Gratitude * Sunday
Sunday’s heartfelt tradition.
A time to slow down, to reflect, to be grateful.
A list of gratitudes, our gratefulness feeds one another.
Quoted from Taryn Wilson
Joining the Gratitude Sunday Tradition at Wooly Moss Roots.
relief from dark days promised
after the nadir.
Winter Solstice occurs next week. Whether you are pagan or otherwise solstice is a simple scientific fact of sun position, the sun is merely at the lowest or most southern point in its annual journey. For me it will mean a new kind of Christmas.
Solstice is a time of decision for me: I choose my Winter Classic Reading, which you can read more about later in this post. It’s also the time of year I start wrapping presents and, if I haven’t already done so, matching books to recipients. I have several little family groups within my larger family and I like to wrap all of the same family’s gifts in the same paper. It takes a small amount of thought.
This year Christmas has taken a large amount of thought getting our family celebration organized and I seem to have so little brain space. I’m probably over-thinking it. We have always gathered on Christmas Eve for our family celebration leaving the little family groups free on Christmas day to enjoy other obligations. For the first time in probably 15 years so many of us have to work Christmas Eve, we are gathering on the Sunday before Christmas. It will be the first Christmas without my mom.
How much we depended on her! She provided the home and the party venue with silver and crystal which she washed and polished by hand. She shopped for and provided the bulk of the food and drinks. She always decorated the house and had presents for us. She told me before-hand who would be attending her event that day, and I’d always have a gift for each person with their name on it. Many of those guests did not expect gifts and between her and me we made sure every guest had a gift with their name on it. We loved to see their surprised faces when they heard their names called out for gifting.
She made special Christmas food, arising early in the morning to make yeast rolls she would pull fresh and hot from the oven as we walked in the door. Her favorite Christmas food treat was fried oysters, which she’d clean of any trace of gut or sand before dredging them in crushed saltine crackers and frying them in hot oil and butter in an iron skillet. In recent years she made them only for her and me because we were the only ones who ate them. I’ll never have her fried oysters again. She didn’t make them last year and I wondered.
She knew how to keep the conversations going, asking questions, always interested in us. She’d insist at some point during the gathering that we dial a long-distance phone call to her younger brother and pass around the phone with each family member getting to say Merry Christmas to him.
Last week you enjoyed my cranky humbug post. Overheard this past week: (woman) “Have you been to the stores yet?” (woman) “Got your shopping done?” (women) “I can’t decide. I’ll buy both (or all).” (woman)“I still have so much I need to buy.” (woman) “I’m so far behind on my shopping.” (surly teenage male) “I just want a laptop out of this Christmas deal”. And my fave, said by a tiny boy child, “I won’t be good unless you buy me what I want.” It all contributes to the too much/never enough syndrome. Sometimes I feel like Christmas is an expletive, something slightly dirty I want to wash my hands of, because of the commercial nature of the word and the season now. Mom would say, “Chin up. Do what you can. Take care of yourself.”
It’s not as if I am completely without the spirit though I’ve finally decided upon a minimalist Christmas this year. My sister’s gifted wreath graces my front door. I put my red wreathed Christmas tablecloth upon my table and placed a paperwhite narcissus in the middle alongside a bowl of little mandarin oranges.The paperwhite is in honor of my uncle, Mom’s older brother, who forced paperwhite bulbs every Christmas so he could have the natural scent throughout the house. The fragrance goes well with cinnamon and chocolate. The mandarins are for the abundance the work of my elders made sure my generation would experience. Mom and her brother were very lucky if they shared one orange for Christmas; I have many oranges to share with many other people. That’s the legacy they left. Can we continue to perpetuate that legacy of abundance for our ensuing generations?
I will not have a tree. The work is too overwhelming right now and health-wise I have to be honest with myself. I don’t have the steam to pull out all the decorations and make the magic happen by myself. The week Mom died, the son pretty much stopped coming home for more than a few random minutes at a time. I can’t depend on him for help as I did when he was younger; he’s moving on to his adult life, as he should. Next year will be different. I understand now why Mom took off for San Francisco one year for the holiday. It can just be too much.
I will create, instead, a little gift nest, a place where I can pile the wrapped presents as I get them ready family by family. A pile of brightly colored red and green and gold and blue beauty awaiting pleasure in the hands of people I love. My family doesn’t get to see each other often – everybody works, raises kids, and volunteers the rest of the minutes of their lives away – and when we get together we are so excited we can barely eat. Mom’s house belongs to my youngest brother now. Next Sunday we will gather at my brother’s home in Mom’s spirit and the spirit of Christmas and make a festive table full of snacks and munchies. We will eat and laugh and call Mom’s younger brother long distance so everybody can wish him and his wife a Merry Christmas. We’ll likely call our brother and his family who will not be with us that day. We will reduce the shiny beribboned packages to a pile of “Thank you!”s and “Just what I wanted!”s.
