Sunday, January 3, 2010

Nudges & Smudges

I have lots of family photos that I've framed and arranged on a dresser in my bedroom. I have them there so that those are the last faces I see before I go to sleep each night, and the first faces to greet me when I awaken each morning. They remind me of where I come from, who I really am, and who all awaits me when my days on earth are over. I'm arguably the most sentimental member of my family. I make no apology for that distinction.

This afternoon, while cleaning and moving those frames around, I noticed something that I sometimes forget that I have....just behind a couple of pictures of my grandparents sits their old rotary telephone. I know it seems like an odd piece of memorabilia, but it was really one of the only things I asked for when the family divided up their estate. It's what you would expect from a rotary dial phone - black and pretty beat up. But there, hand-written in the center of the dial, is a phone number I loved to call when I was a child. My grandparents always answered the phone with one word - "Stevens." We all thought that was peculiar, but it suited them so who were we to question...and who, among my family members, wouldn't love to hear that greeting one more time.
I reached down and gently picked up the phone receiver - not to make a call - it hasn't worked in years - but I just wanted to hold it for a second. Then I did something I don't suppose I've ever done. I flipped over the receiver and looked at the earpiece and mouthpiece. I froze in place. There was a woman's makeup on the earpiece. I'd never noticed it before. It was my grandmother's makeup. At this point a flood of memories washed over me - as though I had discovered a time capsule. Then, suddenly I remembered what day this is - January 4, 2010. My grandmother died on January 4, 2000. Today marks 10 years since her passing.
As I rested the phone receiver back in its cradle, I sat down and thought about my grandmother. Her name was Pauline Martin. She was the oldest of 3 daughters born to Fred and Lucy Martin of Okolona, Mississippi. She graduated from Wren School and married C. L. Stevens. They ran a small general store on the outskirts of town until the invention of the television led my grandfather into a new career as a TV repairman. All the while my grandmother did what most girls of that time did - she was a faithful and dutiful wife and mother. She prepared 3 hot meals a day her entire married life. She nursed her dying parents, and an uncle, in her own home. She raised 4 children and spoiled 10 grandchildren. She was the most generous, hard working, and loving person I have ever known. Even into her 80's, she would stand on her feet all day - often in great pain - to prepare a big meal for her family. She was never happier than when we were all seated around her table. We adored her.
About 3 months after her death, the entire family gathered for Easter dinner at the old home place. Everything was just as she had left it. We determined that we would have one last meal at her home before we emptied out the house for good. It was a beautiful Easter Sunday, and though we tried to embrace the joy of that special day, none of us could mask the sadness we all felt as we prepared for this "last supper." Mamaw had cupboards still full of food. There were many jars of vegetables that she had canned herself. So we did what we knew she would want us to do. We opened those jars and we prepared a fine dinner in the tradition that she herself had established. I'll never forget looking down at my plate and seeing the last bite of food and thinking, "this is it - I really don't want to take that last bite." I did take that last bite - reverently - like one might take communion. Someone discovered Christmas candy she had make and left in the freezer. It was her famous divinity. I took a piece. It's still in my freezer today.

I wish that everyone who reads this could have known Pauline Stevens. How blessed I am to have called her "Mamaw" for so many years. And how thankful I am that God nudged me today - of all days - with something as simple as a smudge of makeup on a telephone. I will never wash that phone... and I'll never thaw that divinity.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Monday, February 23, 2009

Racing Toward Eternity

"...many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased" (Daniel 12:4)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Why I Never Write Songs on an Empty Stomach...

This was performed on the morning show in Tupelo, Mississippi - a show I've appeared on many times, but never like this...