Given a choice, my mother preferred not to travel. She enjoyed being in new places, visiting family members and taking in the occasional entertainment, but she despised the process of getting from point A to point B. Packing for a trip was agony – so many decisions needed to be made! Even getting the house cleaned and put in order before leaving created high anxiety, but it had to be done. What if you died on the road? Certainly you wouldn’t want strangers roaming through your bedroom, running their fingers over a dusty night stand and telling one another you were slovenly.
As for those hours in the car, there weren’t enough magazines, knitting projects or books in the world to overcome her impatience. Sometimes she seemed to be thinking, “If only I could close my eyes and discover when I opened them this misery had passed.” Other times, she put her feelings into words: “If I’d known it was going to take this long to get there, I would have stayed home.”
Now and then someone with an inclination to tease would call her “Dorothy”, and everyone understood the reference. She’d just laugh and say, “If someone gave me a pair of ruby slippers, I’d be out of Oz in a minute. Being able to click my heels and go would make life a whole lot easier.”
Now, Dorothy’s Kansas lies far behind, as do Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas. We’re in Iowa, Mom and I, in a lovely aerie only a few miles from the house in which I grew up. There are squirrels and birds, tree frogs at night and lovely, cool air filled with drifting autumn leaves and moonlight. Soon there will be family arriving, a tender commitment to a final resting spot next to her husband, my father, and at last, a final goodbye.
It’s impossible not to smile at the irony of it all. Even without any heel-clicking, Mom’s last trip has been her easiest in years. No slightly impatient daughter stood in the doorway, asking, “Aren’t you ready yet?” There wasn’t any last-minute fussing about which shoes to take, or confusion about plans. Even the mysteriously difficult issue of what to wear while traveling was resolved for her by friends in her knitting group. Digging into her stash of yarn and using her own needles, they knit and crocheted a drawstring bag, just the right size to embrace a small box of ashes. Passing around the completed bag, they added personal notes meant to accompany her on her way:
“Wanda, Watch over us and enjoy knitting – we miss you.”
“I am short. Wanda was short, so we figured short people have more fun – have fun knitting in heaven!”
“You were such a gentle, gracious lady. I enjoyed knitting with you and you will be missed.”
“May you enjoy knitting forever.”
My original intent, to complement their knitting with a needlepoint cover for the box containing her ashes, was overly ambitious. Without time or skill to do it properly, I contented myself with a small, needlepointed brooch bearing her initial. Pinned onto the knitted bag, it makes me smile with satisfaction. Mom always swore, sometimes with laughter and sometimes in apparent seriousness, that she would be taking both her knitting and needlepoint yarn “stashes” with her when it came time to move on. Now that the time has come, at least a part of that stash is going with her – a token of all the warmth, love and appreciation she engendered here on earth.
She may have hated travel, that mother of mine, but at this end of her days she’s traveling in style, wrapped in warm, fuzzy love by those who cared for her. If, as they say, home is where the heart is, then surely she is at home.