The view from the porch on this February weekend is a bleak one -- shades of gray and brown, the occasional mound of old hardened snow, ice on the stone walkway. The February Vacation week is over, and on Monday we return to our schoolday routines. A portion of my week was spent at my desk, doing yet more paperwork necessary to keep our spartan financial life in shape. There are issues that weigh on my mind, and I am chilled by the long cold days of winter.
Yesterday I stopped at a local garden store to buy a new feeder for my tiny finches. Even there it was bleak -- the outside sales area deserted and cold. And yet, I can visualize it as it will be in May, overflowing with shrubs, trees, beautiful flowers, pungent herbs -- all calling out to those of us who love the miracle of gardening. I came home and filled my new feeder with thistle seed, hanging it from a shepherd's hook near the front porch; then I removed the last vestiges of Christmas -- the pine garland on the porch post, and the garlands that line the sills of my back porch in the winter. I took one more peek at the tiny snowdrops peeking through the leaf mulch in the front yard, and felt the combination of anticipation and impatience so common as these last few weeks of winter linger.
At this time of year, my memories turn to my mother. March was the month of her birth and February the month of her death, so thoughts of her are particularly close to my heart during these months. I walk into my bedroom as a late afternoon sun lights the lace curtains, and my eyes fall on my mother's antique Arts & Crafts dressing table. It is battered and old, but to me it is beautiful -- there are so many memories etched into its mirror. I remember my mother sitting in front of it, brushing her long dark hair -- I must have been very young at the time, because her hair turned gray long before I was in my teens. I remember her opening the bottom drawer and gently unwrapping the tissue in a box of crystal salt shakers with tiny, tiny spoons -- a wedding gift from a favorite relative that she cherished, even though we never had the occasion to use something so beautiful at our table. I remember standing in front of the mirror in my early teens, crying to her about my weight and my lifeless hair, and receiving her warm embrace and soothing words, as always.
And then, my eyes linger on the adjacent shelves filled with teddy bears -- the beloved little bears collected by both my mother and my sister. My mother loved her bears -- they weren't of any value monetarily, but to her they were priceless. When she passed on, my sister kept the bears and made them part of her own collection. Then, a few years later, after my sister's untimely death, I found myself searching through my brother-in-law's garage sale items one chilly October evening to save the precious collections of both these women that I loved so much. Now, they all live safely in my bedroom, and are well-loved by my own grandchildren.
As we grow older, memories become even more precious to us, and these little reminders of those we love and times we loved can lift our spirits in the darkest of hours. As I wait for these last bleak days of winter to pass, I savor the small pleasures and treasures of my life. Each morning dawn comes a bit earlier, the birds are beginning to sing again, and I wake slowly to the beauty of my cozy bedroom and the aroma of coffee brewing downstairs. It is the appreciation of these little everyday details that enriches our lives, and the memories we carry with us that assure us of the continuity of the seasons and of life itself. And I hoard them all in my heart and my home -- bringing feelings of spring into the frigidness of February.