Today is Maw Maw's birthday. We miss her. It would be easy to imagine that she is in Louisiana getting ready to go out and celebrate with Paw Paw, or making gumbo or toasting french bread. This time of year, the earth is starting to stir in the south. The ground is soft and Cashmere Bouquet and Ginger Lilies have slept through a shorter winter, and you can almost feel their stretching, squirming out from under the covers to feel the warmth of the sunlight. Maw Maw loved her flowers and her gardens and her home and family. All too often I took for granted that she would always be around.
The people we love don't always just know. We like to think they do. It excuses us when we are too busy to pick up the phone or write a letter or purchase a card. Etiennette is my mother in law. What exactly does that mean? Mother In Law. I never thought about it before. I guess because Jules is my Husband In Law...?
I met Etiennette's son in January of 1973 and married him in June. She was Catholic and three weeks earlier had enjoyed all of the magic of Jules' sister's traditional southern Catholic wedding. We sort of sprung our plans on her and she was far more gracious than I gave her credit for at the time. Back then it was scandalous to be pregnant and unmarried and I'm sure that everyone thought that's why we were in such a hurry. It's still hard to imagine that we were just that sure that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. But we were, and we have and our precious Shannon was born ten months later... a big sigh from everyone, I'm sure!!
My Mom made my dress, simple white eyelet with ruffled sleeves. Her friend made our cake. It was lovely but we forgot a topper so my Mom's corsage of daisies and a yellow rosebud had to be sacrificed for the reception... punch and cake. We were married outside in my backyard. The sun was setting and the birds were starting to settle in the mulberry trees. Etiennette and Leroy and Jules' Grandma Louise had made the terribly long drive from Louisiana to be there. I know that everything we did must have made her cringe, but she never said so.
I remember receiving a package from her some weeks after the wedding. She had used boxes of Brillo pads and Louisiana Hot Sauce to tuck in between wedding gifts to prevent things from shifting in the mail. I was so ridiculous back then... I cringe. I thought she was suggesting that I didn't cook or clean. Truth is, I was awful at both but that certainly isn't what she was inferring. When Shannon was born she came to visit. She went out one morning for a walk and picked wild flowers that looked beautiful in the kitchen but all I could see were the bugs that were all over the counter. I'm so grateful that as I got older and realized that even though she was honest and opinionated and had her own way of doing things... she loved us. I'm also grateful that before she returned to Heaven we had talked and I had apologized for being as big a pain in the hiney as I had been. I know she knows now, but I hope with all my heart that she knew then that I love her too.
The people in our lives won't always love the way we do or the way we want them to. They won't always know when we're being too sensitive and our feelings get bruised. They won't always be mind readers or good nurses or strong shoulders or willing listeners. They won't always remember birthdays or anniversaries or Heaven Days... but they are the most precious beautiful perfect embodiment of love that we will ever have and we have to be willing to accept the rose with the occasional thorn.
I love you Maw Maw. I hope you are having a glorious birthday with Shannon and Lee. Know that you fill my heart. Know that whether you intended to or not, you inspired me to be a wiser woman and to trust in the heart of life's intentions. Your children and grandchildren and great grandchildren glitter and shine and life is so much better because you are still watching over us.
Hug my Shannon for me.