As a little girl you tried to learn the violin, and always wanted to grow your hair long so you could wear a baseball cap, and pull your ponytail through the hole on the back. Neither dream came to fruition, so instead you’ve lived vicariously through your daughters and granddaughters, with our long blonde tresses and musical endeavors. You always insist on standing next to me in church to hear me sing, and although singing is already one of my favorite things to do, it brings me special joy when I know you are listening.
Your husband affectionately calls you Loree-o. He made you a license plate with that nickname on it, and one day it fell off while you were driving to Valley View Elementary School where you taught cursive and multiplication to third graders. At the end of the school day, a little boy came running up to you in the parking lot and handed you your license plate. You were mortified that the license plate was so easily recognizable as yours.
When you were twenty-five, you gave birth to one baby girl, quickly followed by a second, unexpected baby girl. In the days when a healthy pregnancy meant no ultrasounds, you managed to carry twins for eight months without knowing it. You and your husband had only picked out one girl name, Mia, and one boy name, Michael, so you quickly changed Michael to Michelle, and decided that, with the twins, your family was complete. Forty-three years later, your twins are still the best of friends, unintentionally matching, and confusing friends and strangers alike in the grocery store of the tiny town where they both live.
You’ve always loved children’s books. Every year for Halloween you would dress up for your class as the dreadful Viola Swamp from Miss Nelson is Missing. When we lived far away in Massachusetts and the cousins lived in Texas you started recording yourself reading books on tape for our listening enjoyment. One day, the cousins had their jeep broken into, and the thief stole their radio with a tape of you reading The Cat in the Hat still inside. To this day, we fall into hysterics when we imagine a gruff robber plugging in the stereo to hear you reading “I know it is wet and the sun is not sunny but we can have lots of good fun that is funny.”
You can’t stand leftovers, and always crumple your napkin and put it on your plate at the end of a meal. I have many wonderful memories of gathering around your oval table in the dining nook with so many window at the yellow house on Wildhorse Lane. On the first night we arrived you would usually serve chicken and dumplings because you knew it was my favorite.
One year, when all of the cousins were young, you decided to host a family talent show at Christmas. I’m sure us kids did something fun and adorable, but distinctly unmemorable. Your son-in-laws, however, got up and reenacted the sisters scene from White Christmas complete with blue feather boas and theatrical winks, and it was so funny that we decided to make the talent show an annual event called the Family Showcase. Over ten years later, we’re still going strong.
You are so good at listening, at asking questions that make people open up, and letting them know that you hear them. I can’t wait to come home and sit on the plaid couch in your cozy living room and swap stories of the adventures we’ve had since August. Only 25 more days till I see you again!