♪ ♪If you want to know if he loves you so, it’s in his kiss. ♪ ♪

At least that’s what Aretha Franklin said. And she told us it’s not in his eyes, his size, his face or embrace. According to the song, it’s not even in the way he acts. Well, while I have a lot of R-E-S-P-E-C-T for Aretha, I think she’s wrong about this. Let me tell you how “I know he loves me so.”

It was in the scrambled eggs he made me when I was really sick. (Best scrambled eggs ever!) It’s in his hand resting on my knee as we’re driving down the highway. It’s in his telling me to quit a job I hate, even though we could really use the second income. It’s in the way he says nothing when his sisters say, “Thank you for marrying my brother. I know you put up with a lot.” (Because I know he puts up with a so much more than I do.) It’s in how he can just be with me without either of us having to talk; or how we can talk about everything. It’s in the way he says my name, whether he’s calling me Bee, or Beverly or Mama. Nobody says it like he does.

I know he loves me when he doesn’t run screaming for the hills when I ask him to remodel the house with no more than a circular saw and a screwdriver. I know he loves me when he does odd jobs for my mother; simple jobs that are made aggravating and not-so-simple by her husband’s fumbling attempts to help. I know he loves me when he makes sure the oil is changed and the tires on my car are safe

I know he loves me when, on a lazy Sunday afternoon, instead of watching baseball, he’ll come and sit beside me on the bed. He’ll take the jumbled mess of fabric in his hands, hands that are strong and nimble and meant for guitar playing, and help me figure out just how you use this toothbrush handle to make a rug. And he’ll keep trying to help, even when my frustration wells up inside of me and spills all over him.

And I know he loves me when, just before we go to sleep, he tells me so. It doesn’t matter if I’ve been a total bitch a little touchy all day, he says, “Goodnight, I love you.” And kisses me on the cheek. So, I guess It’s In His Kiss, after all!

I never did make that toothbrush rug!

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Thanksgiving Day – Reprise

It was before sunrise when I woke up this morning. The only light in our bedroom was the soft glow from the little lighthouse nightlight on JD3’s chest-of-drawers. In spite of the swish-whirr of the ceiling fan, the low hum of the heat pump, and the not-so-low snores of Prissy, our little Shi Tzu, the room was quiet and still. Reluctant to be fully awake, I burrowed deeper into the covers, warmed by the knowledge that, for now at least, all was right in my little world.

My sweet baby girl was home and sleeping in her own bed. Herman, her big white cat, was snuggled up close to her side. Keeping watch at the foot of the bed was Gracie, our goofy, immensely lovable 60lb puppy. Percy, our wild-child kitty-cat, had refused to come inside the night before and was asleep in his secret warm place outside. In our room, the previously mentioned noisy one had made herself into the small ball of fur that was snoozing in front of the bookcase. And sleeping beside me, hiney-to-hiney, was JD3, the man that I love and am growing old with. All the pieces to the jigsaw puzzle that is my life were in place.

As I lay there, trying to convince my bladder that I really didn’t need to be up yet, JD3 stirred and turned over. He tucked his knees into the bend of mine, threw his arm around me and settled back into sleep. It was no big deal, something married people do all the time. I’m not even entirely sure he was aware of it. But I knew that in that simple touch was the essence of everything that I am most grateful for in this life.

I know that I have family and friends who are always ready to throw their arms around me or hold my hand or hug me or pat me on the back or just sit beside me and make me feel safe and loved and part of something good. I have sisters who make me feel like I belong when they sit beside me and we talk about stuff; our childhood, our children, other people’s children who aren’t quite as special as ours are; just stuff. I have a mother who hugs me good-bye and makes me know she’s glad I was there and she hopes I’ll be back soon. I have a husband who makes me feel treasured by simply putting his hand on my knee as we ride along in the car, (or by throwing his arm across me in his sleep.) I have a daughter whose good-night kiss can right all the wrongs of the day. I have nieces and nephews whose hugs just plain make me happy.

What’s really exceptional (at least in my opinion) is that I have friends who give this kind of love long distance! These are the friends who held my hand as I worried about Anna after that awful wreck. They sit beside me every day and we talk about our families, our homes, our hopes for the future. If I’m having a bad day, their words make me feel like I’ve been held close in what one friend calls a “big ol’ boobie crushing hug,” the best kind of hug there is. With gentle pushes, they encourage me to try things I’ve never done before and then pat me on the back when I succeed. The fact that we’re so far apart seems insignificant. They’re my best friends and I’m oh, so grateful for them.

