The scale in the bathroom is gone.
But there is still a piggly wiggly sack acting as a trash bag in the can.
I look out the window and there is the white angel statue my cousin knocked over playing football and there is the spiny plant we weren’t allowed to play in, and there is the creek where we caught crawdads in red solo cups.
In the basement are endless rows of jarred produce. Salsa and pickles and peaches and beets and more pickles. Some of them sit in a refrigerator with no door. They machine hadn’t worked since I’d been alive. Maybe it never did.
It occurs to me now these things are part of the house, as much as the plumbing.
This place is an embodiment of southern independence. Even if you don’t need it, you keep it because someday you might. Or your cousin might. Or your neighbor might.
On the porch is the dog which has been alive at least 38 years if you believe my great uncles.
And there, spread out on a piano bench are pictures of her — Velma Brison, my late great-grandmother. I only knew her as “Mama” (inexplicably pronounced “Maw-maw”).
Surrounding her are The Things Left Behind, trinkets and dishes and quilts. We are here to choose what we want to remember her by.
The problem is, none of these things make me think of Mama. Only Mama makes me think of Mama. Her throne was a short, brown recliner which somehow filled the whole room. She wielded influence without words and, toward the end, power without strength.
“Why don’t you shave that thing off your face?”
She asked me this one day when the scruff on my chin and cheeks became more than peach fuzz.
Everyone paid attention when she spoke. It was impossible to ignore her. We all knew she thought one of her great grandchildren had gained a little too much weight. We understood she thought it was wrong that our first cousin lived with his girlfriend down in Texas.
And we all knew, of course, that any man with a trace of facial hair was an embarrassment to her.
When her son (my grandfather) walked in one Christmas Eve with a beard to put all of us to shame, we all watched for her reaction in stunned silence. Surely it was his only act of rebellion in the 70-something years he’s been on the planet.
She shook her head, said something in his ear, and kissed him on the cheek. Then, she took her place on the throne, and we proceeded to celebrate the holiday in peace.
That was then.
Now, the throne is empty, the castle dismantled, and the matriarch gone.
Once upon a time, I would not have thought twice about the word “legacy.” It was a word, just like any other.
That was before my uncle Gene passed. And before Mama left us.
That was before my dad pointed out that his dad also hummed a song everywhere he goes, just like he does. Just like I do.
That was before I heard the generation before mine tell stories of time gone by. They sound a lot like ours do.
That was before I picked up a scrap piece of paper with scribbles in Mama’s handwriting. A song she’d written. She was a creative, a thinker, a writer, a dreamer. Her time did not reward that. Mine does.
A legacy is not just history; an inheritance is not just money.
My family has a legacy of creativity. I don’t care for the pictures, the keepsakes, the knick knacks.
I am here to share their stories.
I’m Todd and I motivate creative people.