READY: Holding on to remembrances of things past

Mary Ready | Log Columnist

When my mother’s Destin Log doesn’t arrive on time, by Saturday morning, she becomes highly irritated and somewhat disoriented. It’s her habit every Saturday to read the paper carefully, then take the scissors to my column. This ritual is her way of holding on to routine and keeping at bay the hobgoblins of change. Carefully placing the cut-out pieces of my words into an album, she numbers each one and records the date. Performing this task on Monday or Tuesday is unacceptable. It’s just gotta be Saturday. Since I’ve been writing for some time now, she has several volumes containing my weekly articles dating from Jan. 21, 1998.

In total disdain of the recent political campaign rhetoric calling for radical change in our country’s future, mom battles the forces of newness on many fronts.

At the grocery store, we’ve spent countless hours looking for products that haven’t been available in years. If the box says “new and improved,” or it has changed its packaging colors since 1957, it really ticks her off. Regular strength denture powder in the blue package is gone. It’s now only extra strength in a green box, and this is unsettling to her sense of inner harmony.

She has a JitterBug phone, but won’t use it or take it with her when she leaves the house. She says she only wants it to call for help if she falls down. It’s pointless to suggest that keeping it permanently on the charger in the living room will do her no good if she falls in the back bathroom. I suggested one of those Life Alert gadgets, but she says it’s too complicated. And, besides, it’s for “old people” (She’s 94).

Like me, she hates round-abouts and one-way streets because it’s not like roads in the old days when you went back and forth in natural directions. She’s also not too keen on giant retail stores in sprawling shopping centers. Little mom and pop stores are all we need.

Her nightly letters to my father is another way she holds on to things past. Since he died in 1999, she has never failed to write him about the day’s events and remind him of the good times they shared in their 56 years of marriage.

In other news (as they say on T.V.), Japanese war planes bombed the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. The loss of life and destruction of property was staggering. In the private quarters of a navy family on base, a Duncan Fife round top occasional table survived along with several other pieces of furniture in the house. The widow, whose husband had been one of the 2,403 killed in the attack, received her furnishings almost 20 years later when the Navy released them from storage and shipped them back to the states. My mother bought the table from her, and it held an honored place in our home for decades until she gave it to me. I also cherished that table, especially for the history and the human pathos which surrounded it.

Some years ago, my husband tripped over a footstool and fell head first into my table, breaking it into several pieces. The top separated from the elegantly carved pedestal, the drawer broke, the glass rolled away into the foyer, and the full length of one of the claw- footed tripod legs splintered in half. I was so furious at him, I didn’t even ask if he was hurt. In fact, I hoped he was! When he saw the heart-sick anger on my face, he vowed to fix it good as new. After a profusion of apologies, I forgave him and got him an ice pack for his injuries. True to his word, he repaired the damage as well as he could. Later, I took some time to ponder what’s really important. I concluded that as much as I loved that piece, it was just wood and glass, regardless of its rich history.

Now, when I look at it, I see beyond the table to the man who was my constant for 48 years in an ever-changing world. And I miss him every day of my life.

I chuckle when I remember that treasured old table once survived two waves of 353 Japanese attack planes, but it couldn’t survive a clumsy Frank.

His death brought changes — all of them unsettling — and I tolerate those changes and adapt to them as best I can.

But, like Mom, nobody can make me like them.

Mary Ready of Destin is a twice-retired English teacher and long-time area resident. Her columns are published on Saturdays.