Yes, I’m thankful for my family. And I’m thankful for my friends. But what I’m most thankful for is God‘s presence in my life. During hard times, He wraps me close in His arms and, while I’m crying on His shoulder, He says, “Don’t worry. I’m here and I’ll never leave you.” He holds my hand when I’m walking through dark places. When I need direction, He puts His arm around me and says, “Listen, Bee. This is what I want you to do for me.” (Sometimes, I wish He’d just talk a little louder.) When I mess up, as I often do, He hooks my chin with His finger, tilts my face up to look at Him and says, “No, that’s not how I would have you do it. But I love you and I forgive you. Just try and do it my way from now on.” And I do try. I try every day to be the kind of person he wants me to be.

Thanksgiving Day is now officially over. Anna, Gracie and Herman are settled in for the night in Anna’s room. Percy, of course, is outside in his secret place. In a few minutes, I will turn off the lights here in the kitchen and head off to bed, where JD3 and Prissy are waiting for me. The room will be dark except for the glow from the little nightlight. I’ll crawl beneath the covers and hear the swish-whirr of the ceiling fan, the hum of the heat pump and the snores of my beloved little dog. As I lay there in the stillness, I’ll be warmed by the knowledge that all is right in my little world. I’ll know that I’ve been blessed beyond measure, and as I fall asleep, I’ll know that, for me, thanks giving day will never be over, but will come again tomorrow. And the next day. And the next day. And every day.

It’s been two years since I wrote this. Once again, Thanksgiving Day is officially over. Anna , Herman and even Percy have settled in for the night in Anna‘s room. Soon, I’ll turn off the lights here in the kitchen and JD3 and I will head off to our bedroom, where Gracie, the 80lb Wonder Dog, will curl up in her big-girl bed on the floor beside me. The room will be dark except for the glow from the little stained-glass turtle lamp in the corner. I’ll crawl beneath the covers and listen to the swish-whirr of the ceiling fan as it sings along with the silky, soothing guitar music coming from the CD player. In my heart I will hear the snores of my little dog and I’ll wish that she were still here with me.

As I lay there in the stillness, I’ll think that even though life has changed in two years, it’s still so much the same; that in spite of hurts and losses and difficult times, I am still blessed beyond measure. And I still thank God for them every day.

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"Who Knows Where the Time Goes?"

It’s happened. There was nothing I could do to stop it. The sun is shining and the birds are singing in celebration. Messages are coming in by phone, by text, by Twitter and facebook. In a while, family will gather and share food and drink and memories. Today, my Anna – my baby, my child, my little girl – officially becomes an adult.

And me? I want to stand on a mountain and wail. I want to tell God, “No wait, I need more time. I need to rock her to sleep once more. I need to brush those long, soft curls and twist them into thick braids one more time. I need to tie her shoes and tie ribbons in her hair again. I’m not ready, Lord. I’m just not ready. I do want her to set the world on fire and do great things. Really. I do. But I want her to do it tomorrow. I need her to be my little girl for just a while longer. Please? Please?

But I’ll dry my tears, put on my happy face and join family and friends in a private room at a local restaurant for a quiet evening. (At least as quiet as our family can be.) There will be no laptop slideshow in the corner looping photographic evidence of the cuteness that is Anna. There will be no DJ playing all of her favorite songs as background music. There will be no fireworks in the backyard after dinner. There will, however, be love and laughter and ice cream cake as we celebrate her 21st birthday.

No, no slideshow in the corner. But there’ll be one playing in my head. I’ll see her as a 3-year old, standing in front of the television, a pacifier in each hand and one in her mouth, head bobbing as she sings along with The Little Mermaid. I’ll see that look of silent laughter on her face; the one that means something is so funny that out-loud laughter is darn near impossible. I’ll see how she looks when she’s trying very hard not to roll her eyes and scream when I still don’t get what she’s trying to explain about Photoshop or how Office is different from Works. I’ll see how she looked laying on that stretcher after the wreck and how she looked as a baby sleeping in her crib.

