Last week I lost 3 things—3 things that in an uncanny and weird kind of way reflect who I am.
I lost my Aunt Ruth, who was the next best thing to my own mom. Aunt Ruth belonged to the past—not just because I spent so much time with her when I was a child, but because she encompassed a generation that’s only a memory for most of us. Married at 15, the mother of 6 children, Aunt Ruth didn’t even drive. She grew up on a farm during the Depression and understood the values and loyalty of hard work, family, and Christianity. I see in my memory my grandmother, mom, and aunts chatting around the table long after the last dish was washed and last dessert eaten. I could sit and listen to their voices for hours, and I did—silent, listening, taking in their women wisdom.
Second was the use of my laptop, which aptly symbolizes the life I now live. It’s like a piece of my body. It’s where I grade papers, write journals, and stay connected on Facebook. I control it, but in many ways it controls me. When it beeps I answer, even when it’s Jay (face timing me from upstairs) wanting something. I don’t know what its issue was—why I could not open any document on my trip to Illinois (There was that incident in the airport when I dropped it), but for whatever reason it works now. When the kid at the genius bar gave it a clean bill of functionality, I was just thankful (not just because it was stinking expensive, but I’m getting a posh, fancy padded bag for it and the thought of sharing a computer with Jay next week after 59 research papers float into my inbox—I just could not deal with that.)
Third was a book—Achebe’s classic, Things Fall Apart. The realist in me recognizes it’s in a Southwest Airline dumpster. The romantic in me imagines some new—right out of college—literature teacher discovering it in the seat back pouch in front of her or him—and flipping through it to unfold years of highlighted passages, questions and comments, literary devices and techniques that jazz up the life of a lit teacher, but rarely her students. Oh, well…
It was an apt book to lose, for after all, wasn’t Achebe’s message that not all that was lost was bad, and not all that was gained was good—though much of it was? Achebe was a bridge, and I, too, long to be a bridge—a voice—a voice of the women of my heritage who beckon: “remember from wince you came; remember wherein your strength lies; remember it—when things fall apart.