We’ll cry and remember our beloved mother as the age book comes out to be passed on to the next member of the family. Several years ago I found an interesting little book with quotations from different famous and infamous people about aging. The fun part about the book is there is lots of empty space around the quotations. I signed the book with a wish that the recipient would read the book or portions of it throughout the year, then sign the book and pass it along to another family member next Christmas, and every Christmas after with the caveat that I wanted to have the book routed to me at least once more before I die. The book has been routing several years now and I’ve already seen it back once. It’s been forgotten one year. Maybe the tradition is more fun for me than anyone else. We’ll see if it keeps going. I might read the entry from Mom out loud this year since the spirit of her will be there anyway.
Those of us who can will come together on solstice weekend to celebrate our love and connections, to share good food, our linage and our legacy. We will celebrate our first Christmas in my brother’s home. We will have enough and we will have abundance.
Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week –I find spots of color lying on gray gravel and green weeds; the green of my sedums look more intense during the warm-up after the “deep freeze”; lichens and mosses show off shades of gray and green.
Currently Reading – The Good Death: The New American Search to Reshape the End of Life (sociology) by Marilyn Webb; The American Way of Poverty: How the Other Half Still Lives (sociology and politics) by Sasha Abramsky; These Happy Golden Years (“fictionalized” autobiography) by Laura Ingalls Wilder (I never read this series as a kid and I want to finish it); Killing Jesus (history) by Bill O’Reilly; The Abominable (a novel) by Dan Simmons. Yes, concurrently. Good thing I’ll be done with a few of these this week as Winter Classic is coming up fast. Like next week.
Winter Classic Reading rules:
1. You must never have read the book before.
2. The book must be recognized as a classic, and can be contemporary.
* Extra points if you’ve never read the author before, if the author is female, or if the title or author have won a Pulitzer or Nobel Prize.
Winter Classic Reading choices are narrowed down to these two as of today:
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne; I’ve read House of the Seven Gables.
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray; I’ve never read this author.
[Relegated to next year’s choices:
Something by Anthony Trollope, suggested by the co-worker; neither of us have read this author.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte; I’ve never read this author.
The Stranger by Albert Camus; I’ve never read this author.
So Big by Edna Ferber; I’ve never read this author.]
I read a Winter Classic between the Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox. The point of reading a Winter Classic during those dark cold days of winter before spring breaks the spell is to choose something you might not ever otherwise choose; something to slow you down because the language use or the setting is unfamiliar, the plot or non-plot is unusual; or to read yourself into a different time, world, and culture. We’ll decide by the Winter Solstice.
With Winter Solstice next week here’s how I’m leaning: I found a large print copy of The Scarlet Letter. With the difference in language usage I find large print very helpful. I want to read this out of guilt (remember the definition of guilt: avoiding responsibility). It is the only book I fake-read in high school. I don’t know how I passed the test, but I did. I also want to read it in honor of Mr George Bouthilet, my 11th grade English teacher, who let me pass the test. He was such a treasure and we didn’t even know, his specialty being Gothic and Utopian Literature, a man before his time who loved his work. He introduced 16- and 17-year-olds to the classic magic and terror of Poe and Lovecraft and delighted seeing our mesmerized and horrified faces as he read aloud in his Victorian voice.
Vanity Fair received a random out-of-the-blue recommendation from a professor emeritus I admire whom I serve across the counter at my place of work. He was checking out some Dickens and I remarked I admired his choice of a Winter Classic and told him about my Winter Classic Reading game without saying the titles I was considering. He said he always went back to Dickens because of the quality of the writing and storytelling, and he also enjoyed re-reading Vanity Fair for the quality of the character creation in Becky Sharp. So now my interest is piqued. Who was Becky Sharp and what did she do? I could read the plot line on Wikipedia, but I won’t just yet. Anticipation, delayed gratification, true discovery through literature, all that good stuff.
Will I have time to read two Winter Classics? Can I stand not knowing about Becky Sharp or cheating Mr Bouthilet another year, 40 plus years of guilt?
This week I have been grateful for:
- Gaining new insight into a challenging issue at work thanks to a frank parking lot conversation with a more experienced friend.
- Having the wits to be able to question what I read and see on the news.
- Making excellently delicious no chemical, low sugar, egg nog ice cream.
- Winning a cool ceramic cheese plate at the annual union holiday party.
- The amazing abundance within my little house.
- Crows cawing outside my home office window.
- The evergreen trees outside my kitchen window full of little brown birds eating their fill of bugs and lichens and pinecone seeds making the trees seem alive with movement as the birds flit from branch to branch.
- Green. Grass. Ivy. Moss. Sedums.
- Gray. Gravel, rocks, and pebbles. Sky and clouds. Lichens. So many shades.
Hoping you have a lovely week.
Namaste. Peace. Blessings.