My tongue is in my hand…


Posted on: October 28, 2009

To begin, I will begin at the beginning. The beginning of my very first diary, at least. It’s purple, with pink ballet slippers and red roses with green stems all over it. The inside covers are pink, the pages- lined and white, with a place for the date at the top. There’s a little silk ribbon to mark the page I’m on, and a brass lock. The brass key has been lost.

On the inside cover:

This (private) diary belongs to Rebecca Lane Brooks. Hands off!

The first entry: (unedited and displayed as accurately as possible)

Dec. 25, 1991

Today is Christmas! When I opened this present I was so happy! These are some more things I got. A watch, and a Cabbage Patch (a doll thats hair Crimps & Curles). My Grandmother died Christmas Eve morning I was very sad.

Morning 😦

later that day 🙂

I was eight, in the 2nd grade at this time. I’ve looked back at this entry many times, the first thing that always hits me is my drawings at the bottom. I do remember the sadness that echoed throughout my family with the loss of MawMaw Faye. The sudden tragedy of ovarian cancer found too late, of a loving but tumultuous woman and mother lost before all the words were said. I remember the joy of the holiday too, though. The inevitable excitement and happiness of lights and ornaments and gifts and treats and family.

I don’t remember if it was a “Santa” present or not, but I assume my mom picked out this diary for me. I’m not sure why a ballet slipper one. Maybe she liked the purple background (her favorite color), maybe she just thought it was pretty, maybe it was the only one (or the best one) there was and she was thinking more about me writing than what was on the cover…

It was a pivotal year in my family, the whole family, since we all lived on the farm together, went to church together, and us kids went to school together- all our lives strung together. Me, mom, dad and Rachel; MawMaw and PawPaw; Steve, Theresa, Clint, and Cody; Allen, Janet, Stephanie, Julie, and Katie.

Daddy was 33 when his mom died. Allen a few years older, Steve a few years younger. They found out she had cancer that summer of ’91. Towards the end, she was at home, now I know it was probably with hospice care. She had a hospital bed in the living room, where the scratchy yellow couch used to be. Paw Paw’s scratchy yellow arm chair was still there though. Daddy had us go up there, sit by the fire hearth and watch Wheel of Fortune with the nurse standing by and PawPaw in his chair, and then had us give MawMaw  kiss. I hesitated (at least in my mind) because she looked so very different. And because I didn’t really understand she was dying.

MawMaw was a big woman, not always, but when I knew her. Like, mu mu wearing big. She kept her hair rolled. It was short and blonde. Her skin was porcelain pale and loose. She always had sweets in the house. She loved us. She loved crafts. And birds. And butterflies. She made the very best mush. If you don’t know what mush is, I’m not sure I can tell you. It’s sort of like grits, but better. No one’s been able to make any since she died. Not they haven’t tried.

Their house was at the top of our road and we were up there a good bit. When we were waiting for the junior high bus to drop us off, we’d sit on the porch -Rachel, Julie, and I- with MawMaw and she would chant this chant “I’m stirring my brew, my witch’s pot, stirring, stirring, stirring…bring Stephanie’s bus!” And the bus would come! We would laugh and clap. It took me years to realize the bus came at the same time everyday!

Sometimes, she’d let us go in her beaded change purse that seemed to have more coins than anyone could ever need in it, and let us get enough each to walk to the store and get some penny candy. The store was at the very top of our road. It used to be a general store that my great grandfather ran. By then, it was the Handy Pantry with red and white eaves and a 2 gas pumps. We thought we were so grown running down that gravel all by ourselves to the store to pick out whatever we wanted. Our favorite candies were those little caramels that have the white cream in the center. We would peel the caramel off, eat it first, and then let the sweet center melt in our mouths as we walked back.

At MawMaw’s, our toys were on the back porch, in a tin trash can, beside the washer. I loved the pound puppies. I didn’t have those at home. We didn’t have a lot of rules that I much remember over there. Just don’t step on her buttercups. And don’t litter in her yard. And don’t make mud pies in her dishes (we learned that one the hard way). When we spent the night, we slept on pool floats in the living room floor and I couldn’t imagine anything more fun and novel at the time.

What I knew, what I know, of MawMaw is limited in personal experience- scattered with other’s interpretations, reflections,  experiences, and stories. I know though, that losing her changed everything. Changed Daddy and his brothers. Changed PawPaw. Changed Daddy and Mama. Changed my understanding of life and death.

After her funeral, we went to Allen’s house with the rest of the family and ate and people laughed and I didn’t know what to think. We had just cried and been so quiet and sad in church and now we hug and joke and laugh and eat? Later, I saw that it wasn’t over so quickly. It was just the way it goes, it was how we kept living.


and then


was just the preliminaries, it was just the beginning.


1 Response to "Beginning"

It’s weird to see my younger cousins in this post. Caleb James was about 6 when Grandma passed away… and I think his experiences are pretty close to what you just described. Freedom at Grandma’s house, not a whole lot of memories to go on, hearing more about her through aunts and uncles.
I see Caleb James in this post.

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