She smelled of tea rose and Oil of Olay and the buckle on her brown leather purse was shaped like a flower. It may be strange to notice a buckle, I suppose, but this one stood out because it reflected the light just so and almost demanded me to notice it. It was just a little thing, but it led me to what I consider a treasure.
“I like your purse … especially the buckle,” I said and the elderly lady looked down first at the brown leather purse and then up at me. “This old thing,” she said. “It’s one of the only things left I have of my mother that I can touch.” Then she told me how her mother always had tissue and butterscotch candy and a little red change purse that she kept in it.
“My sister wanted to keep that, the change purse, when mama died. I got this because I always liked the buckle, too.” She ran her fingers over the metal flower as she talked, and I imagined her mother reaching into that purse to give her children a piece of butterscotch candy. I bet it made that crinkly sound when they opened it.
“It’s nice you have something to remember her by,” I said. She shook her head slowly. “No,” she said. “The important things I have to remember her by are all in my head … the things she told me and taught me all my life. They’re right here.” With one finger she tapped on her temple and maybe she smiled just a little bit, I’m not sure. She didn’t seem like an unhappy lady, just one who didn’t smile too much. But I could see a smile in her eyes, which sometimes is better than one with your mouth, I tend to think, because it’s harder to fake one in your eyes.
A few more minutes and she was gone and I found myself wondering what kinds of things she meant … what her mama taught her that she kept tucked in her mind. Was it practical things like how to make biscuits and balance a check book, or other things like work hard and never give up? Probably both, I decided.
Maybe, just maybe, they were some of the same things I pray my children will have tucked away when I’m long gone. Like to be good to yourself and to other people. To set goals and not be afraid of the hard work it takes to meet them. To surround yourself with good, honest people and to not let the ones who aren’t make a difference in your life. To be a good friend.
To stay positive even when it’s hard. To treat other people like you’d want to be treated.
To be fair and respectful. To stick to your beliefs and stay true to your heart. To not be afraid to go against the crowd. To respect yourself.
To laugh and have fun and smile every day even if it means sometimes smiling through heartache. To know that heartache will come but it will fade. To be cautious, to be loyal, to be brave. To know you are smart and you are beautiful.
To love God and to share his love for you. To love your family and know that you can
always come home. To know that no matter what you do or what you say, you will be cherished and loved.
These are just some of the things I hope they know. Oh, and I hope they notice little things, too, because behind the little things sometimes are the biggest treasures. Like buckles that lead to conversations with little old ladies who smile with their eyes and make you think. I don’t know for sure, but I bet she still eats butterscotch candy.
And I bet it makes that crinkly sound.
Contact columnist Mandy Flynn at firstname.lastname@example.org.