under-dressed, unprepared, or without a travel-sized bottle of Jean Nate to "freshen up." (I can still smell it, right now, as I'm writing this.)

Mom Mom had lived in that ocean-front condo in Florida full-time for the last fifteen years or so, though she'd been a "snow bird" for years and years...as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, my family (all ten of us) would pile into our 12-passenger Dodge Ram van and trek 16-hours to visit her in that "cozy" two-bedroom condo twice a year. Once I left for college, my visits with her were less frequent, but I had her all to myself. (And I traded in that packed van for a sweeter ride: a middle seat in coach but, to me, it was The Life!)

On one of my trips to visit her, Mom Mom noticed that I used the same 20-year old beach towel all week, despite a full linen closet. "Use a clean towel, would you, honey?" she called as I packed my beach bag one morning. "This one's fine, Mom Mom!" I reassured her, "Besides, it's my favorite."

"Well if you like it so much, you should keep the damn thing. Lord knows I don't need it."

Classic Mom Mom.

I did keep the damn thing. I took it home with me at the end of that week and it's been with me ever since. I moved it from house to house...linen closet to linen closet...and, to be honest, I didn't even use it that much. It just made me smile when I opened the closet door and saw it in there. I never told Sam the story of Mom Mom's Sun Towel.

Until tonight. Through tears.

He felt terrible, of course, that he used my beloved late grandmother's gift to sop up sewage water in our basement.

Evan, my Finder, suggested that they "just go find it, Daddy. We'll look in the trash can!" I assured Evan (and Sam) that I didn't really need the towel. And, in a way, it's kind of perfect this way: This is the kind of story that, if she heard it today, would make Mom Mom laugh her deep, hearty, belly laugh. The laugh that carried with it the joy and love that always spilled out of her in the presence of her grandchildren and great grandchildren. (I can still hear it. That laugh. I'm so happy that my kids got to hear it, too. They might not remember her laugh when they're older, but they heard it. They felt that joy, that love. And they'll remember their Great Mom Mom.)

I don't miss the towel. But I do miss that Peggy Louise.

Lesson Learned:
Our family will gather together a month from today to celebrate her life. There won't be a funeral. ("Who would come?" she said, "All of my friends are dead!" She's wrong, of course. She never gave herself credit for the number of lives she touched through her years of volunteering and serving others. It would have been a packed house.) Instead, she wanted her family to be together...it didn't matter when or where...just together. We've rented a beach house and we'll have a weekend of remembrance and story-telling...together.

I guess I'll just have to bring a different beach towel.

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