Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Wonderful Mrs. Jane Bennet Davis

Ciera and I were so happy to be there. Portland was part of our journey north to start our own life. Mama took us in and she was wonderful. The first day I bought groceries and she slipped me some cash, “you should never have to pay for groceries here.”

Over the summer we spent a great deal of time together. I would happily come downstairs and grab a cup of coffee. Then we would read the newspaper together, trading sections as we finished them. Then, after I read the comics and Ciera had woken up, we would dig into the crossword until we were stumped. Mama was much better than Ciera or I. She never gave herself enough credit for her achievements. She could easily fill out 60-75% of a crossword well before Ciera or I even rolled out of bed.

The summer was a gray one, but I only remember beautiful days with her. We potted her hanging plant. A beautiful red flowering plant that swayed gently in the breeze. Over the summer one red bloom turned into hundreds.

Mama fed seeds to the squirrels. In the morning they would come by the door and rap on the glass, trying to get in. She would take a handful and lay it in front of the squirrels.

She and Kerry the cat had a special bond; Mama would scold her or talk to her, knowing exactly what she wanted. I often tried to decipher what Kerry's belligerent pawings at the door or at the chair meant; Mama knew exactly. “We have a special language,” she used to say. I always thought it was funny because they were such close little companions. Kerry would try to get up on the chair with her, one of the few people that cat was ever affectionate with. Kerry would stand guard in the halls at night, or sleep on the bed with her. They matched each other well; both were beautiful and tiny; set in their ways but in a gentle way—one devoid of stubbornness.

One evening I brought a duckling that Ciera had volunteered to take care of home. Mama was excited to see it, “isn't that so adorable!” With her faint southern accent everything that came from her mouth was honey.

We celebrated her 82nd birthday. She dressed up in a pink suit, drank a little too much red wine, and had a wonderful time. We all did. I put on a shirt and tie to really make it a celebration. The family got together every Sunday night for Family Dinner but this was a special occasion.

Seeing her all summer was one of the most important parts of my life. That I had the good fortune to graduate college and be totally aimless for a summer was worth all of the personal uncertainty. As much as Ciera and I were worried about jobs and finding an apartment and a place to live and a place to be, I found in Mama a true and wonderful support.

With her passage, Ciera and I now have a very noticeable hole in our lives. She brought us in in her perfectly magnanimous way; the southern belle gave us so much. I only wish I had been able to give more of it back; that the summer hadn't ended, and that I could have just one more quiet morning with her. The cat sitting by her side, the red blossoms hanging under her white awning over the deck, the sun peeking through the big trees in the backyard, the smell of coffee and bacon, a nearly finished crossword, and Mama sitting there—humming lightly to herself.