I remember asking this very question of my father when I was a little girl, perched upon his feet as we glided around the room, dancing in the New Year. Was it a guy with an enormously long beard, emaciated and destitute-looking, dragging along an hourglass with only a few grains of sand left to fall? His robe puddled around his sandals and he seemed, uh, rather grim. Definitely not round and roly poly with ruddy cheeks and a ho-ho-ho jelly shakin' belly.
Oh. Okay. So that was not Mr. Old Lang Zyne.
THAT was Father Time...on his last legs.
NEW Year's Eve. So where did all the NEW people go? Is this the celebration where all the OLD people fall off the cliff? Dour and dilapidated, outdated fossils grimacing into permanent paralysis?
SHOULD old acquaintances be forgot and never brought to mind? Sounds kind of rough. And mean. Raise a glass to poor Old Lang Zyne. Not long for this world.
The thing is...I'm rather sick of this OLD business myself.
Looking back over my blog pages, the word OLD seems to have cropped up quite a bit.
I'm not surprised.
I need to make a resolution.
No, I need to make a confession.
I did. Feel OLD. All year.
The first year EVER I refused to have a birthday. No candles. No muss. No fuss. The first year a number, my age, made a difference. The first year I truly noticed and became unglued. An oatmeal and molasses birthday. Full of fiber and stuck. The year my wobbly bits wobbled.
Too comfortable with being uncomfortable.
The truth is I was forty at fourteen. I seemed to grow younger with each passing year. Life got better and better and better and so did I. Year after year, birthday after birthday. A celebration.
Good Old St. Nick. The pack is heavy, the responsibility well shouldered and the load lightened by a friendly team. Ruddy cheeks and rosy outlook plus a gleaming smile and he becomes Jolly Old St. Nick Nick Nick...
Nick. Nick. Nick.
A kick in the shins. A twinge in your back. A hitch in your giddy-up. Hiccups. Body parts that used to shimmy and shake, shudder and quake. Heating pads. Soaking baths. Muscle ointments and dental appointments. A loss of flexibility. Hardening of the Arts. Tents blown down by wind and rain and the thought you might not rise again.
Knock. Knock. Who's there? Your birthday.
Go away. I'm busy being OLD.
MRS. Old Lang Zyne
And I am B-O-R-E-D with the likes of her.
I am not an heirloom...yet. I know this because on Christmas night, my son put on a DIsco CD and our entire family danced by the light of our Christmas tree, in front of the windows for all to see, like loose limbed fools. '80's music. Loud. Really loud. And we sang too. Even louder.
I was supposed to be resting a busted knee. Instead, I swear I felt my shoulder pads and my hair inflating '80's style. We danced and danced and danced.
The next day, muscles I never knew I had, did NOT ache.
I celebrated my birthday, in private, right then, with firm resolve.
Time for something NEW.
I have time for something NEW. In a short while, the hourglass will tip over and who knows, all that lovely sand may be between my toes in January on some faraway beach with the sound of the surf pounding out the beat.
Hindsight is 20/20 if I put my glasses on...and there.. in my blogs..is the word "Dance". Just dance. When all else fails, turn on the music and tap your feet.
You'll feel brand new.
Happy NEW Year...
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Picture a small whitewashed clapboard farmhouse framed by a wraparound porch, nestled atop a humble acreage, dusted with snow, under a starlit sky.
It is so still you can hear the cattle lowing in the barn. So cold your breath lingers on the air.
Outside, a solitary man, gingerly climbs to the roof. In his hands two wooden dowels attached to a pair of weathered leather boots.
Inside a child, an anxious little boy, stands transfixed at the top of the stairs, just outside his bedroom door. Only his sister's embrace prevents him from stealing down the steps.
The tap, tap, tap of boots on the rooftop echoes in the upstairs hallway, and the child, eyes wide, now on tiptoes, gazes overhead.
His delight is palpable.
