New Year 2010

Another holiday come and gone. Another year redolent with feasting, bread baking, and candy hardening. In the 1940s my Mom was at the center of holiday hubbub, coming out of it occasionally to fuss that she could use a little help.

Another hour of Christmas carols and cantatas, sung not so very loud because memories sometimes choked the music. Another pang of regret that I never met Mom’s Mom, Grandma Sallie Wilson and her dusty-white apron.

I knew her cousin Rev. John Wilson and learned from him which niece and nephew belonged to which aunt and uncle. But there is so much more to know. Mom didn’t particularly care about family history, and her memories were dulled by 90 years of life.

The floury apron of Grandma Wilson, Mom’s mom, illustrates all I know about her. Cousin John said Tuesday was Sallie’s day to bake bread for the week, and olfactory signals seemed to spread along Pennsylvania’s Cumberland Valley. John said he could still see her, standing straight and tall in the farmhouse doorway, her arms akimbo.

My mother was born in 1898. That seems like forever ago. Her father was a farmer and a wagoneer. He was killed by a fall off a wagon.

My mother was in her teens and, as the middle daughter among four boys and three girls, took over a lot of the housework. Still, she finished high school and went to teaching in a one-room schoolhouse. She moved to Harrisburg, with her cancer-stricken mother, to become a legal stenographer by day and her mother’s caretaker by night.

Now, what pulled me down that bumpy side road? Memories. Or rather, loss of memories. I often find myself grieving, not so much for loss of friends or relatives as for having lost the memories of them.

Memory loss extends far beyond losing the car keys, the medics tell us. Not knowing what a car key does – that’s scarier.

When my purse (with credit cards and driver’s license) and key chain (with two car and two house keys, plus Curves and Kroger swipes) were stolen in Germany, I knew I’d never see them again and took immediate action. It shook me, I’ll admit. I was disappointed too, not having a credit card as our trip was winding up.

Within days we were back in the States, and I had done all I needed to do: ordered a new VISA card, got a new license, replaced my “swipe keys.” Just this week I bought a small purse to replace the stolen one, and had keys made, both plastic and metal.

They all disappeared within hours. This has happened so many times lately, I’m beginning to remember what to do. First thing to do is to do nothing. Funny, I feel sanguine about the whole business. I know the bank protects me, and with careful vigilance I might be able to thwart the bad guy.

I feel like I won the game of Chicken. I was sitting right here in the office chair when I had to get something in the other room, and began to stand up. On the seat of an older chair parked near the desk were my wallet, license, and keys. They had been there, I’m sure, for the couple of weeks I had “lost” them. How is that possible? How could I not see a coin purse not four feet from where I sit to work?

I think invisibility is partly to blame. Baby-U, our little Uriah, seems to know it’s not worth fussing about it. Things will appear on a timetable of their own.

I had forgotten Jean told me the 3-year-old had an invisible friend. named Wilbur. Toward the end of our Thanksgiving visit, I was honored with an introduction.

The little boy walked carefully across the room with his hands cupped together as though he was carrying water in them.

“What do you have there, Baby-U?” I asked.

“He’s my friend,” he said, with a pleased smile, proffering his hands for me to take their contents.

“What’s his name?” I asked.

“Wilbur. And he’s a pig. Do you want to hold him?”

I took him gently into my cupped hands, and just as suddenly as it began, the tiny drama ended. I don’t even remember where we put the invisible pig, and no one seems to care. I just hope he’s there when we go again.

Might this be a memory I remember?