If you look up the expression, it’s either God or the Devil in those details.
It was God in my house. My mother always said, “Anything worth doing is worth doing well.” She ironed sheets and pillowcases, each bed made with six inches of top sheet folded neatly over the blanket. Her garden was an elaborate summer production of caged tomato plants clipped to topiary perfection.
You won’t be surprised, then, to know I scrubbed and ironed Maggie’s toddler shoelaces.”Why, Mama?” she asked when I sent her off for the Tide-To-Go pen to erase grass stains.
Cliff used to question my decisions, too. In our first year of marriage, he decided it was the Devil smirking at him from my detail quest. No sofa was correctly placed until I insisted he relocate it again and again and again. Every time we moved to another city, the new yard needed one more shrub or cluster of something fluffy. Then another. Then something tall by the oak…
One night as we watched the evening weather report, I pointed to the map and said, “There. Right there. See how the yellow encircles the blue? That’s the print I’m looking for in a shower curtain.”
“Karen,” he sighed. “There’s medicine for this.”
Details can be maddening. Except when they’re not.
When we moved to Milan a year ago, many unopened boxes sat in a storage room jumble. So Halloween passed undecorated. No one said a word. It was clear I was inundated at that point. But I felt the emptiness of an unheralded holiday. I’m pretty sure they did, too.
Knowing Maggie would arrive Friday for her college fall break, I organized the decor. With her garden witch swinging in salute by the garage, I could see we needed more details beneath her, true to my mother’s logic. We added chrysanthemums and pumpkins in several colors. “She’s back! My witch!” Maggie said joyfully as she pulled in the driveway.
Cliff smiled when his lighted spooky houses emerged from their cardboard shadows to reside on a burlap landscape. Every year we recount the tales behind each accessory. The three of us are a solitary unit, having lost familiar connections over the years of moving from one state to the next. Our details are our relatives, revisiting us like familiar cousins.
And the smiling pumpkin, purchased by my mother for Maggie’s first Halloween, glows beside her bed through the night while she’s home.
Cliff carried those boxes without being asked. He patiently dug holes to plant the flowers. He drove me through the countryside to find perfect pumpkins.
No eye rolling or sighing or questioning.
Some details are as precious as breath itself. In a life’s landscape, they’re the stepping stones whispering behind us, all the while assuring us we can step forward. Safely.
Nothing matters more.