Afraid to move, yet eager to see, he holds his breath.
Shhh, they say.
Close your eyes.
Time for bed.
Shhh, he will not come while you're awake.
To bed then. Snuggled down under a lump of bedclothes, a final kiss good night and a pinpoint of light sneaks under the door as it closes.
Eyes squeezed tight. No hope for sleep. He offers a simple wish.
Please don't forget me. I've been good. I do believe.
In this season may your heart be like that of this child.
Filled with wonder.
The light from the oil lamp on the porch lingers on the shoulders of the farmer as he stomps the snow from his boots and pushes open the front door. He is a farmer. A simple man. A family man. His love light casts a shadow that will embrace his son for all the years to come.
Merry Christmas to all the mothers and fathers,
then and now,
and to all the children struggling to fall asleep.
Go to bed.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
I Won't Grow Up
I'll Never Grow Up
I Am A Grown Up
I Wish I Was A Kid Again...
I would love to invent a new title for grown up "children" that applies to both sides of the aisle. Parent and child alike.
To our parents, we will be forever young.
To our children, we will forever be a generation out-of-step.
We love each other deeply, but we both resist change.
Yet we both have earned the right to do so.
When I was in my twenties, a millennium or so ago, when the numbers on a clock face were Roman Numerals, I missed my parents. Counted the days. Eager to be home. To be spoiled and hugged.
...the door opened and I walked down the length of the hallway that led into the living room of their apartment. The photographic panorama, like historical wallpaper, from my birth to my high school graduation, welcomed everyone to the Museum of Me.
My high school hallmark, an image of very bushy eyebrows and teased poofy hair, severely cramped my newly tweaked and tweezed, sophisticated style.
Frozen in time. Like an insect sealed in amber. Suspended animation. A dog eared page, a story yet to be told.
The new me, my twenty something married and college educated fully employed living in another state, me, must surely be just around the corner. Nope. Just a repeat performance for each of my brothers.
Home. I loved going home. Sitting on the floor thumbing through family albums. Super 8 movies in mime. Sound came later. Walking the sidewalks and retracing footsteps past my high school, the park, the record store, and the candy shop. The "L" riding high, scooting past my stop on its return to the downtown loop.
Loop. A continuous loop. Round and round, except for the moment, somewhere, along those tracks, I launched from a loaded slingshot, arched up and away headed on a new flight path out of town.
I knew my way home.
I just wasn't sure how to behave when I got there.
My parents set the thermostat at 90 degrees,
and left all the windows wide open.
When I was a kid, the windows in our old apartment were sealed tight against the cold, as the heat from the radiators was never enough to spell the chill.
Who could blame them for their extravagance,
but Christmas was like living in a sweat lodge.
From my parents viewpoint, my new life was odd, transient and distant. To them, I lived in a foreign land. The people I lived with everyday, I now would see perhaps once or twice a year, for only a few days. Long enough to thaw and melt our awkwardness about the time we had to pack and pull on coats. I left, with tears in my eyes, wanting to stay and be their child, yet needing to leave and be my new self in my new life in my new universe. In their eyes, I saw my reflection much the same as the first time I left, the pain and longing, but with a new wrinkle.
They looked slightly ready for me to leave.
To return to their new lives, just two,
as they were once, before I came to be.
Now it is my turn.
I stand, parent to child, as they unpack suitcases, these taller, older versions of my children, and flinch as they reach for the thermostat.
It's hot in here they say.
We like it that way, we say.
They look and appear to be grown-ups. Why then, as they toss the football in the yard and wrestle with each other in the dirt, do I see two little boys, small and silly with knobby knees and missing teeth, grinning up at me?
What do I call them now?
No longer children. They are men, these sons of mine.
So am I.
A grown up parent...and each a grown up child.
I wonder if it is true, what I've heard said,
that a child never leaves the man.
Or is it that the parent never leaves the child?