The background music that plays will be heard only in my heart. I’ll hear There’s a Hole In My Bucket for the 100,000,000th time. I’ll hear Hanson and The Backstreet Boys. My ears will bleed when I hear POD and I’ll smile when I hear the Beatles because she and her daddy love them so much.

I’ll hear other music, too. I’ll hear her little girl giggles and her grown up laughter. I’ll hear the excitement in her voice when she talks to me about her life now and her plans for her future. I’ll hear her call Mommy for the 50th time in twenty minutes. I’ll hear her sing when she doesn’t think I’m listening. And I’ll hear her say, “Love you, too.”

And, it turns out, there will be fireworks. The same fireworks that have gone off in my soul since the day she was born. The same fireworks that explode in my very spirit when I think about how blessed I am to be her mother and her friend.

♪ ♪ Who knows how my love grows?
And who knows where the time goes? ♪ ♪
~Sandy Denny

Lyrics written by a woman about her lover, but quoted by a mother who’s love for her daughter is boundless and who finds herself, today, wondering where the time goes.

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Sticky Messes

This is a story I wrote a little while ago. Since it’s been so long since I’ve had an actual blog post, I’d thought I’d share this one with you. I’ll be back after Christmas, refreshed and ready to write.

We were sitting on my sisters’ bed playing Monopoly when we heard it. “Girls.” It was Daddy and he was using that voice! The quiet, scary one. The one that meant somebody was in big trouble. “I need y’all to come in here.” We hustled off the bed, ran down the hall and crowded into the tiny bathroom where Daddy stood waiting for us.

It was my most favorite room in the house. Once, all four walls had been the exact same color as a yellow Crayola crayon. But earlier in the week, Mama had spent a few precious dollars and a whole morning covering the splashed and spattered wall behind the sink with Contact paper. It now bloomed with hundreds of little yellow flowers and tiny green leaves. Being in there was almost like being outside on a warm spring day.

Which would’ve been a good place to be. “Does somebody want to tell me who did this?” Daddy asked, moving aside and pointing to the pretty flowered wall. And its newest decoration – an intensely purple, well-chewed, globby wad of grape bubblegum. As ugly as a big ol’ pimple on the nose of a prom queen, it had been smooshed into the wall just above the hot water knob, and had started a slow, stringy drip toward the floor.

“Well…? I’m waiting.” He was still using the voice.

“Not me, Daddy.” “I didn’t do it.” “Wasn’t me.”

“Girls, your mama and I don’t chew grape bubblegum. It had to be one of y’all. I want an answer. Now.” The look he gave us made us wiggle. It made us wriggle. It made us shuffle our feet. Still, no one confessed.

“All right,” he sighed. “If y’all aren’t going to tell me who did it, I’m going to have to punish you all three. For two weeks, there’ll be no going out of the yard, no having friends over and no bike riding. And bedtime will be at eight o’clock.” (Oh, no! Not that! That meant no Brady Bunch!) “Now, go put the game away and get ready for bed.” Like the losing team leaving the field, we trudged back down the hall, each trying to convince the other two of her innocence.

For two weeks, we stayed in our yard and played with each other. For two weeks, our bikes stayed parked in the garage. For two weeks, we went to bed at eight o’clock and for two weeks, we missed the Brady Bunch! But every single day, Daddy laughed with us and played with us. And every single night, he tucked us in bed and kissed us goodnight. He had been angry and disappointed that one of us had lied to him. But he never, for one minute, stopped loving us.

That’s the way it is with people you love. No matter how sad they make you or how much they disappoint you, you just keep right on loving them through all of their sticky messes.

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What It Meant to Me

“I am sooooo not in the mood to be nice to anybody who’s callin’ my house at this unholy hour of morning,” I snarled at phone where it lay on the kitchen table. Now, it may be, that in your world, 10:00am is not considered an unholy hour. But in my world on that day, it was positively blasphemous. Too much caffeine, twitchy arms and legs and an insomniac Little Dog had made it impossible for me to fully participate in that ever-popular nighttime ritual known as sleep the night before. By the time my body parts had worn themselves out and the dog had finally found the spot on my feet on which to sleep, the alarm hollered, letting me know that it was, in fact, time to get up.

