Ten years ago, to give as Christmas presents, I ordered tee shirts and scarves, custom embroidered in red, white and green lettering with "Christmas 2006 Proud Member of Priscilla's Clan".
Priscilla is my mom.
We gave each of her children, sons and daughters-in-law, grandchildren, and step grandchildren one or another of the embroidered items. I think I remember Mom being surprised about the whole thing.
Last night Anne asked me if I'd like the "Priscilla's Clan" tee shirt, the one I gave to Joe that Christmas 10 years ago.
"Oh yes," I said.
"You know I had to empty the attic because I was having some work done," she explained.
"I had boxes of Joe's clothes stored there. They're downstairs for now. There are other things if you want to...," her voice trailed off.
I hesitated for a minute, trying to emotionally remove myself from what she was asking.
She got up to head to the basement. She turned towards me with a hesitancy of her own.
Unspoken words floated through the air between us.
I followed her, distracted by her red strappy heels as she carefully made her way down the steps.
The boxes were stacked, one on top of another. Clear plastic ones, with colorful tops.
The kids were down there playing. Domani chattering away with his cousins.
I would glance at the boxes, then look away towards Domani, smiling at his antics.
Now, as I try to recall what I was feeling, I have an image of myself, alone, sitting on the floor, as I carefully take out each piece of him one by one, hold each one next to me in an embrace, not wanting to let go.
I remember the last night I was with him. We were all there. All of us who achingly loved Joe, none of us, not one of wanting to let him go.
I will always regret that I didn't have my alone time with him that night. Perhaps I thought I would have more time. He promised me that, you know.
Now, as she and I were focused on the boxes, but not really on the boxes, I felt awkward. I think she sensed that I might want to look through the boxes. She took the top off of one. My eyes were instantly drawn to feathery halos of soft gray fingers of fringe laying somewhere near the bottom of the box.
She began to gently lift the rows of neatly folded items, looking for the Priscilla shirt.
She found it and handed it to me. I took it and held it close.
She told me that she had already picked out a group of his tee's. She was going to have a quilt made for Domani.
I liked that idea very much and told her that.
She was about to put the lid back on the box. "If there's anything else..."
I asked if she knew about a scarf that I had made for Joe, all the while knowing that it was the one down at the bottom of the box. The one that the halo of gray fringe was attached to. But I didn't want to intrude. Funny, now that I think about it. How reserved I am. How reserved Joe was. Too polite to ask, "Would it be okay?"
She said she didn't recall. I slowly reached into the box and pulled out the gray and black scarf, the one with the feathery fringe.
"Yes, this is the one," I said.
I remembered the last time I saw him wearing the scarf. He walked into the room and I immediately noticed he was wearing the scarf. It made me happy. He wore it around it neck, hanging down loosely, making a fashion statement. He was cool that way. I believe it was at Domani's first birthday party. The only birthday party Joe would get to spend with his son.
But now, I began to cry, softly at first. She came to me comforting me with a hug, tears falling on the scarf and the Priscilla shirt that we held between us close to our hearts.
Domani stopped playing. His little face became flushed. "What's the matter?" he wanted to know.
"Grandma is just sad," she said. She leaned down next to him and whispered something to him.
"You understand, don't you?" Anne said to him.
He looked at his mother, then at me and solemnly nodded.