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.
Grape vines twist in need
of pruning, wildly winding
over fence, up trees.
This is a two part muse. As I write now at 8 in the morning I am prepared for the hour’s journey to the family home for our Christmas celebration. Hwell, I still have to shower, dress, pack the cooler and the car, and await the arrival of the son who will accompany me.
I’m not a great traveler, having even called myself the world’s worst traveler. I’m anxious, uncomfortable, nervous, and out of my zone. I’ve been this way since I was a little girl. I remember packing and leaving for vacations as a child and the sense of anxiety after pulling away from the house and starting on our trip was profound. I remember worrying about the home left unattended and what surprises might happen in the place/s we were going to visit. I’m a fidgeter and never comfortable in my skin, let alone my clothes. Compound that by car seats not fitting my body and you have a formula for automobile riding discomfort.
We had only one car accident while on those family journeys, when a semi sideswiped us at 55 miles an hour. The semi didn’t feel it and dad chased him down to stop him and show him the damage. We had all six of us and my grandmother in the station wagon but it was kind of like The Dukes of Hazzard, Dad chasing that semi. And the one time we left our little dog behind at a rest stop I freaked out and cried all the way back, sure he’d be dead or taken by the time we got back there. Dog was fine, a little scared; I was heart-damaged.
Today my journey is into the unknown. We are charting new celebratory waters in my family. Daddy’s been gone 12 years. The matriarch has passed this year and the rules are new. The son no longer deigns to spend his time in my home, starting the same week Mom died. My brother owns my mother’s home. Three major losses/changes in one year.
The last couple years I’ve been pettily upset about the younger generation who don’t bring gifts, but happily accept the gifts bestowed upon them. Last year I threatened to make donations in their names to MY favorite institution, and not give them a physical gift. I mean, what do they need? None of us really LACKS for anything accept cash flow. My gifts have always been very inexpensive but invaluable: used books packed full of knowledge, dictionaries, thesauruses, atlases, history books, cookbooks, and beautifully illustrated picture books for the children. It really isn’t about the GIFT; it’s about the effort, taking the time and thought to put somebody’s name on a present, no matter how small. The value has nothing to do with money. They assure me they love the inexpensive books I give them; I assure them they could find inexpensive or no cost ways to show their love also.
The son is in the shower. Time to pack the cooler and the car. I bring the veggie tray, the dips, and the homemade, no chemical, low sugar egg nog ice cream. There will be more munchies than we will be able to eat.
The son drives. At the age of 21, he still does not have his driving license and he needs the practice. He drives like his dad (too fast, too close, too tight), which scares me and makes me nauseous. They think I am too cautious and that scares them. Still, as he drives a way through the country I’ve only driven once, and I try to say little unless I really feel he needs a reminder or a caution. I blow it about six (twelve?) times, and actually raise my voice once on the way home. I tell him if he would talk to me more often we can find days we both have off and he can drive. He needs to get his license. I don’t know how many times DMV will let him renew his learning permit. Nonetheless we arrive safely.
So much food. Mom’s famous recipe for yeast rolls, that all the grandchildren are learning because they miss her rolls so much, are rising in the kitchen though Mom’s old stove which is nearly at least as old as the brother who now owns the house, is showing signs of dying with an uneven temperature and rolls of different doneness in the same pan. His daughter tries to tell him how to shop and budget for a new stove. Sis wants him to rearrange the kitchen, getting a smaller stove and fridge to fit the rearranged space. It’s just a matter of money. Darned old money.
It feels slightly eerie to be celebrating Christmas in Mom’s house without her, where she made 58 Christmases for us. It appears to be a casual Christmas; my nieces wear jeans, Sis and I have on our ubiquitous black slacks, the boys wear whatever favorite hoodie of the year, the one they have that’s clean today. We used to dress up a bit for Mom. No hand washed crystal dishes or china await food and service. No polished silver lies on the table waiting for hungry mouths. We grab everyday dishes and silver out of the cupboards and drawers and it all serves just fine. Mysteriously, however, the crystal glasses for the wine and drinks are washed and ready for quick access.
Food continues to arrive. Fresh crudités, sliced meats, wienie wraps, sweet mustard, cheeses, pickles, deviled eggs, smoked salmon, chips, crackers, dip. A bowl of mandarin oranges.Peppermint brownies and peppermint bark; rum cake, rum balls, and Kahlua cake; toffee and peanut brittle; cinnamon roll cake; caramel bacon popcorn and bacon chocolate chip cookies; hand made candy and cookies decorated in red and green; and homemade egg nog ice cream. Man, do we know how to put on a spread. Mom taught us well.
We are 500 hundred square feet of joyful noise. Two small rooms of munching and jokes and stories and laughter and teasing. We call our uncle, Mom’s last surviving brother, and each of us have to leave the room to talk with him so he can hear us, we are making so much happy. The small tree my brother put up is dwarfed by the piles of ribboned packages.