With every chromosome in my body urging me to stay right where I was and let the day go on without me, I struggled (and it was a struggle) to stand beside the bed. I patted blindly around the bookcase for my glasses and groped my way to the bathroom, where I somehow managed to do little girl things, wash my hands and brush my teeth without drowning. Amazed that I could actually put one foot in front of the other, I trudged down the hall to the kitchen and began the morning performance of the Bee Family Circus.

I made JD3’s coffee. I made his lunch. I let the cats in and fed them. I took Gracie out and waited for her. And waited. And waited some more. (She won’t go unless I’m there to say, “Good girl.” That’s why I have to wait.) Just when I was about to rudely awaken the entire neighborhood by bellowing, “Will ya pee already?!” she found that elusive, only-one-in-the-whole-backyard, perfect spot and did just that. We went back inside and I let the cats out. I let the Little Dog out. I let the cats and the Little Dog back in and gave all furry critters their morning treats. I let the cats out again. And back in, again.

When JD3 gathered up his coffee mug and his lunch box, I opened the door for him, kissed him goodbye and sent him on his way. As I turned back into the room, I heard growling and hissing. And it was scaring the dogs and cats. It was clear to me that if I was going to make it through the day without biting somebody, I needed more sleep. So, I put the cats back out, dangled Puppy Cookies in the dogs’ faces so they would follow me and I went back to bed.

Two hours and a trip to The Twilight Zone later, I woke up with a dry mouth, a full bladder and a headache. For the second time that day, I tumbled (and it was a tumble) out of bed and zombie-walked to the bathroom. After I brushed my teeth, I put the toothbrush back in the glass and just stood there trying to get both of my eyes to open. When it became apparent that tea was not going to come to me, I hobbled down the hall to tea.

I was taking that first, life-giving sip when the phone rang. Clearly not understanding that I wanted it to Just. Shut. Up. it rang again and again. I side-stepped Gracie, stepped over the Little Dog and scooted a cat out of the way. Thinking nasty, evil, mean thoughts about the nasty, evil, mean person on the other end of the line, I answered the phone.

It was Mama. “Guuuuuuud mornin’! What’re you doin’?” she sang in that voice. The voice that used to irritate us out of bed on school mornings. The voice that woke us up at six o’clock on summer mornings asking if we’d like to go pick peas and butterbeans with her. (As if we had had a choice.) The same voice that, then and now, had me wanting to break Commandment 5 by breaking Commandment 6.

“I’m drinking tea and trying really hard not to step on the zoo inhabitants. What are you doing?”

“Well, he’s gone uptown and I need you to come over here. I want you to see my curtains. Can you come right now?” Immediately, a heated debate broke out between Bad Bee and Good Bee.

Bad Bee put her hands on her hips, cocked her head to one side and said, ‘You can’t go. You haven’t even finished your tea yet, for Pete’s sake. And even if you had, just how do you think you’d get there? Walk?! Remember, JD3 took your car to work because his has that funky bump thing in the right rear tire. And girlfriend! Have you looked in the mirror? I know you’ve brushed your teeth, but you haven’t washed your face and your hair looks like an unraveled pot scrubber. It’s, uhmm, actually kind of scary. Besides, he might come home early.” (He is my mother’s husband and we are having some issues and find it best to avoid each other for the time being.)

Good Bee shook her head, sighed in exasperation and looked at me over the top of her glasses. “You have to go. She’s your mama. You can finish your tea while you’re getting ready and you can always have another cup when you get home. JD3 said it would be all right to drive the car if you needed to. Just don’t go over 50mph. Heck, the speed limit for most of the drive over isn’t even 50! Now, go wash your face and pull your hair up into one of those sloppy casually elegant twisty things. Put on a bra and some shoes and get on over there. And don’t you let him keep you from visiting your mama!”

Darn that Good Bee. “Ok, I’ll be there in a few minutes,” I told her. “But I won’t be pretty.”

I sloshed down the rest of my tea and headed off to get ready. I washed my face, brushed my teeth again and manhandled my hair into a ‘do that wouldn’t scare small children. I even put on a bra AND shoes. Back in the kitchen, I asked Gracie to please not eat any of the furniture while I was gone, grabbed my purse and keys in one hand and the door knob in the other.

