The lampshade embellished with Elvis silhouettes casts just enough light to illuminate the armoire that sits defiantly behind her. Crammed behind glass windows, clay and ceramic turtles vie for space amongst Indian dolls with Campbell soup cheeks, a beautiful brown. Amongst quill boxes, a beaded leather pouch and memorabilia befitting a King, photos are placed containing far away mountains, deep canyons, sombreros and fishing spots along rivers and lakes. Glittery purses, bejeweled clocks and illuminated knick knacks, all awash with musical notes and silhouettes of an icon, inhabit the spaces left. All reminiscent of an icon we’d all come to know and love because of her. The armoire keeps a thousand stories, captured one by one in every artifact – a quiet storyteller of a life lived full.
I was blessed to have heard many of them, many times. There at her wooden oval table, over many years, she would sit amongst my aunties, uncles and cousins, with perfectly painted nails, clasping a salty margarita glass in one hand while the other grasped a dangling turquois and silver earring. Each of us ready to fill in a name, place or time if she struggled to recall them herself. I wanted to hear her tell those stories again now and laugh and marvel at her love for all things sparkly, in spirit and in appearance.
Today, in her blue armchair she sits, frail in body and delicate in spirit, talking of a panicked call two days prior. It included a bumpy ambulance ride and a battery of tests. And in-between quiet pauses, I long for the armoire to spring loose all that it contains to remind her of a life lived. Remind her, I say.
“Sing that song with me, like you did at the concert in ‘68” the Elvis atop an acrylic casing croons with a flick of his hair and a swivel of his black-leathered hips just the way she loved to see him do it.
And with a wink and nod the Elvis shaped magnet quips “I sure would be delighted with your company, Freda, just like the ole days on Lawndale, remember those?”
“But don’t forget our times at the Chrisler Arena, the Blue Lake singers and wishing to dress up like Indians for the first time?” the embroidered bandolier bag counters with a cackle.
With a jolt, I am forced to listen intently to her telling of another story now a different kind of story I cannot comprehend. She explains her tiredness carefully. She clarifies her inability to rise from her bed closely. With a precision and a calm she forces me into a present I do not want to accept, where an armoire stands silent behind her, compelling me to ask of it, you will remember her story for us, won’t you? Please, please assure me you will…