I still remember what I was wearing. The same jeans I always wear when I want to accessorize with black. Threw on a tank top and a jacket because the Florida weather was just cool enough to get away with it. I had just gotten a new pair of Chuck’s on sale at the outlet mall over the weekend and I still had a little Christmas money left over. My plan was to shell out some cash and finally get my diplomas framed. The one from 2010 sat lopsided in a cheap Wal-Mart frame on the floor of my childhood bedroom. I saw it every time I went home to visit and shook my head at the fact that I hadn’t gotten it framed yet. The diploma from 2012 was still in the cylindrical cardboard container it arrived in.

I drove past the framing store every time I got Chick-fil-A, so on that first day back to work after Christmas vacation, I had resolved to get it done. I remember feeling so relaxed as I sauntered into the store, it was a beautiful day with a nice breeze. I remember walking around the entire store before getting up the nerve to talk to a staffer because I’m an introvert and I’d rather walk around the store until I figure things out myself before having to ask for help.

My phone was in my right back pocket and I found it odd that it would be buzzing so relentlessly as I was talking to the very helpful sales associate. After all, it was the Monday after vacation, everyone was back to running their routes, all was well. Well, it should have been.

When I stepped out of the store and checked my phone, the initial barrage of texts had little, yet terrifying information. What did he mean mommy fell, was it from her back? Did her foot go numb again? Pray, yes, ok that’s not a good sign. Ambulance? Ok, did she break something???

When under stress, my body defaults to logic. Emotions are a bit too much for me to handle so I put them in a nice little compartment for later. At this point, logic said, “Don’t call the person reporting the emergency, call the person who needs to know about the emergency most. Daddy. It’s afternoon, he’s probably at the gym. God, please don’t let him still be at the gym away from his phone… Oh good, he answered, he sounds out of breath, he must be walking down that long Motorola hallway to the car. God please let him drive safely. Do I need to come home? Call me from the hospital so I know if I need to come home.

I remember getting back in my car and driving towards the Chick-fil-A. “You need to eat, if you end up driving home, who knows when the next meal will be, eat now while you wait so you can function properly when you need to.”

I was too stressed to go back to the office so I drove past the church and straight to my apartment. I remember sitting on the couch, praying. I tried to eat what I could until my dad called back. “Your mom is very sick.”

I remember arguing with him about me driving down, I live 1.5 hours from home. He didn’t want me to get in an accident on the drive down. I was coming regardless, so I just instructed him not to call me until I got to the hospital. I picked up my keys and my purse. I remember pausing in the hallway, trying to think if I should bring a change of clothes. No time for that. I think I grabbed a charger and then I left in my jacket, tank top, jeans and Chuck’s.

I think about that day every time I wear that jacket. I think I’ve worn the Chuck’s maybe once since then. They’re pretty sweet with zippers on the sides. I don’t think I ever got to show them to her. I used to love buying new things and showing them to mom, she always had such an appreciation for it. She appreciated things, but she didn’t let them rule her.

She didn’t have any designer clothes. Any designer purses she had were gifts, most from me. One time someone gave her a really nice leather purse and she didn’t even know it was name brand. She made a home for us out of every day, run of the mill things, nothing fancy, even though she had an appreciation for the finer things in life.

A few days after Christmas that year, we were in the family room watching the latest version of Cinderella. We all know the story. After the death of her mother, Cinderella’s dad married a prideful, selfish, and greedy woman who had two children of her own. They moved into Cinderella’s home and had no sensitivity towards the fact that the place they lived used to be a home filled with a specific brand of love. As tragedy would have it, Cinderella’s father also passed away and she was left to fend for herself in her childhood home with the three intruders. The greedy step mother had acquired so much debt that they needed to sell household items for money.

There was one conversation where Cinderella expressed that her house was all she had left of her parents and that she needed to keep it at all costs.

It was then that my mother walked into the living room and said, “Pookie, sell the house, split the money with your brothers. Don’t love the house.” I laughed. That was my mother, instructing her babies to never be so attached to things that you don’t move forward with your life.

Never in my wildest nightmares would I have thought that one year and nearly one week after that conversation with my mother, would I no longer have a key to my childhood home. The place where my diploma sat for six years, untouched. The place where I thought I could always come back to and just be me, no matter what.

But mommy’s lesson still stands. It is just a house. The special brand of love that once flowed through it, though altered, can survive outside of those four walls. It must. One year later, that love is struggling, but I am praying that it will eventually thrive once more.

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