“Memories are the treasures that we keep locked deep within the storehouse of our souls, to keep our hearts warm when we are lonely.”

— Becky Aligada

Today is a day of remembering.  One-hundred-twenty-six years ago today, a tiny baby was born.  She was tiny because it was not yet time for her to arrive.  Nobody expected her to live.  She was born in the winter of 1886, in the plains of Illinois, and her parents lined a small shoebox with a blanket and set her by the fire to keep her warm.  The doctor stopped by the next morning, death certificate in hand, prepared to enter the time she had died on his paperwork.

I suppose you have guessed by now that the baby made it through the night.  Actually, she made it through nearly ninety-four years of days and nights until she died on my birthday in 1979.  She was my great-aunt, Ethel Matthews, known to us as Essie.

There are people who come and go in our lives and touch our hearts in special ways.  Essie came and then departed from my world, and she left her mark indelibly etched on my soul.  We connected in ways that transcend age.  Our personal music seemed to resonate in harmony through our shared love for all things in nature, for words, and for puzzles.  We shared a family, a home, and even a bedroom for a time; and I carry her with me still.

Each January 23, when the cold of winter blows all around, I think of the baby so tiny that her father’s wedding band could slide over her elbow and fit on her arm.  I think of the way that this baby who was given no chance to survive the night outlived her whole family and built a life and a home for the people she loved.  I think of all the warm memories she created out of her love and grace and faith in the goodness of simply being alive.

Happy Birthday, Essie!  I pull a sweater around my shoulders, close my eyes, and carry a little stool over to your fire.  Ahhh!  The memories are nice and warm and fill me up with joy.