Little things

Shared by K Allison White Yoes on October 8, 2011

It's still very hard to write anything about Mom three weeks later, but I remember how thoughtful Mom was about little things that seemed very important to me at the time. 

For example, I was trying out for an activity at a new school and I had zero chance of being selected for the activity, but desperately wanted to be selected.  When I arrived home from school that day after the selection was announced, Mom asked how it went.  When I told her I wasn't selected, she gave me a beautiful heart pendant on a chain.  Only years later did I realize -- she knew I wouldn't be selected -- but Mom bought the heart pendant and chain in advance to help soften the blow.  She was incredibly kind to consider a 6th grader's feelings that way.  She was really good at that.  I miss her.   



Mom's Triathlon

Shared by Michaux Dempster on September 25, 2011

Mom was not athletic or even particularly competitive--she loved to dance and sing, but team sports or exercise as competition was never part of her neccessary makeup.  It's not part of mine, either--like Mom, I am not physically brave.  I am afraid of heights, and when I started riding my entry-level, flat-bar road bike, I was terrified of the cars, and the turns, and of braking.  When I got over some of that, I was terrified of clipless pedals--the idea that I couldn't just put my feet on the ground to stop seemed profoundly impossible.  And yet I had been training for the Naylor's Beach Aquabike event (a triathlon minus the running) for several months by the time Mom passed away.  During one of the ten or so conversations that Allison and I had that night, I told her I'd skip the race to come be with her and Grandmother.  "Don't," she said.  "Go, and run it in Mom's honor."  "But isn't there a lot to do?" I asked her.  Don't you need me to be there and help?" 

"Set a personal best," Allison answered.  I pointed that out that since this was my first triathlon ever, I could hardly fail to achieve that.  Turned out to be a very good thing.

I swam in a wetsuit for the first time the day of the race, and was shocked by the difficulty of moving through the water in it.  Swimming is my strong point in this event, if there is one--Mom had me and Allison on the Baton Rouge Piedmont swim team as soon as we could float.  That day, though, the current pushed me back, and the buoyancy and constriction of the rented wetsuit made me feel as if I were paddling from the top of an inner tube--with Ace bandages wrapped around my arms and legs.  I slowed down and kept swimming.

The bike leg would be such a relief, I told myself all the way through the Rappahannock River; and it was, until I heard that awful sound for any cyclist, ever--the sudden hiss that means you've had a puncture. I had flatted out after only a couple of miles.  John, a roadside assistant, tried valiantly to change it, and finally succeeded-and then, before I could even put away the tools, we heard the same sound again.  Something was wrong with my bike, and it was not going to get fixed today. 

While John radioed the support vehicle, I stood on the side of the road and cried. 

"There'll be other races," John told me.

"I could be with my family right now," I answered.  "My mom died two days ago, and I could have gone to Arkansas and Baton Rouge with them, but they said stay and do this in her name.  And now I have to tell them I didn't finish."   John stopped talking and gave me a hug.  "It will be okay," he said.  I thought of the post I'd put up on Facebook the day before: "I'm still doing the Aquabike--in my Mom's memory,"  and of my sister, telling when I wavered a few days before the race, "You're doing the right thing."  I cried some more. 

And then I looked up and saw my husband coming towards us, running his last leg of the event.  My heavy heart lifted a little, just because it was him.  Greg got to us just as the support truck pulled up; I explained. 

"A bike's a bike," he said, in his matter-of-fact, Scottishly practical way.  "Ride mine.  Can she do that?" he asked John, who walkie-talkied the request back to some kind of tri headquarters, got it approved, and joyfully delivered me to Greg's bike.  Can I do this?  I asked myself, as John lowered the bike seat, and I mounted the super-light racing Felt, with true clipless pedals (mine were commuters--pedals that allow you to unclip and ride like a sane person) and aerobars, and brakes that I had to reach out and down to and close with two fingers.

Did I mention that I'm not a risk-taker?

I thought of Mom, and clipped in and rode.  It was wonderful.  As I passed each turn, hearing the still-enthusiastic cheers of the race volunteers, I could not stop smiling.  I finished the twenty-six-mile course on Greg's killer racing machine, and I would never have tried it if I hadn't promised Mom that I would. 

