The New Year
I am notorious for writing my Christmas cards in January. I cannot help it. The holiday season sprints to the finish and I am out of breath. For once the after-Christmas-fire-sales smolder, the errant bows and wadded up tissue paper are wrestled out from under the sofa...
...I long to catch up with old friends and far away family.
But then comes the moment, when I open the address book and find I must cross off another name, change an address, add a newborn, delete a marriage, change Miss to Mrs., and erase, replace, and hit enter.
The times are always a changin' and the year is soon to be new, so I find comfort in old family albums where lives and loves and losses, new and old faces, huddle closely together. Here, the once upon a time of ancestors, parents, friends, children and even beloved pets, remain embedded in sepia, black and white, and technicolor, just as I remember them.
May you, on this New Year's Eve, find yourself with your family album pressed open on your lap or with home movies running in your head, life both still and in perpetual motion, from way back then to here right now.
Our family portrait is a running slideshow of memories, current images are clear and sharp, while others reveal red eyes, vintage clothing and dated hair styles. Corners bent and dog eared, a few are the treasured, the favorites, the ones we linger over to freeze frame in time.
Details, where and when and who.
Names and dates,
The flash of a camera. Wedding cake, the first house, Dad awkwardly holding a newborn, first steps, birthday parties, swimming lessons, first day of school, graduations, new driver standing by old car, old drivers standing by new cars, weddings, reunions, funerals, gatherings, firecrackers, car trips, summer cabins, tiny fish on big poles, young faces with big grins, old faces with warm smiles.
The album is just that, a memory vault.
When we think we have forgotten who we are, what our family means, we can run the slideshow...and the pictures become what is the very best part of being a family...
...yours, mine, ours...
...a singular tale of love over time...
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
I didn't think in this day and age that children still wrote letters to Santa. Grown ups barely write letters anymore and children are certainly more tech savvy than I, so I falsely assumed if they did anything, they emailed or texted or tweeted the North Pole. But an article online, suggests otherwise. It seems there is a very real possibility that the USPS may not be able to deliver Santa Mail to Santa this year. Budget cuts or not enough sorters to sort, a reporter is so very sad to report.
I doubt I am able to explain our nation's debt problems to a five year old, so I sought a more local and more plausible avenue to correct the situation. To facilitate young flights of fancy. To assure a prompt delivery and a rapid response from the reindeer shepherd up North.
This is a job for Grandmas!
I pull on my coat, lace up my sensible shoes, tuck a kleenex up my sleeve, roll down my knee high panty hose, wrap my head in a portable plastic rain hat, slip my flip phone in my pocket, back the car down the driveway, swing around the block to double check that I really did shut the garage door and head off to my local post office.
I really and truly did NOT do any of the things I just said I did, but any grandmother worth her salt must keep up appearances, especially at this time of year. The truth is, most of the time, adhering to the rules on page six of the Grandmother's Etiquette Guide, I wear a piece of duct tape over my mouth, so that if I am asked for advice, I keep it to myself.
I stand in line for over an hour and when I reach the head of the line, he scratches his head and says there is nothing to be done, no time left, no ready hands available. So I offer up my services.
He reaches under the counter, shoves aside the holiday stamps and hands me not a stack, nor a box, but a sizable carton of letters, each one addressed in a child's scrawl or printed in crayon.
The North Pole
I gather up the letters poking out the top and tuck the carton under my arm. Believers. A carton of believers. I could not would not let them down. My mission, though seemingly impossible, 'lo the week before Christmas, is an appointment I surely must keep.
I too am a writer of letters and posts. I consider these glittery, colorfully illustrated missives in pen or in pencil or ink, the early stirrings of imagination. The illustrations, primitive art. The design and the glitter, a budding sense of fashion and flair. The sincerity and directness, a formal first opinion piece. A creative's first pitch. A search for one's voice. A desire to communicate.
Those tiny tims of faith, who dream big dreams, who despite their circumstances still firmly believe in perhaps not a gift, but at least a reply. I, distant kin of the formidable Emily Post, believe in Thank You Notes. Acknowledgements. I think I am the only person left on the planet who believes that every email, letter or post deserves a response.
So here, late at night, with the stars overhead twinkling and giggling their delight, I open each and every letter. One at a time. Glitter rains down, plus stickers and stamps. This, I assure you, is NOT an invasion of privacy, nor an act of sabotage.
