Originally posted on the old writing blog on March 29, 201
On October 31, 2000, Lisa Mae Gregory passed away quietly in her sleep at the age of 39 years in the home she had owned with her husband, Daniel, and her three children Jacob, Marion, and Alice. The Lisa Mae’s family had lived in Tennessee since the Irish came over to escape the potato famine in the late 1840s. Daniel’s family were of a mutt descent and no one really remembered where their ancestors hailed from, but they had settled in the backwoods of Tennessee easily enough that when Lisa Mae and Daniel had been born and grown up, they met and married and had children – all of the things that were expected of them.
However, Lisa Mae was unhappy that she died on Halloween. Her parents families had treated Halloween as the Devil’s holiday and so she taught the same to her children. Daniel did not share these ideas and when Lisa Mae was found, dead in her bed from a stroke in the night, he made sure to comfort their children by saying that Mom would still be around for a little while longer while the veil between worlds was thin.
This irked her. He didn’t know she would be there (she was) and didn’t appreciate him telling the children that she was still around. He should have been praising God and telling them she was at God’s side in Heaven instead.
She stood in her country kitchen with its yellow flower wallpaper and ’70s Formica counter-tops scowling. Of course people were observing the Southern Tradition of bringing large amounts of food to the bereaved. Their little square wooden table that belonged to her great-grandmother was filled to overflowing with macaroni salads, pies, and various other unidentifiable casseroles. The children were put on display in the living room as her husband sat with them, all four of them red eyed and wet faced.
Lisa couldn’t help but wish that she had vacuumed before she died. The new beige carpet they had put in a two weeks prior showed so much dirt that she was ashamed to have died without vacuuming it. Then she remembered her headache and remembered that she had intended on vacuuming today. But now it was too late. She wondered if someone was going to think about her dirty carpet at the funeral.
“Lisa Mae, you gotta let them be. You can’t be hoverin’ like this.” Aunt Ida told her as she stood once more in the living room of her used to be home. It was Christmas eve a year after Lisa Mae had passed. Daniel had put the tree up, but some of the decorations she loved most were missing. The handprint Alice had made in kindergarten, the little foam gingerbread house Marion made when Jacob was born, the little snowglobe they bought when she lost the last baby, they were all destroyed the new dog – well not new anymore. They got that stupid dog a few months after she died. Daniel thought it might help with the hurt. While she knew he meant well, she never liked dogs and it hurt her that it felt as if they wanted to forget her.
“The tree is missing some ornaments.” She said. She was surprised at how calm her spirit voice was when she really wanted to scream.
“I know, dear. But it isn’t your tree anymore. Or your house. You will meet them all in the end, but you gotta let them finish living first.”
“I know, Aunt Ida. I just can’t help it. He is making all the wrong decisions! He lets the kids eat ice cream before dinner, he lets them dress up for Halloween-Halloween! And now, the most precious tree ornaments are gone because of that stupid dog.” Lisa Mae spat out the last comment. The dog perked up his ears and looked in her direction.
“Now, Lisa. Don’t get Rascal all tore up. You remember what happened last Easter when they got him. You started whoopin’ up a storm and that poor puppy went crazy and knocked all the candy off the coffee table.” Aunt Ida was smiling and held back a giggle and she recounted the last Easter.
Lisa Mae did remember that day. She couldn’t believe Daniel brought home a puppy for the children. Then, a softness came to her and she saw past her anger to Daniel’s excitement. Ever since she had died, the house was quiet and somber, not full of laughter like it used to be. Daniel was trying to bring life back to the house with the dog, and he did. The children loved the little golden lab puppy and she remembered how they all laughed until they cried as his antics. They didn’t know it was because of her.
She looked at them again, at the tree missing ornaments, and saw they had replaced the ornaments with new ones. Another snow globe, but a snowman inside this one instead of a house. another hand-print, but cut from an old school project she had saved. Another gingerbread house, but this one made from homemade Play Dough. All hung high so the dog can’t get them this time.
Her heart softened a little more as she heard them speaking.
“…and this one is for momma in heaven”. Daniel said and handed a small, sliver and gold cube to each of the children. Alice, Jacob, and Marion opened the gifts together slowly opening the silver and gold starred paper, taking great pains not to tear it. Lisa watched as three hands brought out almost identical ornaments from their respective boxes, a clear Christmas ball with glittery paint on the bottom. However, Lisa Mae could see that in each one was a picture of her and each of her children.
“This way, momma will always be with us ever Christmas. No matter where we are she will be with you. When you grow up and move out, you can take these with you and put them on your own trees.”
This work by Idgie Stark is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.