Sunday, December 23, 2012

One Little Memory

Last year, we decided to go home and spend Christmas with Mother. She wasn't doing real well, and she had her special diet. She was pretty weak and short of breath. We stayed in her basement and took care of our own meals.... so different from every previous Christmas where she would wait on everyone hand and foot, and shoo off anyone who got in her way in the name of trying to help.

But we had such a good time!

 One day, I had a little shopping to do and asked her if she wanted to go, and lo and behold!, if she didn't decide she would! She never liked shopping especially.
"Go on!" She'd say, if we'd invite her, "I'm glad I don't hafta go anywhere."

But this time she said she'd go! So she and Regan and Todd and Becky and I went shopping. She wanted to show us off to her sisters. She thought they would be at the Farmer's Market eating, but they weren't. We went to her bank to deposit her paycheck.
 She wanted a flashlight, and she wanted a hook to hang her wreathe to her metal door. We found a strong magnet hook. Just what she wanted.  She turned up her nose at the expensive flashlights on display but the man at Rocking R Hardware found her one cheap enough to suit her. She leaned on me when she walked and she was breathless and exhausted till we were through, but we had great fun!

 When we got home she stuck her magnet to her door and unceremoniously tossed her wreathe over it with pert satisfaction. So like her...taking care of business without a bit of to-do.

I knew it was our last Christmas with her, barring some incredible miracle, and every moment  felt  like gold slipping through our fingers. She was there. So real. So alive. Yet impossible to hold. Time just moves forward. forward. forward....

I have a metal door. I have a wreathe. And now I have her magnet hook.
Merry Christmas,  Dear Mother. I know it will be heavenly.
But we miss you. Oh... we miss you.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Joy to the World, Y'all.

The wigwam has been hit with a scourge of historic proportion. Todd got it first, annihilating the travel plans the Chief and I were on the verge of implementing. I was the second victim. From there we dropped by ones and twos until the Chief at last succumbed. So we've had a week of dreaded symptoms answered by tonics, sleep, despair, and misery.

I am better now, the only one who's completely better...which is good on one hand, because somebody can take care of the fallen...and bad on the other, because a whole Sunday spent in a convalescent home has real potential for sending you to a home of a different sort.

So I am escaping to here, and lacking any cohesive stream of inspiration, I think I'll just post disconnected thought-bites pertaining to Christmas.

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 I think we should petition the powers-that-be to ban those giant inflatables that pop up like boils on the night landscape this time of year, and collapse in big puddles of vinyl by the dawn's early light. I will not call them Christmas decorations. Classing them as decorations of any description would be too kind, and even though they appear with the lights and wreaths and garland characteristic of the season, whether they have anything in world to do with Christmas is clearly entirely optional. Take, for instance, the big yellow chicken in our neighbor's yard, located next to the Eiffel Tower right there where their garden had been located.

The next neighbors have a gigantic green helicopter with a slowly rotating propeller in their yard among numerous other inflatable things. Santa is in it, and I suppose it is meant to serve as gentle comfort against realistic worries the reindeer union may strike for better working conditions just when they are most needed....I don't know!  But it ruins their otherwise beautiful lawn!!!
 White lights, people! Colored lights, even! Candles! Wreaths!
Anything! Anything but those vinyl things!

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Christmas was entirely wonderful to me when I was a little girl.
I was analyzing the other day what made it so. The "Let's Make A Memory" enthusiasts would no-doubt be at a loss to find much. Mother "wrapped" all our gifts in brown paper grocery or lunch bags, taped them shut and scrawled the name of the recipient on it with a black magic marker. Maybe they had a bow stuck on top.
When we came down Christmas morning each child had his pile on one chair or spot on the couch. And Mother and Daddy had their spots too. We'd read the Christmas story, and maybe sing a few carols, alive with caged anticipation. And then we'd decide who would start... and we'd open gifts. I am sure they were modest gifts and certainly not numerous. I don't know that I can remember a single thing I ever got. But it was altogether wonderful, that much I know.

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One year, Mother bought a nativity scene. I think she got it at Glen's Fair Price.
Glen's Fair Price was a dusty, darkish shop in downtown Harrisonburg. Not the type of shop that will ever be a national chain, but the kind bursting with character, covered with dust, and crammed with second-hand stuff. I loved Glen's Fair Price.

The nativity scene had characters with slightly exaggerated poses and expressions, and they weren't fine porcelain, by any stretch, but when they were tucked inside that little stable and the lights were lit, I could sit  there entranced for long minutes, transported to another time and place by some artist's depiction of that first blessed Christmas.

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I think Christmas takes on a different aura when you find yourself in a position to be the one responsible for making memories for your own little people. At least, it did for me. The moms who create and implement all these beautiful and meaningful traditions to stock their children's memory banks full of haloed treasures, amaze and intimidate me. I bake special Christmas things, and two days later they are eaten, because I didn't quite get them to the freezer in time...and what else was there to eat anyway?

