“GET YOURSELF A GLASS OF TEA,” she’d say as I walked in the door, happy to be back home in Esto.
Annie Laura Kidd made good sweet tea — the key was Louisiane brand tea bags, she’d tell you — and I was happy to be back at her kitchen table, catching up on the local news. Annie kept her finger on the pulse in Esto, having settled into a new brick home only a few steps from the old unpainted wood-frame house where she was born.
“I didn’t want to come back to Esto,” she’d acknowledge, but her husband Jimmy insisted, and their daughters Liz and Sara fit right in, living among first and second and third cousins.
It was fun at their house. Something was always going on. Annie was ready for a hand of cards, or a word game, or a good-natured quarrel with Jimmy. Maybe a jigsaw puzzle was in the works on the dining room table. Usually there was a pound cake, or some cookies — and orange nut bars at Christmas.
My mother complained I’d rather be at Annie’s than at home. It was a close second. And then, after my mother died, it was true. Annie was another mother.
The years passed, and I moved farther away. But I’ve always looked forward to trips home to Esto, and to a glass of Annie’s tea, and all the local news.
A few years ago, when she turned 80, all of Esto turned out for a surprise party in the fellowship hall of the Esto Baptist Church. And it was a surprise, one of the few local stirrings to escape her attention. She said at the end of the party: “I reckon I’ll stick around and aggravate my young’uns a while longer.”
She did. Her 88th birthday came and went last August 25.
When I was home in the spring, it seemed clear there might not be another birthday. We had a good visit, and a few glasses of sweet tea, as she drifted in and out.
As the time came to leave, I thanked her for being my other mother. She was fully present. “I’ve been proud to be your other mother,” she said, looking into my eyes.
“Well, are you ready to go?” I asked.
“I’m ready,” she said. “When the time comes, I’m ready to go.”
We hugged again, and as I turned to walk toward the door she said, “I’ll see you in Heaven.”
Annie Laura Kidd died on June 12, 2012, at home in Esto.