I didn’t get very far. “Crap! These are the wrong keys. I need JD3’s.” His key didn’t like the crowded conditions on my key ring, so it doesn’t live there any more. Instead, it hides out in a black hole that is suspended between 2 brown leather straps; a really scary place known as My Purse. When I couldn’t seem to grab the slippery little boogers by merely reaching in, I turned said black hole upside down and shook my very important stuff out onto the counter where I could see it. Aha! There it was, under 3 weeks worth of grocery receipts, 2 flashlights, an Almond Joy wrapper, a pair of scissors, and some random dollar bills. “Ok, here we go.”

As soon as I opened the door to step out, Gracie, thinking that “Ok, here we go,” really meant we, slinked out around me and trotted off into the back yard. How a 75lb dog with a chest like a bulldozer can slink anywhere is beyond me, but she did. So, I waited. And I waited. (Can you tell where this is going?) Finally, she finished and I took her back in the house, again told her to be a good girl, walked out and closed the door behind me.

Before my foot hit the bottom step, I thought, “Just hunky-dang-dory! My cell phone is in there on the counter!” Back up the steps I went. I unlocked the door, walked in and grabbed the recalcitrant little piece of electronic technology and, after giving Gracie the look, the play-nice-with-the-others-and-don’t-eat-my-socks look, I left the house.

At long last, I sat down in the driver’s seat of the car and heaved the 3-ton door shut. After buckling my seat belt and adjusting the rear view mirror, I slid the key into the ignition and started the engine. It was then that I heard it. JD3 had left the radio on and the haunting, dulcet sound of a flute spilled out of it and poured itself all over my very bad mood. Along with the music came the lyrics; words that I loved but hadn’t heard in years. ♪ ♪ Snot running down his nose. ♪ ♪ It was Jethro Tull! It was Aqualung! Suddenly in a very good mood, I rolled the window down, put the car in reverse and backed out of the driveway.

I know. Aqualung is most definitely not a happy little song. But it didn’t matter what the song meant; it mattered what the song meant to me. For just a few minutes, I was no longer a grumpy 51-year old woman with messy hair driving a limping, old vintage Volvo to visit her mother because she felt guilty. For just a few minutes, I was a happy 16-year old with wind-tousled hair driving the ‘bu across the causeway to the south end of the island. There, I would spend my days babysitting and my nights sitting on the dock star-gazing and listening to great music. ♪ ♪ Feeling like a dead duck! ♪ ♪ Life was good!

I know I’ve unwrapped my musical moment on a Saturday morning. But I’m still going to send y’all to Tuesdays Unwrapped over at chatting at the sky. A lot of nice people unwrapped some of their own special moments and managed to actually do it on a Tuesday!

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I Hope It Gets Here Tomorrow

She felt every bit as weather-beaten and time-worn as the splintered, gray wood on which she stood. Sitting down on the top step, she rested her elbows on her knees and, with both hands, brought the pretty red and white polka dotted mug to her lips. As she sat sipping her morning tea, she watched the dog she loved so much sprint after a rabbit she would never catch. Neither the quick-like-a-bunny bunny nor the big, silly dog was aware of the chain link barrier that separated them, assuring one’s safety and the other’s failure.

“This isn’t right,” she thought. Labor Day was a memory. The big sweet gum tree that she hated, (and loved,) had decorated the back yard with a smattering of citron-colored leaves. Just down the road, a happy-faced scarecrow and a family of pumpkins sat beside big pots of luscious, colorful mums on the neighbors’ front porch. Officially, it was autumn. But it was too hot. And too humid. “It should be cooler than this. I need it to be cooler than this.”

An almost smile ghosted across her face as the dog gave up chasing the rabbit to dance with a butterfly that waltzed just above her nose. Across the road, the trees shivered with excitement at the touch of a light, mellow breeze. The sky was blue, birds were singing and morning glories were blooming on the fence. In spite of the clinging, soggy heat, it was a pretty day. Yes, it was a very pretty day, but it brought her no joy.

Summer had been hard for her. In the season when the very clocks had been manipulated to ensure plentiful sunlight, her days had been dark. Like an over-protective mother, the humidity had knit a sweater from melancholy and draped it snugly around her shoulders. Oh, she was tired of feeling this way. She needed the crisp, cool darkness of autumn to wash over her and refresh her soul.