This, this is an intervention. For I am a certified Santa's helper. An elf. A fulfiller of dreams. A conduit to the land up North where the reindeer graze and the toy shop buzzes with the workbench sounds of Rap Tap Tap, and the background hum of Ho Ho Ho.
I do! I swear!
Have a license on my wall.
A notarized, signed sealed and delivered PHD in Santa Studies,
from the Jolly Old Professor Himself.
I am a scribe. A knighted believer in all that is Santa. I have never missed a Christmas Eve, my plate of cookies by the fire, my eyes squeezed faithfully shut, and hope in my heart that sleep will echo with the sound of reindeer on my roof.
Santa will pause, then land in the soot,
and know its MY stocking by the size of my foot.
Even at this age when my eyesight grows dim,
I'm a certified professional believer in him.
A Magna Cum Laude Graduate of the Santa School Of Wonder
The letters await.
Dear Santa...I've been good...Love, Annie
Dear Santa...I've had a few bad days, but I promise to be better...Your friend, Louis
Dear Santa...Sorry for the peanut butter stains on the page, but this has to reach you in time, it just HAS TO. Hurry up and thank you... Ed
Dear Santa...Can you bring Dad home in time for Christmas, that's all I wanted to say. Thank you very much...Sincerely, Bella
Dear Santa...My Mom lost her job and says money is tight, but I will leave a map to my piggy bank so you can find it, okay?... Yours truly, Maggie.
Dear Santa...This is my cat. And this is my dog. And this is my sister, who takes all my good stuff and breaks it and I just need a replacement, no not a new sister, well not really, but maybe...This is a coupon for the store closest to my house so you won't have to go too far out of your way. Bye for now. Martin(I prefer Marty)
Dear Johnny and Benny, Agnes and Fred
Willard and Crystal and Eric and Ted...
Attention to Marty and Bella and Jim
Kathy and Kitty and Scottie and Tim...
Season's Greetings Dear Children
Ere you turn out the light,
The Grandmas of Christmas
Are with you tonight.
Won't you gather with me at the ticking of twelve
With the cookies and milk on the fireplace shelve
Won't you place just one finger aside of your nose
And give Santa a boost, for he certainly knows
That all elves are welcome, all hands to the ready
Making wishes come true marks a hand that is steady.
Be thoughtful and gentle, be decent and mild
Just answer the letter of one little child.
For everyone, anyone, can be Santa tonight.
The Yard Yetis A Gardener's Tale continues...
Thursday, December 5, 2013
It's beginning to look a lot like...um...you know...that holiday...the unmentionable one...the one kids can no longer sing about in school...
That certain day we used to celebrate with lots of red and green, but red and green are also no longer allowed in certain classroom parties...so maybe it's now taupe and gray.
That special time of year when some of us buy presents for the ones we love, except that presents are now considered to be a form of Uh-Oh, the commercialization of the holiday we can no longer mention, nor sing about, nor wear red or green while flashing our cash and credit cards around.
The time for the bell ringers to stand by the kettle and with a warm and welcoming smile...no?...oh right ...now it seems they too are rather wary and have been warned...so they sort of smile and start to say Happy...or Merry...and mumble some other syllables while standing in the freezing cold.
I thought this was a magical time for the believers and the Non...until I saw a billboard from the Non Folk...of the night sky with a star on a lovely blue background and the words...well I can't repeat the first once since it's been outlawed...so the abridged version goes something like this...
C-------s Is A Myth. Don't Believe Any Of It!
I was going to hang up my lights outdoors, but I read where some neighborhood associations are instructing their "neighbors" in a neighborly fashion that only white lights could be used and that they could only be up for the week before...that unmentionable holiday...and they must be down the day after. So I am sitting here with an enormous box of a certain two unmentionable colored lights all kinked up and knotted together and I desperately want to put them up somewhere, so I think I'll go hang them all over the shower and the tub, except that is an electrical hazard for someone who occasionally drops the blow dryer in the sink...ah yes...I'll put them in the laundry room because I know for sure I AM THE ONLY ONE WHO GOES IN THERE EVER!
I did go to the mall today to look for a whatchamacallit gift, no not a present, well I mean a little something, for someone other than myself, after I stood about ten feet from the woman by the kettle who averted her eyes so as not to have to struggle to greet me, and launched my dollar into the air. I don't know where it landed, because I averted my eyes as well and walked into some other mysterious shoppers carrying nondescript brown paper bags, averting their eyes as well.
