Skip to main content


Jillian Van Hefty

The Paisley Trove

By Jillian Van Hefty

“Shhhh, let’s sneak out before anyone knows we’re gone,” my mother whispered. On Saturday mornings, while my siblings sat inches from the console television set watching The Flintstones and Fat Albert, the two of us went to Kmart to hunt for blue-light specials, sample butterscotches in gold cellophane from the Brach's Candy bin and enjoy Icees at the deli. Deciding between cherry or blue raspberry was a ten-year old’s version of Sophie’s Choice.

Back and forth through the aisles, Mom went "looking, just looking," as she put it. I happily remained in the greeting card department, heavily critiquing the contents of every rack. This condolence poem completely lacks sincerity! and Neon orange bubble font for a baptism? My fingertips traced the velvet rose petals, rubbed the subtle grittiness of vellum overlays, and stroked the soft edges of the flocked cardstock. If sparkles or glitter were set into a hummingbird's wing or a sunset, well, even better. Mom let me stay there for hours.

She understood this love affair of mine and always gave me the perfect card for special occasions but mostly for no reason at all. When I moved away from home, she included letters handwritten on linen stationary, a spiral-bound notebook, or yellow legal pad. They were so long in length that she wisely numbered the pages on the upper right-hand corner. In her impeccable penmanship, she signed, "Love, Mom xoxoxo," then a P.S. which was a CliffsNotes version of the letter. I've kept each and every one in a lime-green bin with paisley lining; they are my most cherished possessions.

When mail from Mom ceased, I reasoned that she was just busy enjoying her early retirement she took unexpectedly, or the post office lost them in transit.

The truth was her memory was slipping away. Alzheimer's Disease, it turned out, was more insidious than simply forgetting where you put your address labels and stamps. It's failing to remember your very essence; that you once loved blue-light specials, butterscotch candy, writing letters to your daughter. What is a daughter?

On my recent birthday, I cherished the many cards I received, especially the homemade ones from my young sons that read, "Haqqy berfday Mommy, you are my dymund," and “I love you more than every grain of sand on every beach in the whole world.” They were displayed on the mantle for weeks. But Mom's was noticeably absent and profoundly missed.

I went to my bedroom and pulled out my beloved lime-green bin with the paisley lining from under the bed. An hour later, my husband found me sitting on the floor surrounded by a moat of envelopes.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

 "Looking," I replied, "just looking."

—Jillian Van Hefty

Jillian Van Hefty lives in Northwest Arkansas with her family and emotional support Keurig. She was a 2022 winner of the “A Hotel Room of One's Own: The Erma Bombeck | Anna Lefler Humorist-in-Residence Program” and a 2024 finalist of the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition in the global human interest category. Her winning essay from Nickie’s Prize for Humor Writing appears in Sisters! Bonded by Love and Laughter. She enjoys pretending to exercise on her E-bike, spelunking, and walking her rescue MinPin—but only if it’s above 61.25 degrees.

Previous Post

Nesting Dolls of Motherhood

In my boyhood, I never expected to become a stay-at-home parent like my mother. But that experience brought us closer in my adulthood. A mother of six, she had always insisted there is nothing better in the world than “holding babies.” During my many hours holding my two infant daughters, I had to agree.
Read More
Next Post

Naked and Unafraid

My mother is 94 years old, and until a few months ago she lived quasi-independently under my watchful gaze.

And then, suddenly, she suffered twin medical emergencies that resulted in catastrophic loss of both memory and mobility, which forced me to place her in a nursing home.

As an only child, this means that I, too, have been placed in a nursing home.

Read More