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story.lead_photo.caption Brenda Looper

I've been thinking a lot about the past lately, not only because it's the Looper birthday month (some already passed, some to come, but three just this week--my niece, me, and my oldest brother), but because we're coming up on my mom's birthday next month, and a month after that the anniversary of her death.

Long ago, I had a little garnet birthstone ring, given to me by my mom when I was a child, that I loved and wore just about everywhere. The gold plating wore off eventually, and at some point, the ring disappeared. For my birthday gift to myself this year, I found a new garnet ring with a vintage feel to it, this time in silver. Along the way, I got caught up in trying to find a ring somewhat like my mom's wedding ring.

My parents never had a lot, and when they got married, the ring Mama wore reflected that. It wasn't a plain band, but instead was thin and tapered, with carved flowers whose fine details wore away through the years. At one point, she had told me, it contained tiny stones, but they were long gone before I appeared on the planet. It was small, delicate, and far from ostentatious, but to me it always was the most beautiful ring in the world. I don't know where it is now, but I often think of it and her.

The little things can sometimes be the most precious to us: a ring, a milk-glass cake stand, a pair of overalls, a power saw with the paint worn off and grooves in the handle from use--they can all connect us to our family's past and to happier times. Those objects become even more important when the owner is gone and all we have of them are memories.

Sometimes it's a recipe that spawns nostalgia. My paternal grandma used to make Red Velvet cake for Christmas Eve dinner, and I dearly loved it. I think of her every Jan. 13 when I have my birthday cake, which is always Red Velvet. I can't think of chocolate pie without thinking of my maternal grandparents; Grandpa loved it more than any other dessert, and Nanny loved making it for him (he always got the first slice at family dinners). And Mama's gingerbread loaves never lasted long.

We can keep their memories alive, whether it's making a favorite dish, or wearing something that belonged to them. A pair of Grandpa's overalls hangs in a closet at his house, now owned by my oldest brother, who sometimes wears them to work in Grandpa's garden. At the 200th anniversary event for the Arkansas Gazette a couple of months ago, I wore Mama's necklace and Nanny's jade brooch. As an introvert, just feeling that connection was a comfort in a room full of people who were mostly strangers to me.

The closer I get to March 23, the more I think about Mama, and the more I'm grateful for the love and fun I had with her while she was here. I can't have her anymore, or the funny birthday calls (she swore Nanny was the only one who crooned the birthday song off-key, but she did it too). I can, though, remember the tangible and intangible gifts she gave me--the stubbornness, weird sense of humor and strong sense of right and wrong, plus any number of trinkets ... and love of chocolate, of course.

She couldn't be here forever (dammit), but the lessons she taught and the love she gave are eternal.

A reminder to letter-writers: I can't read minds, no matter how many times I've wished on my birthday candles that I could, so please remember that if you want a letter published, you'll need to give me your name and town. And yes, your actual name (though you can use the first two initials and last name), as we don't print anonymous letters.

Please also be sure that what you've written is up to snuff: No libel, no obscenity, no attacks on private individuals, no repetition of partisan talking points, etc. Regardless of party, one of the biggest problems with using talking points (other than that they make every letter look the same) is that they often state things as fact that aren't, even when obviously false. I've told letter-writers for a long time that one way you can get around this is attribution, yet so few have listened. For instance, if the president says, despite having no scientific basis, that whippoorwills are responsible for climate change, you can say, "According to the president, whippoorwills are to blame."

Dang whippoorwills. Always up to something.

We always need letters, and most of the people who send them at the moment happen to be liberal-to-centrist-conservative. Seeing more conservative letters requires said letters being sent in, and not the same letters sent in by everyone and their dogs. The people who most often get their letters printed are careful about what they write, and they tend to read them over multiple times before sending them. They're also polite and don't assume that their every word is precious or that re-sending the same letter multiple times will make a difference. Good manners help, ya know, as does following the rules.

I'll keep trying to get more letters in when I can, but I need your help. Let it be your birthday gift to me. It's easier than trying to email a Red Velvet cake.

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Assistant Editor Brenda Looper is editor of the Voices page. Read her blog at blooper0223.wordpress.com. Email her at blooper@adgnewsroom.com.

Editorial on 01/15/2020

Print Headline: BRENDA LOOPER: That rings a bell

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