As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that sometimes the family in your life who are the most difficult to be with are the ones who love you the most. Or at least, a great deal more than you’d ever imagine.
Today was the day to polish the furniture. A chore I still tend to despise. But I’d put it off as long as possible, and it was sorely needing to be done.
And so, as soon as the breakfast dishes were done and Riley headed out to the range, I resigned myself to the chore and collected the rag and a bowl of warm water. Soap wouldn’t do on the wood, as it would roughen it. But a damp cloth worked wonders. I started with the hutch in the dining room, the one that held all the dishes. It took me awhile to get into every nook and cranny, but I was determined that if I was going to tackle the job, I was going to do it right. That way I wouldn't have to do it again soon.
Once I was started, I realized it would probably be the hardest piece of furniture. The tables wouldn’t be too hard, nor would Riley’s desk and the headboard on the beds. But this… it was taking some doing.
When I finished at last, I decided to start in the living room next. Quickly, I started and finished both side tables.
By now, I could hear the animals outside as they came to life. The horses galloping across the pasture, kicking up dirt behind their hooves. No doubt the sun was warming the earth and drying the dew.
Oh, how I longed to be out there!
After I finished the table, I moved on to the cedar chest. It sat up against the far window across from the settee. Mother had filled it with all my childhood things, and ever since I had married, it had sat here. Unmoved and unopened.
Perhaps it was because I wanted to taste those days again, or perhaps it was because I only wanted to put off finishing the chore. Whatever the reason, I set the rag aside and opened the chest.
A flood of memories overwhelmed me as I saw a fluffy, huge hat sitting atop the neatly stacked blankets, hair ribbons, overalls, and photographs that had filled my childhood. I gently picked up the hat. It was nothing like the cowboy hat that normally sat on my head. No, this was a lady’s hat. It was white and big, with foo-foos on top. And came with a large muff.
Aunt Rebecca had brought it all the way from San Francisco. I remember how I despised that thing—and Aunt Rebecca—for insisting I wear it. It seemed horrid and ugly to my eleven-year-old mind. Worse even than the hat she’d brought when I was eight. What was it about Aunt Rebecca and hats?
And it was true. This fancy hat would never have lasted more than a day with me. Mother tucked it away and kept it safe. I only wore it to Sunday services whenever Aunt Rebecca visited in the wintertime—which wasn’t often, thank goodness. Auntie puffed up in pride when she saw that hat on me and my too-hot hands stuff into the muff. Heaven only knows why.
Now, looking at the hat, I wish I had gotten to know Aunt Rebecca better. I mean really know her. After the letter from her that I opened on my wedding day, I realized there was a part of her I had never seen, a part I had never really cared to see. But now? What I wouldn’t give for one more day with her.
Why had I been so dad-blasted stubborn about keeping my distance? The three long weeks I spent with her in San Francisco the year of the scarlet fever outbreak was partly the reason I tried to avoid her after that. I’d had about enough of her bossing ways, even though my big sister Melinda kept telling me “Be patient. Don’t let Auntie rile you.” Clearly, Melinda was much wiser than I.
I blinked hard, keeping back the tears that sprang to my eyes. Why does it often take something like death to make us realize just how much a person means to us?
I put the hat back inside and gently closed the lid. That was enough memories for one day. I could never go back, so there was no use wishing. And I am happy with where God had led me in my life. Really, I am. It’s just that sometimes I get a pinch of longing for how things used to be.
Well, after that, it didn’t take long to finish the furniture. In fact, it took less time than I had expected. I headed outdoors to spend some time with the horses before it was time to start laundry.
The sun greeted my face as I stepped off the stairs, and I smiled. I couldn’t go back, but I could make every new day count. Starting with today.