Carrying Memories

So I am reading a fascinating article for one of my classes, and my hands feel dry. This distracts me when I write notes, when I highlight essential passages or when I catch a glimpse of the ashy-ness happening at my fingertips. So, as always, I lean for the lotion and start my ritual of putting on lotion at a desk.

First, I have to take off all of my rings. I love rings, and I wear many. They are my little emotional reminders of the people and experiences I have had in my life that I like to keep close at hand. First are my two stackable thumb rings. One says “wishes” the other “imagine.” One thousand miles away, on the finger of my cousin, there is another set of these. So I take the time to think of something ridiculous that my cousin said, which makes me laugh. Today the ridiculous thing s “nut dust” to the tune of Tina Turner’s “Nutbush City Limits,” which stems from the dust that spilled out onto our cheese platter when we emptied a bag of walnuts. Though this was just a few days ago, I do not remember who exclaimed “nut dust,” nor do I remember who sang it…but I do know it was something ridiculous we did. And, as always, though we are far away from each other right now, it makes me feel closer to her.

Because today is a ‘stay at the home study day,’ I only have the rings that I didn’t take off before falling asleep while reading last night, so the ritual is shorter than usual. The only other ring on my right hand is a black silicone band imprinted with black Mickey Mouse faces, a constant reminder of how Walter Disney began with a mouse. If it were more accurate, it would be the side of a barn and some charcoal because that is where he began drawing, but I love the mouse, so the mouse it is!

Then I remove the rings from my left hand. My engagement ring and wedding ring were soldered to each other a few years ago because over the last 17+ years, the bands have worn down, so they come off my hand as one ring and remind me of the last 20 years of extraordinary adventures that my husband and I have had. And, under them, the last ring I always take off is my 10th-anniversary band. So, for our 10th anniversary, my husband and I got in the car and drove (from Michigan) to Niagara Falls. It was a beautiful trip, full of hilarious and beautiful moments, including me repeating our wedding vows to my husband while we were under the falls, vows that I wrote ten years earlier.

Next comes the lotion, which today smells like grapefruit. It is my very favorite lotion, and there isn’t much left. Every time I smell this lotion, I think of walking down the beach in Jacksonville, Florida, with my husband while on tour. He tells me I smell lovely and says, “one day, we will live in Florida.” I remember thinking what a nice idea, but I had just accepted a job as the Director of a new center for the performing arts, so I could not see it happening anytime soon.

The entire ritual reminds me of one woman, my seventh (and eighth) grade Math teacher. She wore many rings and would also do this ritual when her hands were dry in class. She made math attainable for me, using everyday objects, like a kleenex box she had labeled to show us geometry. She took the worry out of math, and for me, turned it into a subject I love and still love to this day. She was tough and a little scary but always there for me. Because my mom worked at the school, my math teacher did not only exist in that classroom. She had appeared as a symbol of strength for me when I needed it most, like when my grandma died. I knew she was there to support her friend, my mom, but she was still an icon of strength for me, even as an adult. So, I always think of her when performing this lotion ritual because I am positive it is her ritual, and I am just borrowing it, and hopefully some of her strength.

Putting the rings back on after applying the lotion reaffirms how much love I have in my life, here in my home in Florida. And how, even though I am not with my family and mentors in Michigan, I carry them with me every day.

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