I thought I heard a familiar carol wafting through the store. I mean it is THAT time of year for songs to be played in a loop over and over, but no, this song was familiar. La-dee-dah-dah...I'm pretty sure it was the title song from a new album by a recording star who is spending the unmentionable holiday in an unmentionable rehab center. Or maybe it was that one that needs to find a belt underneath the C-------s tree.
Oh dear. The tree business. That's a No Go too. Cutting down a tree, even at a tree farm, is an ecological offense. Buying a tree that was chopped and shipped from way up North to the local hardware store is even worse. I am pretty sure even looking at the trees in my own back yard might result in a pretty stiff fine.
So...no Dancer or Prancer and certainly not Vixen
No...I'll be home for?
No...I'm dreaming of a white?
No..."Twas the night before?
No...Jolly Old St.?
No...Have yourself a Merry little?
No...Little Drummer Boy?
No...Cookies For Santa?
I am utterly undone. At my wit's end. This is all so confusing and perhaps slightly amusing, as I have walked down this path before.
When I first started writing my Garden Pages, I made a commitment to myself, that while I was writing from my heart, the words on the pages might touch another heart. That someone might stop and read and say...So True...ah yes...So True. That my memories of family and friends, life and loss, success and failure, might stir a thought, evoke a memory, ease a loss, or rekindle a smile. The garden is home for everyone,so it was quite a surprise and a shock when a marketing guru wrote Bah Humbug and Grinched all over my work.
Red pencil slashes thru the words hope and believe and wish and dream.
Extra X X X's and NO NO NO.
I might...just might...offend...my audience.
But my audience is YOU...and YOU and I know that HERE in the garden, is the one space, an enduring place, where all that is necessary, the only requirement is that you DO...
In things we cannot see, or touch or feel.
Here in the garden is the one common denominator for every gardener, every tiller of the soil, every seasoned and reasoned soul, to come together because we...
Believe in the seasons and have faith.
Faith is not a promise, it is a hope. A wish and perhaps a dream.
Even Grinches have faith.
So did Scrooge.
We all do.
For example, every day I drive across town and I have faith that the light will turn red. Stop. Then green. Go. I live on the belief that an engineer somewhere much smarter than I concocted this system to keep us all safe from crashing into one another. To teach us to take our turn, to be patient and wait, until the light changes. Red. Green. But what if, one groggy eyed morning, after an all night vigil and months of protest, someone decided that red and green might OFFEND someone else's sensibilities. And there, in the foggy morning mist, the lights are now the Crayola colors of Fuzzy Wuzzy and Mauvelous. In the middle, what was once yellow is now Mango Tango.
Oh and the...
In it's place a new less threatening version and one most people easily recognize, a spinning orb of color, sort of like the Wheel Of Fortune...where it lands nobody knows...fingers drumming on the dash board...uhhhh...you know what happens next...one person inches into the intersection, then another and then someone skips a turn and then honking horns and oh dear oh dear there must be some sort of a pattern, but NO NO offending anyone's sensibilities...except for, oops, for the COLORBLIND.
Let's face it. We all have faith in something.
We all believe in something.
And some of us spend our entire lives desperately searching for proof that we are right.
The truth is that in this life, in this garden,
none of us will ever know for sure.
So we tell stories.
Stories of faith.
Christmas is a beautiful story. Of a family in need of shelter. Of a baby born in simple surroundings. It could happen anytime anywhere. A star in the night sky. Songs of great joy. Wanderers coming close for a peek at the child.
The word comes from the Latin meaning...
Wishes and dreams.
I cannot imagine the world without them.
I could not sit here with the ground covered in snow, the trees stripped to their branches, the squirrels tucked in their nests, the geese flying off to the south, without hope. Without the dream of Spring. So I tell myself a story, about the seeds in my hand and how one day soon, I will plant them again and they will grow and flourish. But I cannot know for sure, as the moon is full and the night is young and tomorrow may never come.
But sleep will, and in my dreams, lie hope and faith. And wonderful technicolor stories. Beautiful multicolored lights, decorated trees and packages under the tree. More importantly, in my dreams, in my story, I am standing on the the lawn with my grandchild watching for reindeer, holding loved ones close and making a wish. A tender and gentle wish for all of you...a song to sing...this time of year...whether near or far...
"I'll be home for Christmas.
You can count on me.
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents on the tree.
Christmas Eve will find me.
Where the love light beams.
I'll be home for Christmas.
It really IS beginning to look a LOT like Christmas...
( "I'll Be Home For Christmas...lyrics and music by Kim Gannon, Walter Kent and Buck Ram)
And if you are STILL NOT SURE....