Shop till You Drop!

Shared by Michaux Dempster on September 24, 2011

One activity that was a perpetual, supply of energy for Mom was shopping for clothes for me and my sister.  I do not think that even the Kennedys spent more time and thought on their children's wardrobe than my mom and grandmother did on me and Allison.

When we were children,  Mom made sure we had matching dresses for the major church holidays, and sometimes for the minor ones as well--finery that would be worn as we sat in our velvet-cushioned family pew at First Presbyterian, and then, if we were lucky, kept on for the dinners afterward at one set of grandparents' house or the other.  Often as not, though, we were made to remove the dresses in favor of something that was less liable to stains; I remember begging to keep mine on, on more than one holiday occasion.  Of course, our dresses would only match each other for one season, since I would outgrow mine; poor Allison would eventually receive my hand-me-down, thus wearing the same dress for two or three years in a row.

But the real glory days were during back-to-school shopping.  Baton Rouge could not hold enough apparel for us to choose from; we would spend the night at my grandfather's apartment in New Orleans, waking up to a bagful of super-saturated Popeye's biscuits, and then get to Uptown Square by the time the doors opened at 10.  We shopped with gusto and sometimes with wild abandon.  Bags grew heavy in our hands by noon, and had to be stored in the trunk of Grandmother's LeSabre; after gumbo in the Maison Blanche restaurant, we'd attack the bewildered salespeople at Lakeside Mall, perhaps needing a mid-afternoon car visit unload even more loot.

Allison and I were not that big, and we wore uniforms to school for most of our lives; yet we had to sit thigh-to-thigh in the backseat of the car on the way home from these trips, drunk on the shopping endorphins and high on the imaginings of how beautiful and chic we would look in our new trappings. 

Allison is an attorney, and I teach college writing; To this day, whenever there is a big presentation, first day of classes, or major court case, the first thing that comes to our minds is, "What should we wear?"  For Mom's funeral service, I'll be in grey tropical wool, a dress picked out for me by Allison, worn on the occasion of my grandfather's funeral eleven years ago (and I do not plan to change out of it for the reception afterwards).  I know Mom would approve.


Shared by Michaux Dempster on September 23, 2011

Some of the best times with Mom were the parties she gave--not for herself, but for me and my friends.  When I was in fifth grade, she had a "fifties" party for my birthday--I had been in love with that decade ever since getting hooked on "Happy Days."  We had the party in the carport (more room for dancing) and played the Beach Boys and Chubby Checker (fifties, sixties--who cared?) on a record player with the world's longest extension cord.  My girlfriends and I danced and laughed and took what we thought were sexy pictures; and it was all Mom's doing.  When I was in college, I wanted a Christmas party--and Mom made real my visions of wearing taffeta, drinking hot chocolate, and singing carols on the piano that barely fit in our dining room.  Even after all that, Mom had the extra energy to add special decorations to the food table; she borrowed holiday dolls from her friend Mrs. Vick to add her own particular flair to the already-sumptuous spread.  The house was full of my friends, once again laughing, singing, playing Trivial Pursuit and having a fantastic time, and it never would have happened without all Mom's enthusiasm for entertaining.

When I decided to get married at the mature age of twenty-one, I embarked on my own entertaining plans for the first time.  I bought my own dress, reserved White Oak Landing, and chose the menu.  To save money, I decided to use the floral arrangements that the plantation already had in the big front parlor where the ceremony was to be; I remember wanting so much for the wedding to be all my doing, and jealously reserving all these decisions for myself whenever Mom would ask a question.  She especially fretted about flowers for the front door of the wide Southern porch.  I complained that this was ridiculous--there were glossy black rockers, scrubbed brick, and massive oak double doors for decoration--why flowers?  So Mom snuck them in--a half dozen ceramic pots the size of turkey smokers with white and red chrysanthemums blooming--flowers later to be featured and multiplied in my grandfather's front yard.  I hadn't known they were a necessity, but when I look at the picture now, I understand the urgency.

Thank you for the flowers, Mom--they were perfect.

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