I have been working on a book that will contain the last stories and poems of Wilma Daughtery, the author of Fragments: Stories of Another Time and some other titles. Wilma passed away in 2013 at the age of 101 (Sorry, Wilma…I know you never liked to have anyone know your age). Like all writers, she wrote all her life up to and including a last short story that was written a few weeks prior to her death. While the one I am posting is not her last story, she wrote this one a couple years ago. I decided it needed to be shared, and it will be the last story in this collection.
Decluttering by Wilma Daughtery
Magazines and television seem to be obsessed with the idea of decluttering. If I just follow a few simple rules, they suggest, I can declutter my home and make housework a Piece of Cake. It sounds like a plan.
Before getting up in the morning, if I am very careful, I can pull the covers up to my chin, slide out sideways, add pillows, and the bed is made. But just as I’m smoothing the sheet I see a squirrel balancing precariously on the slender branch of the maple tree. He shakes his bushy tail just enough to make it sway back and forth. I pull the quilt over my shoulders and scoot to the end of the bed. He is so funny he makes me laugh.
He sees his buddies scampering around the oak tree and decides to join them. They chase each other all the way to the top and back down. I think they are teenagers. I think they are playing cops and robbers. So much energy, so early in the morning!
I head for the shower. Here, to save both time and money, while I’m in the shower I can scrub the walls. And if I use the same cleaning product for both myself and the walls, it doubles my efficiency. Should I use my expensive jasmine body wash on the walls or Fantastic on myself? I opt for jasmine. In the shower, all that white tile, soft warm water, jasmine scented air, I’m in a state of euphoria. I hum the Blue Danube. Before I know it, I’ve used up all the hot water. The walls will have to wait.
The mirror is all fogged up. The best time to wipe it down. But to tell the truth I like it all murky. Looking into that cloudy mirror, I don’t look half bad. I can almost believe that I was once not too bad looking.
After a muffin and a cup of coffee, I’m ready to continue decluttering. I have three boxes. One for Keepers, one for Throwaways, one for the Goodwill. Shoes, purses, hats (who wears hats?) go into the Goodwill. Here is a long red dress, not fire engine red, but red, white, and blue red with gold threads through the filmy skirt. I place it in the Goodwill box. I wonder if I can still get into it? I pull off my sweatshirt and slip into it. It fits! I dance around the room. I hum Ravel’s Bolero. I’m dancing with Bill. I think I’ll keep it. Naw! I’m too old for the red dress. I take it off, fold it carefully, put it in the Goodwill box. I cover it with an old sweater.
“Let’s go for an adventure walk.”
I look up and there’s my small grandson.
“I’m so busy! Look at all these clothes!”
“It’s a glad day,” he says. His blue eyes are pleading.
“OK.” I take his hand and out we go.
He takes his red wagon because who knows what treasure you may find on a summer day. We head for the beach.
He finds driftwood that looks like an eagle, places it in the red wagon. He finds a dead bird, a small finch.
“I think I’ll bury it in your garden.”
“That’s a good idea, beside the pink roses.”
He places it carefully in the wagon.
He finds a blue feather. “A blue jay lost it,” he says.
“Look what I found: red glass. That’s hardest to find, isn’t it Grandma? You carry the feather and the glass till we get to your house.”
In the sand he sees a small blue truck. “Somebody lost it,” he says. “Do you think he’ll be back to look for it?”
“He probably will, just leave it.”
“I’ll put sticks around it so he’ll find it better.”
We head for home.
“I’ll leave my treasures at your house. Dad says you have more room.” He unloads his wagon in my garage.
“I’ll take the blue feather and the red glass home to Mama. It will be a surprise!”
“That’s a lovely idea.”
He goes off, up the road pulling his wagon.
After cheese and crackers for lunch, I decide to sort the snapshots that have been accumulating for years. I haven’t a clue where some of these pictures were taken. Trees, buildings, places, people long forgotten. Into the Throwaway.
Here are very old pictures. Small kids posed on velvet cushions, little button shoes, ruffles and ribbons, even on the boys. They all look scared. Men and women in strange looking black clothes. They all look like they’re having digestive problems. They’re hilarious! I suppose they are blood relatives. When I stop laughing, I put them in the Keepers box. You really shouldn’t throw blood relatives away.
I open a photograph album. There I am on the beach with Bill. A small dark-haired boy with beautiful eyes calls from the water, “Look at me, Mama, look at me! Watch me, Daddy. I can put my head under water. I can swim Mama, watch me! Watch me!”
A little red-haired girl calls from the beach. “I helped him cause I’m bigger, Mama. I helped him learn to swim.”
I flip the page. There I am again, same beach, same place, alone.
A little blonde blue-eyed boy calls from the water. “Look at me, Grandma, look at me. I can swim. Watch me, watch me!”
Oh, I can’t sort these. I’ll get all weepy. I shove the pictures back in the box, push it under the table.
On the way past the window I think I see the eagle. I grab the binoculars and dash outside. There he is on top of the oak tree. He’s awesome! So beautiful! So fierce! I stay outside until he flies away.
It’s time for supper. I get my book, prop it on the table, heat a bowl of chicken soup, grab a few crackers. My book lasts longer than my soup. I sit idly thinking about my day. I have definitely flunked Decluttering and Piece of Cake. I wonder if when I draw my last breath I will regret that I never coordinated my clothes or, God forbid, that I never put my condiments in alphabetical order.
I put my soup bowl in the sink and go to the lake. There are two dark green metal chairs. The same two chairs my mother and father had when they sat in their back yard on summer evenings, a yard where lilacs grew and children were always welcome.
I pull up a chair, put my feet on the sea wall. The moon has turned the lake to silver. The hush of night fills me and surrounds me.
In a whispery voice I say:
“I see skies of blue, clouds of white.
Bright blessed day, dark sacred night.
And I say to myself,
What a wonderful world!
And I say to myself,
What a wonderful world!”