I think, it is for me at Christmas time, especially important, to simply say, the words whispered to me, in my own parents' embrace.
No matter where you are, I will love you forever.
A timeless message.
The perfect loop.
Thursday, December 1, 2011
First of all the Thanksgiving Thanks. Thank you to my vacuum cleaner for breaking down the Monday before. Thank you to my oven for self-destructing in a show of appliance solidarity. Thanks to no kids in town to celebrate, thus no turkey to cook and no pies to bake. No table to set, no mess to clean up, no leftover casseroles, no dirty dishes to wash. No house to clean, no extra bed linens.
Uh, this is taking an odd turn here.
May lead to a terrible misunderstanding.
An unforgivable offense.
Thanks for no Thanksgiving?
Please, someone out there, hands in sink, dish towel slung over shoulder, gazing at a post-it note covered refrigerator with to-do, must-do, have-to items waiting for a response, some action...help me here! I have a confession.
I didn't miss it.
I had a BBQ sandwich and fries in front of the TV watching football games and lounging in my pajamas with my thirty odd turkey honorarium badges that read "Is it time for turkey yet?" pinned to my robe. I wrote my name in dust motes on the coffee table. I took a nap. I am a bad person. I didn't have to tell you. I did anyway. To get the guilt off my chest, and to draw attention to ALL those badges.
Sometimes you need a break in the routine.
Sometimes you need to miss others.
And sometimes you need to be missed.
Ergo, the subject of giving.
Thanksgiving is the supposed lead off hitter. A time to be grateful for what-we-have. Followed, in less than twenty-four hours, by Black Friday, when what-we-want shows up in lines and fist fights and scorching hot credit cards.
Lists. Ads. Specials. Deals. Door-busters.
I am not a crab. I am not a Scrooge. I am not a holiday basher. Honest. What I will admit to is "Fa-La-La 'Tis the Season" syndrome. I see Thanksgiving coming and know the black hole of December is about to swallow me up. The stores stock Halloween candy on July 4th. Thanksgiving merchandise is 75% off the day after Halloween. Christmas music runs in a continuous loop from then on. It feels like a marathon and I am already hobbled.
Like the running of the bulls, I know I am fleeing something and there are folks behind and ahead of me and we are all churning our legs forward, in a mad rush.
What makes me laugh is that what we are running from is the bull.
And that, my dear friends, is the best direction for all of us.
So, whether you asked me or not, I will tell you why I feel better about the holidays this year. I passed the baton. I was given a chance to slow down and gather my wits. My non-vacuumed, turkeyless, empty table wits. I had the opportunity to miss. I had the opportunity to be missed.
Friday morning. Music. Step stool. Me. Pulling down Christmas decoration boxes from the tall shelves in the basement.
Presents for being present.
Ornaments wrinkled with age, made by my children in pre-school. A small lighted Christmas tree rescued from the farm of my husband's youth. Glittery stars, jingle bells, snowmen, snowflakes made of popsicle sticks. Each a memory-jogging gift of Christmases past. Strings of knotted lights, gently unkinked and draped across the trees in the backyard, twinkling in the dark. The tree, indoors, ornamented one-at-a-time, and tied up in bows.
A Santa here. A reindeer there.
Just like wedding tokens, something old, something new. something borrowed, something true.
Habit is not a tradition. It is an almost mindless act of repetition for repetition sake. Christmas should never become a habit. It should be a conscious act of giving and receiving with heartfelt intention.
Don't become so absorbed in reliving old memories that there is no room left for making new ones.
My guess is that you already have what you want.
To love and be loved.
add it to your wish list.
Christmas Bell Ringers. Even if I don't make a deposit in the kettle, they bless me. I believe them. With my whole heart. I feel blessed. I smile inside as we smile at one another.
So here is my blessing for you.
If this year,
life is not going as planned,
perhaps you need your bell rung.
There is a reason for the season.
The perfect gift.
It has your name on it.