And what else do I do? Hmm I don't know. I do wrap their presents usually. Maybe only a day before Christmas... but they are wrapped. Not that it matters. It sure didn't matter to me.
I'm hoping a blanket of love and warmth will shroud their lack of concrete memories maybe how wonderful it was when mom let them pack all those Christmas pecan tassies in their pre-Christmas school lunches.

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I love Christmas music. I do not get tired of it. I am not talking about secular Christmas music featuring Santa Claus....or Rudolf.....or grandma who met him and an untimely demise on Christmas eve. Or songs that were manufactured by recent artists to fill up the obligatory Christmas album. But I love the old songs. The ancient carols. The orchestra music. Handel's Glorious Messiah. Every year it is wonderful all over again.

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Some of those old songs have some phrases that bring me a lot of pleasure for a variety of reasons. Here's a sampling:

"E'en so here below, below,
Let steeple bells be swungen,
And "Io, io, io!"
By priest and people sungen."
"The Master of the Inn refused
A more commodious Place;
Ungenerous Soul of Savage Mould,
And destitute of Grace."
Bring the torch Jeanette Isabella!
Bring the torch and hurry and run!
He is born! Good folk of the village
Christ is born and Mary calls you
Ahh! Ahh! Beautiful is the mother!
Ahh! Ahh! Beautiful is the child!
I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along th'unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
And I love the "Bohm" at the very end of  Carol of the Bells, which is a supremely enchanting song from the first note to the last.

Nobody writes songs like that anymore.

Joy to your world this Christmas! Stay well!  God bless us, every one!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

"Honey, You Need a Bath."

He needed a bath. He really did.
He wasn't going to want one, poor thing. But he needed one.
And he would feel so much better when he had had one.

I set about getting it ready for him. I set up the little space heater so it would be nice and warm. Then I put in the plug and turned the water on, tweaking it till the temperature seemed right.

Hmm, what else?
I found some of the Chief's body wash. "New!" it said. "Irish Spring Body Wash." "Legendary Classic."
How can it be both "new" and a "legendary classic?" I wondered.

These are questions with no answers.

I opened the lid and put it to my nose. Ahhh...nice.  I squirted some into the rushing water and watched as it exploded in a swirl of foam that rose and built.
 A masculine bubble bath. He would like it, I thought, andwatched the water pounding into the tub briefly before turning to the task at hand. A nice fluffy towel, laid out right here. A wash cloth there. Soap here. A cup to rinse his hair.

Okay then. He needed clothes.
I searched his drawers. Fresh underwear. Fresh socks. What should I get him to wear? I extracted a few things from his drawer that should have been in the hamper. "No wonder he's always low on clothes" I mused. "Why can't I teach him the dirty stuff does not go back in his drawer even if it's his favorite shirt?... Especially if it's his favorite shirt?"

More questions with no answers.

Jeans looked stiff and collared shirts seemed wrong.
I shut that drawer and opened his pj drawer. There lay a pair of red and black plaid fleece pj's. Nice, soft, clean, and folded. "Probably means they aren't his favorite." I thought. I had made them for his older brother, but they fit him now. A gentle reminder of the fleeting nature of little-boyhood.
They looked perfect from the mom angle. I would take them out and ask him if he wanted to wear them, I decided. I'd let him wear whatever he wanted.
As long as it was clean.

Gathering my collection of clothes and taking them to the livingroom, I stood there and watched him quietly for a minute as he slept.
He had been curled on that corner of the couch wrapped in his blanket since Sunday, venturing out now and then only when the Ibuprofen was doing its best work. The Tylenol helped some too, I guess, but not enough to inspire him to rouse much. He was burning up with fever. Keeping it down to 103 was a challenge.

Hair sprouted wildly from his head. His cheeks were bright and each breath was junky with mucus.
"Toddy, you need a bath." I said softly.

Without a word he pulled the covers over his head.

"Would you like to wear these pj's when you get out?" I asked.
He turned reluctantly to look at what I had with lids that hung heavy over languid eyes, and nodded.

I took them in and arranged all his clothes on the counter near the heater.
"Come on dearie. It's time to take your bath."

Like a lamb to the slaughter he came, surveyed my preparations and seemed weakly grateful. All he had to do was get in the tub. He peeled off his clothes and stuck a toe into the water. It was too hot.

I turned on the cold water while he perched, waiting, and when it was just right, I left him to his tub of new legendary classic bubbles.

In the living room I settled in my chair with my cup of coffee and opened my Bible to the place in Isaiah where I had been reading, and my eyes lit on one of my favorite verses of all time. "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound..."

They are prophetic words, speaking of Jesus, and are the very words Jesus stood and read in the temple at the beginning of His earthly ministry to humanity.

They echoed in my heart, and as many times before my eyes were opened to the similarities between the heart of God and the heart of a parent.

What a tender mission! Our heavenly Father in the flesh, sent to bind our wounds and free the captives. He came to a cold world, ravaged by spiritual illness.

And He set to nursing it back to health, mixing truth ("Honey, you need a bath") and mercy, ("Everything's here, dearie, all you need to do is get in.").

That's our Heavenly Father. The Gift of Christmas. Oh come, let us adore Him.