Tuesday, May 14, 2013


When I was a little girl and my mother and my brother and I lived in a little house in Roseland, Florida which my grandfather had built for us on the other side of his property, he would come over every evening to check on us and would announce his arrival with a two-tone whistle. As close as I can tell with an old, very out of tune piano, it was sort of a B-flat, A-flat thing. And that has been our family whistle for as long as I can remember. Mr. Moon uses it when he comes home and I use it when I am trying to locate him in the yard and I guess that Lily has adopted it as well because when Owen shows up at the house now and bursts out of his car seat and runs up to the door, he sings it. He can't whistle yet but he whoo-hoos it with his voice, those exact tones and it charms my heart.

"You always excited when you see me," he tells me.
"I am," I say, as I gather him into me for a hug and a kiss.

I saw Kathleen yesterday and her father has recently died and as such things go after a death, there has been some trouble among the siblings as to possessions and the will and such. It is a cliche, but a true one, that there will be trouble after a death and I'm sure it's age-old resentments and bitterness, disappointments and grief, all tossed together in a funky salad of divisiveness, just at the very time you'd think a family would come together.
And it's always a bit of a shock, I think, and new alliances are redrawn and established and old resentments are sometimes almost magically resolved and it never goes as one would have predicted. This is the way it has been with me and my siblings since my mother's death and it is a heart-tearing thing.
Kathleen has walked away from the whole thing in her family's case and I have pretty much done the same in my situation. The siblings to whom it all matters the most hold on to it all and the siblings to whom it just doesn't matter that much release it and in my case, that has felt right and correct. It's simply not worth it to me. Mother drew up her will the way she wanted it and that is that and I have great hope in my heart that eventually all of this will be resolved and we can return to the relationships we had which are, in my opinion, what is important above all.

I wonder what will happen after my death. I would hope with all of my heart that my children will be able to amicably divide whatever possessions I leave and that they will all indeed want some of them. I know it would make a lot of sense to make a list and assign things now but really- who wants to do that? And in every parent's heart I would think that the idea of handing this over to one child and that over to another is just too daunting a task. Will this one feel short-changed? Was it that child who really wanted this piece of jewelry, that picture, this piece of furniture?
When my children were little (and sometimes even not so little) they would hold something of mine and say, "Can I have this when you die?" and I would always say, "Of course!"
It amused me that they would even have these thoughts and I would wish that it would always be so easy, so unencumbered with emotion and memory and weight.

Ah, but life is so messy here on earth from the very first gush of amniotic fluid and blood until the final breath is taken and that is just the way it is and will always be. But no matter how things shake down after that final-breath moment, some things are just going to be passed down.
The genes, for one thing, both the good ones and the bad.
And things like the family whistle. I wonder if my grandfather's father also announced his arrival back at the house after he came in from the fields of his farm in Pennsylvania with that same two-tone whistle. I wonder if Owen, when he is a grown man, will use it and his children, too, should he have some. If, of course, he ever learns to whistle, which he probably will.
These are the things which no one puts in a will, no one can even argue about. Everyone gets the genes they get, everyone will use the family whistle. We will all fold towels the way our mothers did, we will all respond to certain things in certain ways which were set in place before our memory was able to take hold.
There is no dictating these things. And that thought brings me both comfort and a tiny bit of despair because there is no doubt that I have passed down things to my children which I would have rather not but in some cases, could not possibly have prevented.

Well. So it is.

It is a beautiful day in Lloyd again. Still way chillier than I can ever remember for this time of year. The chickens are so very ready to be let out of the coop and I need to take a walk and go to the grocery story and I am thinking about all of these things. The water heater appears to be failing and must be attended to. The sheets on the bed that Jessie and Vergil will sleep on need to be washed. Plans need to be made for their visit. The world hurtles on and this is my tiny, small part of it which I attend to and when I am gone, someone else will take that job over. Or not, and yet the world will not halt in its hurtling, the stars will not fall from the sky. Someone else will wear my rings, someone, I hope, will touch the pages of my old beloved copy of Little Women before putting it on their shelf, someone else will cook in my skillets and someone will look in a mirror at some point and see my face looking back at them.

And when they go away from their own home and come back, they will whistle two tones which will alert whoever is waiting for them that they are home, their arms perhaps full of whatever they have gathered in the world to bring back to that place where they live, where their own loved ones wait for them. "I'm home," the B-flat, A-flat song will announce. "I'm alive, I am here, I am home."

