What We Treasure

This delicate beauty was made for me by the mother of a dear friend decades ago.  Back when I still collected dolls. I no longer do, but Rebecca here (the name she whispered to me when I took her from her box the first time) still holds an honored spot in my home. For eleven months of the year she sits in view in a shadow box on my living room wall. The twelfth month she hangs in a prominent spot on my Christmas tree.

Hanging to the top right of her is a glass egg from a set of four, made in Egypt, purchased as an extravagance at a time when we hadn’t much money.

Next to the egg, a sweet-faced clown rides a unicycle with a monkey on his arm. I discovered him in a small shop on a trip to Montreal seventeen years ago with my mother, my brother, and my son. We drove there from Rhode Island in search of a warm wool coat for me. I came home with the clown, instead.

Every ornament on our tree has a story behind it; every story attached to a memory of a friend or family member, some of them no longer here. It takes a long time to decorate our tree.

The world is full of seemingly unrelenting misery right now, but–oh, my–in the small space that we can control, isn’t it an act of self-kindness to fill it with the things in our lives that give us such pleasure?

This is my wish for all of us this holiday season. That we make space wherever, whenever we can, and fill it with goodness, laughter….and most of all, love.

May it be enough to sustain us.

 

 

In lieu of the card I did not send

Please accept this poem.
I wrote it with best intentions
a miracle in making, as all things made in earnest are
when thought finds a willing receptacle.

Instead of tidying the house
I spent days searching for words.
Meaningful words that dribbled
agonizingly slow,
or flew above my head
in the manner of teasing birds
whose waggling feathers I snatched
when I could.
(I did not hurt them. I promise.)

I set it before you now
as the welcome mat to my heart,
my wish for your comfort.
Come in. I love you. Let us share in Grace.

A Wish for Grace, A Dream of Sleep

Fa-la-la-la . . . oh, forget it.

Fa-la-la-la . . . oh, forget it.

Today is the day before Christmas.  The last shopping day.  The last day to go out and buy food if we’re to have a proper meal for Christmas.  I have three baskets of laundry piled high:  His dirty clothes; my dirty clothes; clean clothes and towels waiting to be folded.  We’ve a tree (see photo above) with lights and an angel on top, but nothing else, and yet, I think it’s the most beautiful tree we’ve ever owned.  It is perfect, is it not?

I am tired.   Really, really tired.

This has been my refrain, my mantra — every single day this year.

After months of trying to find the cause, I learned that I have severe sleep apnea.  A machine recorded how many times I stopped breathing in my sleep, which turned out to be an average of once every 75 seconds.  I was hoping Santa would bring me a CPAP machine for Christmas, but it looks like that’s not going to happen.  (A higher power than Santa requires that he fill out forms and documentation in triplicate while also procuring the eyeball of a Komodo dragon, three sets of fruit bat wings, and a pair of fuzzy dice before he’s allowed to deliver medical equipment.)

All of that aside, this is not a post just about me.  It’s about you, too, my readers, my friends, my family, my tribe.  What I wish for us all.

I’ve had plenty of down time this year.  Hours spent lying in bed–not sleeping–waiting for the brain fog to lift, the morning headache to subside.  Time enough to think about all the important stuff, or my interpretation of it, anyway.  (Everything is subjective.)

And what I’ve come up with is this:  Life sucks.

Life is incredibly difficult and unfair.  It’s full of nasty isms — racism, sexism, ageism, terrorism.  Everybody hates something, or someone.   People are mean, politicians corrupt.  All over the world people are suffering and sick, afraid and lonely.   People are dying.  Too many are contemplating suicide.

Why should I stick around for this?  Why should any of us?

It’s been that kind of year.

And then someone on a social media site shares a cute cat video or (even better) the video with a penguin laughing — laughing — and for a few seconds I forget about how hard life is.  It occurs to me that life has always sucked, yet here we are, still hanging in there, wending our way towards grace and a little kindness through whatever means we can.

Tomorrow is Christmas, the Boy is home, and music and laughter will abound despite everything else.  Despite piles of laundry, an unadorned tree, and gifts that didn’t get wrapped (sorry, guys!).  Despite death and disease, hatred and terrorism, love, hope and charity still persist.

Wherever you are, however you hurt, hold on to the fact that there are people who love you.  There is generosity and love all around.  Sometimes it’s hard to see, but it’s there, I promise you.   You are enough.  You have done all you can.

Tomorrow is another day, another step forward on whatever path we choose. An added bonus here in the Northern Hemisphere is that we will have another minute or so of light.

That’s good enough for me.

May the coming year be better for us all.  May we all find joy in whatever nook or cranny it resides.  But most of all, I wish us peace.

 

 

 

 

The perfect tree

tree 21013This is not an ordinary Christmas tree.  This tree (though you may not be able to tell at first glance) is perfect.  It is our tree, the one that grew to just the right size and then waited for us to find it.  Every year there is one and only one tree for us, and we always find it, we always do.  And it is perfect.  Every year.

