A couple days after she had left, I would be taking the panty du jour off the top of the folded ones in my underwear drawer and I noticed a very small piece of paper with a little note written on it accompanied with some cash.
It said simply, "Get something new for yourself, you deserve it." Once in awhile a note would include an addendum to get something for the baby or for son1 but they were mostly just for me to treat myself and no one had to be the wiser. I don't know when, but at some point I began to keep the notes.
As the boys grew older she would still make the art of folding her contribution on her visits but there came a time when the stairs would prove difficult for her to climb so I would take everything up and put it away. A few days after her departure a note would again make its way to the top of the panties du jour. These notes became something for me to cherish knowing there would come a time when my mom, like these little notes, would no longer be there.
I noticed the last year of her life her handwriting had changed. There was still the attempt and desire to form the perfect cursive learned well over 70 years ago in Catholic school but it had aged as she had with a slight shake, becoming much smaller in stature and not as straight.
Three days before she passed from an unexpected heartattack on New Year's Day she left me a beautiful letter. She told me how proud of me she was for being a good mother and wife and how she marveled at my ease and confidence in entertaining over the holidays which apparently was something she felt she never mastered. Such praise and recognition was uncharacteristic of my mom as was anything written with a hint of affection longer than the one sentence notes she left in my drawer as she preferred to let Hallmark do the talking for her with a simple signature of, "Love, Mom." She also tucked a $50 bill in the letter for good measure which was true to form. This financial gesture sent its own message from the Depression Era teenager who once was the sole supporter of six family members. This also touched my heart and made me smile.
The letter with the $50 was placed a wooden box on top of all the cards from thoughtful people who sent their sympathies and I put the box in the cupboard in the garage where I tend to place things of importance that I do not need to see everyday but gives me comfort knowing they are there. As I thought what might happen, these little wisps of paper mean the world to me. Just these tiny, fragile notes and the piece of the soul that is imprinted on them. I know the deep love she had for me but could only express in a sentence or two. I see the notes everyday where I keep my most intimate things, things that are just for me as I begin my day.