The locksmith eyed this birdfeeder and mentioned it might attract more bears than birds...oops.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Ode to Miss Miriam

My former mother in law died five years ago, this week. She never considered me anything less than a daughter and I miss her like I'd miss my own mother. I sat with her the weekend she passed away, and held her hand. Though she was in a coma, she raised her eyebrows at my comments and twitched her hand when I rose to leave. I'm sure she knew I was there. I also noticed, on her bedside table, along with her glasses, cell phone, and Chap Stick, a 3 X 5 card with my name and two contact numbers. With all the friends and family who considered her their matriarch, that in itself was such an honor. This is something I wrote in the Atlanta Journal guest book to remember her by.

The passing of an era. Miss Miriam was the closest thing our town had to a matriarch. She was the quintessential southern lady, identifying most folks by who their Mama and Daddy were, and making sure the Lay's potato chips were always served in a cut-glass crystal bowl. All the way up into her latter years, she still made reference to skills and mannerisms taught to her by her Mama and Grandmother.

 Miss Miriam could whip up a pound cake with one hand and fill out a real estate contract with the other, all the while giving sage advice to one of her 'young'uns'. When summoning one of the boys, she would usually start out calling the name of the oldest and sift through the names, sons and grandsons, laughing when she finally got to the intended child.

 If Miriam knew someone was sick, her first response was always "What can I do?" She would bring dinner or a pound cake, and call on the phone until she was certain health was restored. Even this summer, after her car keys were put away forever, she was still asking how she could help when I came down with a summer cold. 

She was the strong tower in the storm. Everyone around Miriam was cared for, from the sons, daughter-in-laws and grandchildren, all the way out to the birds flitting around her fig bushes and magnolia trees.

 She could name every flowering bush in her yard and loved a vase of her or a family member's cut flowers. Plants that would otherwise die off under the care of another would live through the winter in her garage and warm on her porch the following spring. 

"Did you get the peonies I split off for you and left on the porch?" she once asked me. I had to laugh, as peonies were the most fretful flowers to transplant and required such particular care. I spent the afternoon working the warm soil wishing my peonies could even begin to rival her huge ruffled, pink blossoms. If there was a flower in season, it was in a vase, decorating her room.

Miss Miriam loved the history of things and could tell the origins of every decorative plate and each piece of furniture. She kept clippings of old cards and letters and cherished the memories of love shared. There wasn't hardly a question she didn't have the answer to or at least a well-thought-out opinion, whether the topic was the coming election or if Mrs. Wilkes' Boarding House in Savannah had better fried chicken than The Lady and Sons. She could walk me through the best way to make shrimp and grits, and follow up with a tale of a long-ago supper at her Mama's table. 

 You always walked away from Miriam with a gift, whether it was a story, a recipe, a jar for canning preserves, or an affirmation of love. I guess that's why she was forever propagating plant stems in a glass jar on a sunny windowsill.

 Her heart was about sharing and spreading the things she loved out to those she cared about. And because of that, the love she nurtured and invested in her family and friends will remain strong and carry on for generations to come. She lived well, loved well and we are all blessed and better people for having known her. 

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