Thursday was my day to drive to the big city for my annual cancerversary check up.
I hate it.
I hate going in those front doors. I hate feeling like a patient. I hate the surreptitious looks of others even as you're surreptitiously looking at them. The place was packed, as usual. There were so many people there. The elderly man, thin and grimy and smelling strongly of unwashed body. A woman about my age, wearing pajama pants. There's a fashion statement I never understood. What kind of person wears fuzzy pink pajama pants with frogs on them in public? There were elderly ladies. There was a husband and wife who were obviously dealing with this for the first time, and looked a bit shellshocked. There was a guy who blessed me when I sneezed while talking a steady patter of soft Spanish into his cellphone. There was another Debbie/Debby who stood up with me when they called our name. It was a moment of humor.
I did what I needed to do, and then got the all clear for the fourth year, and sprang out those doors like I had a fire lit under my butt. How do I feel about that? Good. Don't get me wrong. But I don't feel good, and that is the thing that completely mystifies me. I have never gone back to feeling good. I don't trust how I feel because I felt great and found out I had cancer. Since treatment, I have been plagued by aches and pains and tiredness. I'm not sick. I function well enough to hold down a job, but if you stop me at any given time and say, "Right now...how do you feel?" I'd give you a list: my back hurts right here. My side hurts right here. My neck..." It makes me feel like a complainer, like some grannie with her list of pains, so I don't talk about these things. There's nothing to be done, anyway.
Once a year, I go to the cancer center, and they ask me how I feel, and I tell them. They tell me everything looks good, and that I'm probably dealing with fibromyalgia, which I should probably bring to the attention of my primary care provider. I say "great!", and I spring back out the front door like I have a fire lit under my butt.
If I can pull this scenario off just one more year, I will be given a new title. It will be 'cured'. Five years out, and I'll be called cured. I covet that title, and can't wait.
After springing out of there, I comforted myself with a walk through my favorite thrift store, and I found something, a sampler. Framed. Under glass. I reached into my coat pocket and pulled out my reading glasses. I squinted my eyes and made out the tiny name...'Ann Martin, 1808'.
Incredulous, I study it closely. I see the tiny stitchery. I see the individual threads of the cloth. I turn it over. It is professionally framed by a place in Waterford. The price is $5.99. I waver. It can't be a real sampler, but it sure looks like it.
There is the yellowing and the staining one would expect to see on a piece of material that old. The colors are muted and dull as you would expect vegetable dyes of that age to be. The piece is even slightly crooked in its frame, just a bit of unevenness as you would expect a piece of stretched cloth to be.
I make out the writing:
How truly blest are they who leisure find
to dress the little garden of the mind.
That gratefull tillage well rewards our pains
sweet is the labor, certain are the gains.
The rising harvest never mocks our toil.
We are sure of the fruit if we manure the soil.
It is difficult to read because the 's' look like 'f', and the writing is tiny, the phrasing unfamiliar. I ponder this. It's not a cheerful little homily that lends itself to duplication. I mean, 'manure the soil'? What pushes me to buy it is this: that it tickles me to think of it. Tim is not a reader, and sometimes he is impatient with me, because my nose is in a book. He's a doer. I can tell him that I'm manuring my mind, and he'd totally agree with that. He thinks its b.s. anyway. So I buy it.
I take my little bag and tuck my largish sampler under my arm and head out the door to head out of the big city and travel the hour back home. It's a delightful drive in the autumn. The leaves are beginning to change already, and I glanced over at the sampler there on the passenger seat and wondered about what I had there, all framed and under glass, getting a little anxious to take it all apart and see.
Suddenly, I got the notion. This is an adventure for sisters, so I took a detour in Corry and headed for the little town of Grand Valley where my sister is. We both marveled at the sampler, and we could not tell. She gave me a razor knife and we slowly and carefully slit the paper in the back and began to remove the tiny little nails that held it in place. We both simultaneously said, "AWWWWWWWWWWWWW!" in disappointment to discover it was a print.
I spent the next couple of hours helping my sister. We talked quietly and comfortably. We went to the post office to pick up a shipment of new baby chicks. I handed them to her one by one as she checked their bottoms and then dunked their little beaks in the water and watched them swallow, and then dipped their beaks in the feed. Once she was sure that they would know to eat and drink, she turned them loose in their new home, and I handed her another.
Two sisters laughed in the changing seasons, the autumn sun warm. The chicks peeped, the chickens chucked quietly to themselves, and her cows bawled in the distance.
When I went home, I took a dozen of brown eggs with me. They rode next to me, set carefully on the seat next to the worthless sampler. It had been a golden sort of day and it had nothing to do with the falling leaves. I drove, singing along to "Behind Blue Eyes" by the Moody Blues and I was glad.
Late Edit: I am not disappointed that the 'sampler' turned out to be a print. It lent itself quite nicely to pleasant day dreams on the way home as I tried to calculate the price of something that old. It was one of those moments that are commonplace on the 'Antique Roadshow'. The idea to spontaneously share the adventure with my sister came to me, and so I did, because she loves old stuff too. It was a fun day with many dreams, and it is never a bad thing to feel the fragility of new life in your cupped hands.
The 'sampler' hangs in the library, and I will never see but what I don't think of an autumn day. It's only worthless in the financial sense, but it was a miraculous balance to a day that started out so icky.