Saturday, November 30, 2013

The First Day of Christmas

These days, Christmas comes all through December.  As soon as the last slice of pumpkin pie is licked clean, Christmas descends, full of fudge, and golden bells, carols, the sweetness that crosses each child's face.

When I was younger, Christmas was a day, a morning, a fete for immediate family.  Now it's expansive, gloriously fun,  deeply meaningful.  It's the month when the light comes back, the first full month of winter, and we focus on celebrations that hit the high notes for us.  For me.  That includes church with all the little kid's choirs and candlelight.  It's being together with friends, whose friendships go back 30 years.  It's family, community, wonderful things to eat, to cook.

If the American economy was based on my spending habits, we'd be a ship lost at sea.  Our family doesn't buy the big gifts for each other.  It's a book, a bracelet, a knitted scarf, wrapped in paper, tied with a pretty bow. It's being generous with the Food Bank and the Humane Society.  The simplest, sweetest things.

We went  to the first community celebration yesterday—a Christmas tree festival, sponsored by our local Catholic hospital.  Lots of the trees were done by designers.  The trends this year included putting 18-inch glittery balls deep inside the tree.  Really pretty.  The tree I could live with though, was a simple flocked tree with all kinds of birds peering out here and there.  Wonderful.

It's hosted in a very large convention center, and there were lots of little dancers, singers, and musicians who performed throughout the afternoon.  At one point there were a thousand people in the main ball room, all of them families with at least two children, some of them with four or five.  Young families.

My favorite kid was a little blond bombshell about four, who danced with such imagination and vigor. She was way off to the side and was half a beat behind all the other kids, but she was a dancer.  Music.  Big movements.  Even bigger joy.  Her hair so carefully fixed by her Mom, just bounced. So did she.

All those little kids had faces suffused with wonder.  Which, it turns out, is Christmas enough for me.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Attitude Is Gratitude

I've been inundated with gratitude lately.  All kinds of folks are doing 30-gratitude journals on Facebook.  Our sermon series has been asking us to move from being grateful for the good things that drop in our laps to having a grand response to the goodness of life in everybody.  A tall order.  While I appreciate the encouragement, I just don't have it in me.

I  need to start lower and slower to get me past my slumpy grumps.

Here are the basics: 1.  Our ScottMan is home for Thanksgiving.  Our brilliant car guy is coming home from Texas.  We only get to see him a couple of times a year now, but I am plenty grateful for that.  2.  Our Miss Mackenzie is at a crux in her life, between school and career.  What a tough time that is.    She is our multi-talented artiste with too many interests to choose just one—in a state that is 49th in economic recovery.  We appreciate her and how tough this battle is.  3.  I appreciate that I have an extended family that still gets together for holidays, and Maggie is a great cook.  Not everybody gets that. 4.  Julie is doing well, going through six-year retests for her cancer.  Nervousing, which is why I'm a grump.  In spite of that, we are overwhelmingly grateful for her life and her generosity of spirit.   5.  I still can write, maybe even better than before.  Keeping up with brilliant young techies who are internet investigators and attorneys.  Now that pleases me.

So, doing a little better here.

Next up, the secondary, tertiary gratitudes:  1. I am so grateful for my church and the foundation it provides for my life.  I am quickly reaching my kitty, naps, and tea years,  and finding that there are few "rules" doesn't impinge my freedoms, but frames them.  2.  I am deeply grateful for my kitty, my champion snuggler.  3.  I am so grateful for my friendships, which feel more like family now, anyways.  4.  Things still interest me: books,  weather patterns, riotous ideas fueled by a sensibility of helping other folks, a really good belly laugh.  5.  What is important is very important, and what isn't. . . isn't.  I am increasingly abysmal at hiding the difference.

Deep sigh here.

And lastly, a couple of things that  hardly matter, except that they do:  1.  I'm so grateful that I can still make a really decent pie.  A succulence.  Fed fathers, uncles, and grand fathers, traveling physicians and their families, brothers, cousins, and three sterling friends, an officer and two professional drivers; nephews and nieces who adored them when they were little, little kids.  Comes in handy this time of the year.  And 2.  I catch onto skullduggery, outright lies, brouhahas, undeterred silliness, pufffery, idiocy, miswhacks. and dipsy-doodles ever so much faster.

