Just as our mama Sylvia was a clothes horse, she was also an ardent correspondent. Receiving a stamped envelope, address handwritten, a card with a landscape or a silly cat, graced with a few thoughtful words, was a “big boost” to her day.
Something has occurred to me. As I have mentioned before, our mother was timid. And shy. In groups of more than two, her stories and jokes were as wobbly as her confidence.
Those of you who met my mother, or saw her photos online, would all agree that Sylvia Myers Willoughby was a determinedly fashionable woman. In the rehab hospital, healing a cracked pelvis at 88, mama (pronounced as in “Downtown Abbey” with emphasis on the second syllable) chose her outfits carefully and always added accessories.
I am here to disperse my mother’s final remains on paper. In the few short weeks after her death, I have unearthed a small mountain of cards she stored away – received from family and friends.
So picture my dear mama (emphasis on the second syllable – as elocuted in Downton Abbey) Sylvia Myers Willoughby, age around 88, sitting comfortably in a corner of this settee, crime novel in hand. It’s cocktail time at the Lake, which invariably involves gin and tonics and a tray of sharp, sweating Vermont cheddar perched atop Triscuits.
It was about six years ago. I was riding a bicycle across the multiple train tracks in a small, charming rural town in Cajun Prairie country, in Louisiana. I had my laundry carefully folded and packed into two large plastic bags that were hanging from my handlebars. Apparently, I hadn’t really thought through the mechanics of this transport.
I was 48 when I started running marathons. I did not do it to get into better shape; I did it because I was desperate to go to Hawaii. So what if I was middle-aged and had not run in twenty years?