See those little red bows, like the notes of a perfect song, scattered over the branches?  Those bows are from our first Christmas spent in this house, which was newly built with purpose and unfailing energy, and mostly by our own hands.  I made those bows from a fat spool of ribbon and some gold thread that I bought at the Christmas Tree Shops for practically nothing, because we had so little money that year (the house had eaten most of what we had).  And though, they’re hard to pick out in the photo, there are the wicker ornaments, swirled in strands of red and green thread, that we got on our belated Mexican honeymoon just weeks before.

Our life together hangs on that tree.  The Boy’s first dough ornaments; the clay ornaments I made; favorite friends Pikachu and Woody (who still swings his lariat from one of the branches); tiny lockets that hold our Boy’s sweet face with forever smiles at ages two, and five, and seven.  The places we’ve been and the things we’ve seen.  All of them carried home to remember the fun: The Pinocchio and nutcrackers with movable legs; the crowns and the stars and the snowy white owl; a streetcar emblazoned with the year we saw San Francisco.  A clown on a unicycle found in a shop that we’d stepped into to escape the frigid Montreal air.

Our family and our friends, the ones still living, and those who have gone, are there.  In ornaments hand made and store bought, given in love and accepted with gratitude.

Our tree is perfect because it reminds us of what we have and what we’ve shared. When the Boy was small, the bedtime ritual once the tree went up, was to turn off all the lights, save the ones on the tree, and then the three of us sat together and admired the tree.  My husband and I still do this some nights, though the Boy is gone to a place of his own.  We sit sometimes, in the glow of the lights, nostalgic as parents of grown children often are.  And, even in that there is perfection.

We are blessed.

May you all be, as well.

Because Washington Irving was one of my favorite authors when I was a kid (the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow fame scared the bejeezus out of me, which was thrilling, and the notion of sleeping 20 years like Rip Van Winkle was kind of awesome), I wanted to share this fun post via the folks at Interesting Literature. And it is World Book Day in the UK today.

Enjoy!

Interesting Literature

Washington Irving. Who was that man? Find out just a handful of reasons why we should all have his name on our lips.

1. Washington Irving was named after the first official President of the United States of America. Born in 1783 in New York (the city that would loom large in his work), the American writer was named after the great American, George Washington. Of course, Washington only became President in 1789, but when Irving was born he was already known as an important founding father of the newly independent United States.

2. His first book, Knickerbocker’s History of New York (1809), gave us the Knickerbocker Glory. Irving’s first book was a humorous history of New York – yes, once again New York looms large in Irving’s life – and was a huge success. But one of the great linguistic legacies of the work was that it gave us…

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Christmas Kindness: a Story

bag of gold small

Image futzed with using a photo by JWP.

Like the best stories, this one begins, once upon a time . . . .

There was a father, a mother, and a baby boy who was born in the dead of winter on a very cold day.  (I should warn you that if you think you know where this story is going, you are wrong.  This is not THAT Christmas story.  This is a different story entirely.)

The father and mother had little money, but they had a warm home, and their boy was exceedingly healthy, so they believed they had exactly what they needed.  The father worked at building machines and the mother worked at building the boy.  The boy was full of light and laughter and curiosity.  He had a mischievous sense of humor, a powerful imagination, and above all, he was persistent.  (A quality some people call stubborn, but those people are wrong.)

Years passed as years do.  The boy grew and grew.  People began to ask – what do you want to do with your life, boy?  What would you like to be?  But the boy didn’t know, for he was still a boy (albeit taller).  His parents said, be happy.  And he was.

The boy grew a little older, a little taller still.  He went to college and his head filled up with words and ideas; his heart filled with passion.  One morning he awoke to find that it was time to graduate.  A degree was bestowed upon him and there was much rejoicing by his family and his friends.

He found a job that he liked very much, but it was temporary.  He could have worried about what he would do when the job ended, but he chose to remain positive as he had always been, and to do and learn all that he could.  Happily, this strategy paid off.  The job became permanent.  (It’s called persistence, people.)

Christmas came.  The boy got his first Christmas bonus.  But this was no ordinary bonus.  This was merry Mr. Fezziwig extending joy and Christmas kindness.  This was a bag of gold coins.  So happy was the boy at this surprising presentation, that he laughed for a full minute.  The kind of sustained laugh his mother had marveled at throughout his childhood.  A laugh that began in his heart and rippled through his body until he looked ready to burst with the energy of it.

When he stopped laughing the boy knew what he would do.  He would carry the bonus around the city and give it away, coin by coin, to people who could use a dollar or two and a happy surprise.  So that he could share with others a moment of joy like the one he had felt in receiving the coins.

And that is exactly what he did.

Not The End

P.S.  If you like this story, feel free to share a kindness or two with someone, anyone, even by way of a smile.  It will make you feel good.  I promise.

P.P.S. This story was written for The BOY by his mother who is proud beyond measure of the superlative person he has become.  And also the mother is a tiny bit smug because she knew what his true worth was all along.  (She hopes to be forgiven of this.)