Pop passed away back in 2008 and Mom followed him in 2016. But the home in which I was raised — the home my parents bought for nine thousand dollars in 1962, back when nine thousand dollars was a lot of money — is still in the family.
Although the house has been rented out for almost ten years now, Mom and Pop have yet to be driven out. They are in that house, in every crack, nook and cranny. A house that old, inhabited for so long by a family, cannot be emptied of its essence in a mere decade.
Their belongings still come to the surface in that house, emerging like clay tablets from the sands of Mesopotamia. Things are drawn out from the backs of closets. They shake free, fall out, bubble up. Slivers of paper, notes, ballpoint pens. Old keys.
The other night I was over there getting ready for the next tenant and I found a tiny box in the attic. It contained a letter and a Bible. The letter is dated November 19, 1957 and was sent from my grandmother to my father to wish him a happy birthday while he was in basic training at Fort Gordon, GA. The Bible is The Testament for Fishers of Men. and the inscription says it was given to him my Aunt Jane in 1954.
Tucked inside the Bible was a newspaper clipping my mother gave him. How do I know Mom gave it to him? Because it was cut out with pinking shears, and because it’s a love poem. My mother was many things. First, she was the woman who loved my father most. Second, she was an accomplished seamstress who definitely owned a pair of pinking shears. I know this because I still have her shears stowed away in an old sewing box.
Here’s the poem, a love message from Mom to Pop from long ago.
This Much I Promise
This much I promise you my sweet
By all the stars above
There is no other soul on earth
To whom I give my love
I cannot promise I will be
The picture of perfection
Or that you will not know a day
Of sorrow or dejection
I cannot sear that you will use
A gold or silver spoon
I cannot pledge a kingdom or
The surface of the moon
For I am only human as
A being God created
And I can only undertake
The things He contemplated
But I can promise you this much
Whatever else I do
I love you, and as long as life
I will be true to you.