one of my most rewarding moments will soon have an anniversary. in three days SHAYNE will be six and the moment of unveiling her first published book to my sweet momma will be starting its new trek around the sun. in the way that life makes things complicated and that stuff gets in the way, we have not yet released the third book of the trilogy.
a little background stolen from a previous post:
back when my momma was 93 and facing down stage four breast cancer having had a double mastectomy a few months prior, she told us she felt like she had accomplished little in her life. there could be little farther from the truth. she died shortly before her 94th birthday but remains a force in the world. her kindness and her zealous belief in kindness continue to ripple outward. i heard beaky firsthand when My Girl was talking about the world and its issues and said, “the best thing i can do is to be kind to people.” i’ve seen beaky firsthand when My Boy has stood firm in raising pride awareness.
but she insisted she had no title (“engineer”, “architect” etc) to put after her name. we knew she had, however, three manuscripts she had written decades prior – stories about the family dachshund named shayne – stories she had tried to have published with no success back in the day. stories told from shayne’s point of view and simply wholesome and delightful, we searched for – and found – the manuscripts. and immediately got to work.
my amazing husband david illustrated the first of the trilogy, named SHAYNE. i laid out the text and the graphics of the book itself, designed merchandise like an “author” shirt, banners and a shayne iphone case for momma, built a website, contacted newspapers and we hastened to put together a release party with a reading and press and a celebration with brownies and asti spumanti at her assisted living facility in florida. when we told her – on MY birthday in march (for what could be a better thank-you-for-my-birthday than this?) what was happening on april 11th, she squealed like a school girl and started practicing signing her name with a sharpie. it was BY FAR one of the pinnacle moments of my life to see my mom – the AUTHOR- hold her book, read aloud to the dozens of people who attended and sign “BEAKY” on her books as her fans lined up to purchase the earliest copies. eighteen days later, my sweet momma was no longer on this earth.
in the way that lists-in-your-head nag at you (or possibly my momma from heaven, that traffic-stopping look in her eye) i know that it is time to develop that third book. it is time to re-tell this story. this world – these times – with so much loss, so many undreamed dreams. on a scrap of paper on august 4 in the year 2012, a calendar date that holds significance for my mom who gave birth to and lost her first baby girl on that day in the 1940s, i wrote down that momma said to me, “enjoy life. start living.” don’t put it off. just do it. the words of self-helpers everywhere.
maybe that’s why the woven-wicker-paper-plate-holder-end-cap-display was so riveting. maybe that’s why the giant piles of peeps and peeps cereal made me stop and laugh. maybe that’s why it feels like momma is saying, “hello!” maybe it’s not just “hello”; maybe it’s “what are you waiting for?” or a gentle prod, a “rise and shine, sweet potato!”
procrastinating runs rampant. in all of humanity. we put off things until we feel deserving. we can’t go out until we clean. we can’t travel until we’ve finished schooling. we can’t give up security until we are secure. i’m guessing momma would not necessarily agree with all this. her wisdom was to support going and doing. she did not counsel that one must have guarantee of success first. “try it, you’ll like it,” she’d echo my poppo.
momma had funny quirks, like everyone i suppose. and now, because DNA is a thing, i see those quirks up-close-and-personal in the mirror. i see them in my sister and my nieces. i see them in my daughter. marvelous tiny snippets of beaky walking in the world.
momma had some lighthearted superstitions too. she’d take an umbrella with her places because she believed that -then- it was less likely to rain. she wouldn’t take a shopping bag because she believed that -then- she would have the joy of juggling many parcels at the end of a shopping excursion. she knocked wood.
momma had a sensibility that she undeniably passed down. she made soap socks and never threw out a bottle of shampoo if she hadn’t already stood it upside down for days. she didn’t use or wear or hang up or sometimes even take out of the bag new things. there was some unwritten rule that she had to save it for “special”, a waiting period for anything new. she generously handed this strange little behavior to me somewhere along the line in the same way that she passed the love of cold french fries to me. she would make mounds of homemade french fries ahead of time when i was coming for a visit. not because she was going to re-heat them, but because, with big glasses of iced tea, we would sit and talk and eat them cold. together. as much as i still love cold french fries, it was never really about the fries.
and still, in all her amazing beaky-ness, after living an extraordinary life and setting an example of kindness and simple joy, she had this sense of nothing after the comma after her name. how could this be? easy enough to answer, i suppose, in a world of expectation and measurement, a society of commas – the ones after your name, the ones after dollar signs.
SHAYNE was on-deck in her life for over five decades, waiting. yes. it was one of the most rewarding moments of my life to see her face as she looked at her first book. her glee! elation. there are no words.
now i wonder if she might advise us all to start practicing with a sharpie. “you just never know,” she’d add.
SHAYNE ©️ 2015 beatrice arnson, david robinson, kerri sherwood