Some goodbyes are bittersweet

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 1, 2010

They were faces from my childhood, older now with a few crinkles around the eyes, but still smiling the same smiles they wore as kids. We came together on this day before Thanksgiving to say goodbye to Mrs. Edwina Richburg, the mother of our friend Jim.

Her picture was the first thing I saw and the image was one of a beautiful young woman smiling and full of life. That is how I remember her, with a smile on her face.

When I was a child, I knew her as Jim and Charlie’s mother, one of the neighborhood parents whose yard we passed through on the way go our next big adventure. Like my own mother, her being part of life on Park Avenue was a given. Parents populated the landscape of our childhood like the tall oak trees in front of the Dunn’s house and their presence in our lives was as strong and sure as those trees.

When I was older, I had the pleasure of getting to know Mrs. Richburg from an adult perspective. I worked at the local paper putting together the society section and began trying my hand at writing feature stories about folks in the community.

Someone suggested writing a story about Mrs. Richburg and her interesting crafts. In all the years, I’d known her, I never thought about her having a talent beyond being the mother of my friends.

The afternoon I interviewed her, she invited me into a big room at the back of her house, one I never entered as a child. There we sat and talked as she showed me her wonderful creations. It was interesting and kind of strange to experience an adult interaction with someone who was part of that mass of people I once considered “the grownups,” even more interesting to realize I was now considered a grownup myself.

My friend, Carol, Jim’s wife, told me they found a copy of that story, and it pleased me to think Mrs. Richburg kept it all these years.

Later when I had my own children and lived with them on that same street, Mrs. Richburg and I ran into each other on a regular basis. She was taking her little dog for a walk and I was walking around the neighborhood with three small children. Often we stopped to talk while the kids petted her dog and our own dog, which was hopelessly in love with hers, edged his way into the mix.

Standing in the funeral home chapel Wednesday, all of these thoughts rushed into my head as I looked into those faces from my childhood — Jim, the Page boys and their mother, Mrs. Wilda Lee, Liz and her mother, Mrs. Martin, and Pat, who lived next door to the Richburgs. I thought how lucky we were to grow up on Park Avenue during that time of innocence called childhood.

One thing is sure; time moves us on from that innocent place and pushes into adulthood. And, with that march forward come the inevitable goodbyes to those who pass on to the next life. Still on this morning surrounded by so many who grew up with me, I felt our connection and I knew Mrs. Richburg, like all the adults of our early years, would always be with us, woven into the tapestry of our lives, alive forever in the sweet memories we share.