Must mean I'm still learning.

So grateful for that.  Makes me smile.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Kids I Grew Up With

A photo taken of my four-room elementary school, complete with a bell.  We had homemade rolls and fried chicken for lunches in the basement.

I missed my 50th reunion, but the people who attended had so much fun and rousted up such good memories that they decided to keep in touch.  I was invited to join in.  Said yes.  Pronto.

I'd lost touch with so many of those kids, even though we started first grade together and graduated, pretty much intact.  I think only Carmelo, our resident Basque kid, moved away.  It's tough to place the photos of people now with the children and teens I knew then.  Names changed too, particularly with the girls, through marriage.

Melba in the 1950s and 1960s was a mystical farming community, with fields in varying shades of green, well kept homes, neighbors and their children on farms that were a quarter mile away.  I was a dorky sort of kid, more interested in books than lipstick, although the boys were pretty darn cute.  All that bucking hay bales gave them wonderful shoulders and strong backs.  They were all nice, and a little shy.  There were 28 kids in my graduating class.

So it was with some surprise that a lot of us geezers and geezerettes wound up on Facebook.

We share a checked past, post-high school.  One of my best high school friends, Bob T, turned out to be a gay man and he died of AIDS.  His obituary focused on the truth, which I imagine, he held close and kept dear.  It wouldn't have made a whit of difference now, but then it did.

Two boys, Donnie and Bobby G, died in Vietnam, a thing our Harley guy, Perry, still grieves.

Eddy died in a car wreck not a week post-graduation.

Donna died of a brain tumor,  Another Barb, a year older, died of cancer.  Eileen and probably Billy K were suicides.  Janel,  Paula, and Joyce have the most children.  Larry, I think, made the most money, but his sister Nancy might be dead.  There are a few serial marriages, a few with their original marriages still intact,  a few divorces.  One of which was my old boyfriend, Bill, who is now living with a woman sans marriage in a far-away city.  I wonder if it isn't my fault.  I was such a mess, due to a death in the family, the last year we dated that it might have marked him for life.  Certainly, it marked me.  Carole is a splendid artist,  I'm a writer, Judy is a wonderful photographer, and Janel was the musician.  Still might be.  I still see posts where our Harley guy writes poetry about his post-Vietnam experiences.  We're all pretty arty for such ragamuffins.

David is a pastor, married to his high school sweetheart, and we just saw each other a couple of Sundays ago.  David reminded me, not too long ago, what was said at my mother's funeral.  She was the high school secretary and the unofficial school counselor, and people have told me, "Your mom saved me, more than once."  So.  Sweet, that.

Most of us are parents and grandparents, aunties and uncles, loving the children that trail behind us.  A few of us are still renegades and not just the boys.  Most of us are ardent conservatives and my brother and I might be the only liberals, but we'll keep that our little secret.  

It's quite wonderful, 50 years later, seeing those family names reappearing again.  It feels like a grounding and a returning.  

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Sideways Kind of Light

November.  Thanksgiving.

We're getting close to  winter as the sunlight gets weaker and and wobblier, it also gets slanty.

And that accounts for the changes in our perceptions.  For example, a merely yellow tree turns into solid gold, and the leaves into golden coins.  It's only at certain times of the day or just after a storm.  Perhaps it is merely in our imaginations.  But the autumn sun does something to our colors and what we expect of them.

We expect them to dazzle.  These roses I captured today on a walk.   They are rosier than they were a month ago, the reds sweeter and more seductive.   The maples now  orange and red transmogrify into a rich and succulent merlot.  The frosts shed all the leaves on an Aspen in one night.  And the dark browns move through the caramels and the bronzes into a deepening mahogany molasses. 

Then it's time for a long, sweet nap, before the first tulips find the February sun and hold it accountable.