For two of my nephews and their girlfriends I did not have any kind of book I thought matched. I copped out and got them boxes of chocolates. Both boys told me the chocolates were yummily acceptable and, bless their hearts, admitted to referring to the cookbooks I’d given them in the past. I am so impressed at the adults my nieces and nephews are becoming.
I find the men in my life hardest to match with books. I don’t know if they are faking me out, but one nephew-in-law I caught reading his Oregon history book several times, and now, I’m afraid I’m on the hook for an indoor grill for the other nephew-in-law to go with the cookbook I thought he’d like. I’ll have to do the research, see what I can find, and watch the sales.
I issued a Christmas challenge to my great niece and great nephew. Nephew will be 11 in May and he was ready for The Dangerous Book for Boys. My great niece will be 6 in January and is going on 24, and she was ready for The Daring Book for Girls. Both children couldn’t stop reading their books and kept them out to read in the car on the way home. I challenged them by next Christmas to have done at least one thing out of their own books, and at least one thing out of each other’s books. We’ll see how and what they choose to do. They are absolutely fun books.
These last couple of weeks I’ve been asking acquaintances their memories about their childhood Christmases. So many told stories of one unwrapped gift under a Charlie Brown tree, or beside an unlit fireplace because there was no wood, or on the table because there was no fireplace. One woman related that ribbons were the special treat in her home, because she hadn’t had them as a child. The Christmas some of us have come to expect is a fantasy created on TV, on commercials, and in film. Homes aren’t perfectly decorated, meals aren’t always enough or there, and the age book gets forgotten. Matters not one iota. Love and time spent together trumps all. Especially when grandma’s yeast rolls get made to eat and take home to share. And the recipe is routed between grandchildren.
It’s all over in a spit and a whistle. **Definition conjecture: I’ve looked in several places now for a definition of this phrase, but I’ve found nothing. My paternal grandmother, who spent many years of her life in foster care on a series of farms, used the phrase when something happened very fast. I have three guesses for this phrase. 1. From farming: A. some farmers chew tobacco, and before they could whistle a command to a horse or other trained livestock they would have to spit out the liquid tobacco produced by the chew before they could whistle; B. or the livestock, cow, horse or otherwise, perhaps even human, who experienced a quick and easy delivery of the next generation, or 2. From construction: crew workers who also chewed tobacco would have to spit before they produce the wolf whistle at the pretty women who walk by the construction site.**
Suddenly my sister and I are cleaning up, the least we can do since our niece made the rolls. Food is packed, and repacked to share, dishes are washed and dried. No way would we leave brother with the mess. He still has to take down the tree. I wonder if he will leave it up just for the fun of it or if he will have company Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
It’s 8 in the evening as I finish this post and I recall my sister saying she and her husband will have a quiet two days Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and as I mention a nap in my plans for those days, I realize my sibling cohort are all empty-nesters now, our children grown and making their own adult lives not in our homes. As we continue our journey into the unknown future I am reminded once again: change is the only constant.
Color Watch – blooming attractions in my neighborhoods this week –my paperwhite narcissus continues to cheer me with its fragrance and its progression of blossoms. I’m glad I chose one that hadn’t bloomed out yet, as I love watching the magic of blossoming flowers. Every morning another blossom has popped open with more to come. The fragrance fills more of my space every day.
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; The Abominable (a novel) by Dan Simmons. Yes, concurrently. I’m paring down my list in preparation for my 2014 Winter Classic Read.
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 Choice 2014: (Drum roll, please)
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
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. I decide by the Winter Solstice, and I usually start reading after the first of the year, after the holidays are done, which also gives me a chance to locate the book and check it out from the library.
I like to take my time reading the Winter Classic, no rush, leisurely reads, immersion investment reading. I pretend I have a whole “term” to study one text. This choice will be relieving guilt I’ve carried for more than 40 years as The Scarlet Letter was the only book I fake-read in high school. I’ll have to imagine class discussions. I’ll analyze, contrast and compare, and dissect the language use. I’ll think about the enthusiasm of Mr Bouthilet, a specialist in Gothic crime, murder, and social (utopian/dystopian) literature, who taught the class. All that brilliance spent on teenagers who didn’t care.
Please join me in the 2014 Winter Classic Read. Read the one I chose, or choose your own. But read a Winter Classic this year and blame it on me.
This week I have been grateful for:
- Birdsong outside my door as I write and prepare for my journey across town.
- Mild weather for my travels, no ice, snow, frozen roads, and little fog.
- The hubster coming through the house this morning, up earlier than usual, saying, “Something is wrong with my toilet” and I see hundreds of dollars of repairs go off in my head, and twenty minutes later saying the issue had been resolved with a plunger.
- Using my time well in working ahead to be ready for today’s travel, instead of the last minute OMG rush.
- To be safely there and back again.
- Not having to drive, and better still not having to drive home in the dark.
- No rain on the drive home. Just a clear dark night.
- Seeing what beautiful people my nieces and nephews and their spouses are. Again.
- Spending time with the son.
Hoping you have a lovely week.
Namaste. Peace. Blessings.