And someone will be excited to hear that song, that simplest of two notes song because it means that someone they love is there, eager for a hug, a kiss, a welcome-back-in to where you are loved and where you belong.

Good morning, y'all.

Love...Ms. Moon


  1. good morning.
    I think if you whistled your whistle in these parts you might be surprised to see me and my mister showing up, I think we have the same whistle.
    I love your world. And you. And how you give it.

  2. What a beautiful post Ms. Moon. You make even the most difficult of life situations seem peaceful. It is what it is and you are right. My mother recently passed away and my siblings and I are smack in the middle of exactly this. It's exhausting. I want to just stay out of it all. It helps to hear someone put it into perspective so poetically.

  3. My mother and I can't whistle, so we have always used a whisper "ps-ps" to beckon each other. My stepfather says he feels like a "damn dog" whenever he's at the walmart or wherever and hears that whisper down the aisle telling him to come along ;)

    Owen is going to have such amazing memories and record of his early childhood through your blog. Gibson, too. Lucky boys!!

  4. I bet your grandfather looks up from his newspaper and smiles every time he hears that whistle.

  5. Jo- Thank you.

    Deirdre- It may be the Universal Whistle.

    Kelly- It's a mindfuck, isn't it? And we never see it coming and even if we do, certainly not the way it pans out. Sigh.

    SJ- Haha! Now I will be listening for you and your mother in the Costco.

    Nancy- He may well be doing that. And wouldn't that be sweet?

  6. The things we can't physically hold are the most important sometimes, aren't they? I love your whistle. Maybe I'll start my own =)

  7. This just made me tear up. I have a will and my girls are to divide the spoils, as it were. And I hope they can do it gracefully. And you're right, of course. I remember when my father died, I could no longer deny his love. We couldn't argue anymore. And love was what was left.

    XX Beth

  8. I've been there with this inheritance crap. I knew this would happen and tried to convince my dad to leave his money to a zoo or something. He didn't and I too chose to walk away. I think it is good to give people you love things they want while you are still alive. Now I know things are just things and mean very little. I am quite sure you have given and still give your kids so much of yourself and even through this blog you are giving to them. The pictures, the love - nothing more is needed. Sweet Jo

  9. I am thinking that much of your writing needs to be collected and compiled into a book of essays. This one, for sure, should into that anthology. It's beautiful.

    My mother is always saying that she wishes the three girls would come to my parents' house and divvy up their millions, yes millions of possessions. It's too daunting, and I prefer to imagine my parents living forever. When we were little, one of my sisters used to put stickers on the bottom of things of my mother's that she liked!

  10. Rachel- Do it!

    Beth Coyote- Well, I wish I could say the same about how I feel after my mother's death but I do not. It is sad but I don't feel guilty. I am glad you do have that love, though. I am so very, very glad. Nothing could be more important.

    Sweet Jo- I have been giving my children some things but some I am not ready to get rid of. But I think as I age, I will be doing that more and more.

    Elizabeth- Your sister is the pragmatist! And yes, perhaps your parents will be immortal. I mean, it could happen, right?

  11. Ah, Ms Moon, what truth you tell here. Some of them very hard truths that I have seen played out in my husband's family and that I am resolved not to let play out between my brother and me when our mother goes. it is sad.

    but then there is the whistle. and there is owen, observing with such delight that you are always excited to see him. can you imagine what a gift that is to a child, to know that when he walks into a room, there is such excitement at his presence. that made me smile so wide and almost cry tears of joy. this is such a beautiful piece of writing. thank you.

  12. Now THAT is a thought-provoking post. It's interesting to contemplate the things we pass down to our descendants without necessarily thinking about it -- like the family whistle.

    I think your approach to inheritance seems sensible. I'm just going to roll with whatever the will says when the time comes. That's my expectation, anyway.

  13. Here is a tradition from my mother's family that I've always loved, and which I've passed on to my husband - when you are holding hands with someone (whether sweetie, parent, or child), give them a quick three squeezes. That's "I love you". The recipient squeezes back four times: "I love you too." Then you squeeze back twice: "how much?" And then they squeeze super hard, once, to indicate how much. Great fun.

    I love your family whistle.

  14. Beautiful post, Mary. I love your heart, your wisdom, the way you take things in and then let it all out in a lovely exhalation of words. So satisfying to read and drift in. Thank you. Again.

  15. At least we don't have the sad crazy anger of siblings squabbling over inheritance to deal with. We are both only children. I know my wife could not take a lot of greedy bickering. Thank goodness for that.


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