When the little wind tired of playing with the trees, it tiptoed over to where she sat steeping in her gloominess. Wrapping its soft, warm arms around her, it kissed her gently on both cheeks and then leaned in to murmur in her ear. “Hold on, my friend,” it breathed. “Fall is coming. It won’t be long.”

She took the last sip of her now cool tea, stood up and called to the dog. “I hope it’s tomorrow,” she said as she turned to open the back door. “I hope it gets here tomorrow.”

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Because…

…I’ve been busy beginning a new chapter of my life, I’m posting another story from an earlier chapter. Until I have new stories to tell, I hope you like the old ones. Jo, at Mylestones is telling some pretty good stories, too! Maybe you could stop by.

All Boxed In
She walked toward the door facing her at the end of the long hall. The house was quiet except for the squeak of her left tennis shoe on the dark hardwood floor. She paused at the arrangement of family photographs hanging on a wall that was precisely the same color as the organic butter she bought every week. She adjusted two of the frames and, satisfied that they were once again positioned the way she wanted them, continued down the hall, humming her favorite song.

Standing in front of the door, she reached out with her right hand, turned the knob and pulled it open. She flipped the switch on the wall just to the left of the door and a pale, golden light illuminated the closet . There, on five shallow, evenly-spaced shelves climbing the back wall, sat the boxes filled with her things, all of the stuff she needed to keep her life in order. She smiled as she took it all in. She loved that shelf paper; had chosen it because it was covered with tiny little flowers that matched exactly the wall color in the hall and coordinated nicely with the soft, muted red fabric covering the boxes. (Even people who had known her for a long time were surprised that red was one of her favorite colors.)

The arrangement of boxes reminded her of a regiment of soldiers, immaculate in in dress uniform, standing at attention before its commanding officer. There were two boxes per shelf, each placed exactly the same distance from the front edge. Their sides were parallel, the amount of space between a box and its neighbor the same as that between the box and the side wall of the closet. Centered on the front of each box was a creamy white label printed with bold, block letters proclaiming it’s contents and warning anything different to keep out.

Boxes marked “BLUE,” “RED,” “YELLOW,“ “GREEN,” “BLACK,” and “WHITE” were placed on the shelves at her eye-, shoulder- and waist-level. It was here, within easy reach, that she stored familiar items that could be relied on to function the same way every time she needed them. These were the things she used to keep her life running smoothly; to make sure there was a place for everything and that everything stayed in its place.

Two “BROWN” boxes occupied the bottom shelf. These boxes were, in fact, filled with things from her husband‘s past. Early in their marriage, he had shown it all to her. The things that she could use, she had put in the easiest to reach boxes and everything else had been packed away on this less visible shelf. Occasionally, he would want to take the things back out and tell her more about them, and she’d sit with him and listen patiently because she loved him very much. But she didn’t like the way it made her feel and was glad that he didn’t want to do it often. (It made him as uncomfortable as it made her. )

On the upper shelf, accessible to her only if she stood on the wooden stool that her husband had built for her, were boxes that were rarely opened. The one marked “WILD COLORS” held gifts that had been given to her over the years, gifts that made her feel unsettled and insecure. She didn’t know what to do with them or how to use them. But she knew that , somehow, they were important to her and that she shouldn’t throw them away. Sitting beside this box , was one marked “PLAID.” In it were the things from her past that didn’t belong in the life she had now. They, too, were important because they had contributed to the person she had become. The things in these two boxes were messy and hard to control so she kept them up high, where she wouldn’t be tempted to take them down and expose herself to all of that chaos.

Lately, her things had become unhappy being confined to the boxes in which she had placed them. They wanted her to know that there was more to them than red or blue. They wanted to show her that even plain old black and white had wild color talents and that they could do wonderful things if she allowed them to work and play with each other. But each time they tried to show her something special they had created, she would lift the corners of her mouth in what might have been a smile, murmur “That’s nice” without meaning it and put them right back where she thought they should be. There was no light in her eyes, no joy or celebration, no appreciation of what they could do.

Now, unaware of the hurt and disappointment that lingered there, she reached into her neatly organized closet, took the “BLUE” box from its shelf, removed the cover and checked the contents. When she was sure that everything there was trying to do no more than be blue, she replaced the lid, turned on her squeaky shoe and started back down the hall to get on with her day; a day which would, for the most part, go exactly as she had planned it. Her things would make sure of it. Just as they always did.

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