I dreamed about you last night. Not you, specifically, but somewhere in the haze of a dream, I remember picking up a paper and seeing your name. The image hovered in my mind like a reminder, and even though the rest of the dream faded away into oblivion once my alarm went off, I could still close my eyes and see your curly script.
You are everywhere, and yet not here at all. A few weeks ago I sat in a bird garden in Jamaica holding a tiny bottle of sugar water to entice hummingbirds to visit, and as I sat, all I could see was the huge expanse of your backyard where we spent hours watching the countless birds at the feeders.
I had always intended to shoot some photos of them for you, but as with a lot of the plans we had made, it never did happen.
My kitchen reminds me of the countless Fridays we spent having tea at your house. All those times I had admired your fridge, only to end up with one very similar in my own kitchen. Each week when I bake the red mixer that you were so proud of whirrs along, churning out all kinds of treats that I know you would have loved to taste. Often I run my hands over new cookbooks that I've picked up from the library or that have arrived in the mail, and think how much you would've liked them over Friday tea, when we'd pour over books and point out what would be good to make, or swap them for a bit to look at during the week. I could see you about now, rummaging in the garden and coming up with all sorts of things to make from the bounty of veggies you've grown. It's because of you that I like beets, and tried different flours such as spelt and kamut in my baking.
The pots of herbs that you gave me sit on my new porch, soaking up the sun. I'm working hard at keeping them alive and for the most part, they are doing okay-meaning, I haven't killed them yet. The large pots that you had me take are downstairs on the main deck, and I haven't had the heart to plant anything in them yet. In the spring I'll fill them with flowers. I wish you were here to tell me just what plants would do best and how to take care of them, but maybe that's the point. You had always tried to impart your gardening wisdom on me, and I never really grasped it all. That's why you gave me the book about gardening, right? You just knew I'd need a little help.
You aren't even just in the obvious, like my kitchen and herb garden, but my closet, too. Those sweatshirts from Hawaii and various other pieces of clothing are like a warm hug and when I'm desperately missing you, I find myself wearing them. When you died I wore a piece of clothing from you every single day for a week, then was grateful that you had given me enough of them to last that long. I never did tell you that I thought I had lost a sweatshirt at work, and despite frantic searching it didn't turn up until the day we moved. Somehow, it had ended up in one of John's drawers and there I stood in the middle of an empty room, clutching the fuzzy fabric as though it was the most precious thing in the world.
I can see you laughing at that and rolling your eyes about now. "It's just a sweatshirt," you'd say. "I didn't even really love it, that's why I gave it away."
Perhaps that's true but for me, it's special just because it was once yours. Any little reminder has become more precious than gold.
Yesterday I found myself working in a kindergarten class, surrounded by small children while I drank a cup of mint tea, and one of them noticed the mug in my hand. It was passed on to me in June, when the staff cleaned out your classroom and found it among your things. It's the perfect size to fit in my lunchbox and I'm finding myself carrying it with me every day; a small reminder of you when I'm at school. We met here; placed together and given the job of getting a group of grade nines through the science curriculum, so it only seems fitting that you are still with me in some small way.
A little girl noticed the mug, and asked where it came from.
"I had a friend named Anne, and it was hers," I smiled. "She was a teacher with big kids."
"Are you still friends?" Her blue eyes questioned as she took a bite of her sandwich. So young, such an innocent question.
"Yes. It's just that she is very, very, far away. I miss her a lot. That's why I bring this to school, to remind me." my smile must've turned sad at that point because her expression changed to ...was that concern?
Her little hand reached out to pat mine, touching the mug gently.
"It's okay, Mrs. H. You'll see her again. Someday. Can I smell your tea?"
I held out the mug and she took a deep breath.
"Mmm...that smells like toothpaste."
There's nothing like a five year old to remind you that life goes on.