I had a dream last night that I was standing outside a beautiful white house sitting back from the road up a slight slope. The front yard was a riot of color with a multitude of different flowers covering the lawn. The air was sweetly scented as I walked up the slate path leading up to the wide inviting front porch.
The entrance to the house was only protected by the screen door, letting all kinds of delicious aromas dance through the air. I stood in front of it listening to the happy noises inside.
Voices carried to me. Laughter commingled together in a melodious form. I didn’t know why at the time, but the voices called to me. I felt compelled to place my hand on the door handle. I wanted to enter this house and hunt down those voices more than anything. Just as I began opening the door, a voice called out. “Come on in here.” I knew that voice, though I hadn’t heard it in over 30 years. Nothing could have stopped me from entering that house.
In a single instant, the unknown white house was gone. I stared in disbelief at the old living room I remembered from my childhood. The wooden floor where countless cousins and I slept on pallets during summer months, the walls decorated in family photos, the old easy chair where you could find grandpa watching wrestling matches most Saturdays.
I drifted out of the room and down the short hall to the kitchen. There they were, the source of all that joyous noise. My grandma stood in front of the kitchen sink, curtains billowing in the gentle breeze that wafted through the open window, several fresh picked tomatoes rested on the counter while she sliced one onto a plate.
The old kitchen table was almost completely full of women laughing and gabbing and drinking coffee. There were eleven chairs pulled up to the table and seven of them were currently occupied. Some sat with their legs curled up under them, cigarettes dangling from their hands, others held their coffee cups or passed around the coffee pot for refills. All were smiling and enjoying themselves.
I saw my beautiful mama sitting in one of the chairs, her permed hair beautifully combed. She was dressed in her signature summer style of sleeveless blouse and capri pants, one leg curled under her as her sandal dangled from her toes. That rare and beautiful smile playing across her lips as one of her sisters told her an amusing story.
She looked up as grandma spoke to me to pull up a stool and sit. Mama’s beautiful green eyes sparkled as she patted me on the cheek, a gesture of love I remember so well that I ache with longing to feel it again.
Grandma handed me an old jelly jar filled with iced sweet tea and settled back into her place, after she laid out a spread of garden fresh vegetables for everyone to eat. I stood by mom, iced glass sweating in my hand, and observed the party.
The talking was the best thing I heard in a long time. Years have gone by since all these wonderful women congregated in one room. Many had been dead for years, even decades, and their beauty had faded in my mind. But here they all were, together again, as vibrant as they were in the past, talking of family and friends and days gone by. I listened, transfixed, to all the old stories again.
I turned and glanced out the window, my eyes resting on the vegetable garden grandma grew in the back yard. It seemed so much bigger and more plentiful than I ever saw it. In the distance I could make out the silhouettes of several men and knew instinctively that dad, grandpa, and several of my uncles were out there talking over manly things.
A loud bout of laughter brought me back into the room and I turned in time to see my grandma’s wide toothless grin. Oh how I missed that beautifully wrinkled face. I took a drink of tea and stared around the table. It was then I noticed the three empty seats with empty coffee cups before them. Those were place holders for the three living sisters. And though I know the day will come when those seats will be filled and the party will really take off, I said a little prayer right then that it would be a long, long time before this group was all together again.
I could feel myself drifting back to the front door. The group before me grew fuzzy and dim. No one looked up or said goodbye as I vanished from the room. Back outside, the sun shone so bright behind it, the house seemed to glow as if with its own light.
I woke up crying, realizing I had a glimpse of Heaven, and of many of the people I loved and cherished. As I sat there, the dream dissipated. My loved ones dimmed in my eyes and I couldn’t remember the sound of their voices. Their memories were fading in my mind again and I longed to join them, to see those bright, vivid women as they were when they were all alive, and not just some distant memory time glossed over.
And yet, with a smile on my face even as tears streamed down, I realized I was given a beautiful gift. For one brief moment, I was back in time listening to my mama and her sisters enjoy each other’s company again, tasting grandma’s veggies and sweet tea one more time, and enjoying every minute of it.