The third of January.

Papaw carried Josh on a pillow.

In 1985, my little brother, Joshua, was born in the wee hours of the morning on January 3rd. He was tiny and bruised and grouchy, with a large set of lungs and a longing to be held constantly. When my brother was a baby, my mother’s father would carry him around on a pillow because he was afraid he might break him. I was so very excited to be a big sister, and so very scared because my mother was battling cancer — I was haunted by nightmares that she might die. Perhaps that was why I felt so responsible for taking care of him, even from the very beginning.

Little Josh in a WATO shirt.

I would crawl under my brother’s bassinet, tackle-hug him to the ground, and pester him mercilessly as only a big sister could. Later, he would knock at my door, keep me awake at night, and want to be involved in everything I did, as only a little brother could. We shared adventures, toys, games, secrets, excitement, history, trials, difficulties, separations, and tears, both in childhood and adulthood. Today, he turns twenty-seven, surrounded by a new family, sporting a sense of clarity that I am pleased and proud to see. And I know we have many more adventures ahead of us.

Papaw and me drinking coffee by the fireplace.

In 2002, my maternal grandfather, James Wilhoit, passed away in the wee hours of the morning on January 3rd. In many ways, my maternal grandparents both helped raised me, and I saw Papaw as a surrogate father. I spent summers with them, weeks of the year when my mother was working, random months when the retreat home was much needed. Papaw taught me how to play poker, how to solve problems creatively, how to construct crazy pumpkin sculptures for Halloween, how to call the Bob Whites, how to read the lessons in nature. He also taught me that chocolate heals all, that we all struggle with patience, and that we can all be strong when we have to be, and gentle when we need to be.

Home for a visit from college.

Most of all, my Papaw taught me about magic. He brought me roses from the garden and told me to look for the tiny woman inside like in The Little Prince. He made the Last Unicorn appear on the television whenever I wanted it. He cured my warts with green bean leaves. He gave me a car that I could drive for a quarter of a million miles and it would not die — maybe because I kept his family bible in its glove compartment. And yes, I understand that his magic was really just love, but that is — in my humble opinion — the best kind of magic.

Grandma Asdell holds a little baby Devon.

In 2012, my paternal grandmother, Elinor Asdell, passed away in the wee hours of the morning on January 3rd. Grandma Asdell lived out West — in Arizona, California, Oregon at different times — so I didn’t get to see her very much at all. I saw her when I was a little baby and we were still living in Phoenix, Arizona, and then she came to visit me when I was a teenager and living in East Tennessee. And she would always send me birthday cards, Christmas cards, letters, emails, and Facebook messages.

Grandma Asdell visiting a high school Devon

In many ways, the love my Grandma Asdell gave me was a very healing sort of love. It was unconditional, it was stubborn, it defied the geographical and emotional boundaries that separated us, and it let me know that, no matter what, I had a grandmother on the other side of the country who loved me completely. I didn’t have to do anything to earn that love — and as the abysmal correspondent and ungrateful child I often was, I’m sure I didn’t do anything to deserve it. Still, she gave, and gave, and gave. And if the outpouring of kind messages in the wake of her death are any indication, she gave this sort of stubborn love to everyone in her life, to everyone she cared about. It’s a wonderful legacy to leave behind.

The third of January has a history in my family — both of incredible joy, and of incredible loss. No matter the occasion, however, January 3rd is a date during which I can celebrate the amazing legacy of love from my family — a legacy I can carry like a light to share with the world.

Comments are closed.