Rediscovered Treasure

This weekend, winter decided to move in. On Saturday, the temperature dropped several degrees, and the snow began to fall just before noon. And Saturday was the day I chose to sort through my Christmas ornaments to decide what I would keep and what I would give away. After all, some of the ornaments in my collection have been kicking around since I was just out of college. And even earlier.

Nowadays, I tend not to burden my tree with an overabundance of ornaments like I did when the kids were younger. Mostly because I like it simple—lights and a few sparkly ornaments to reflect the light back into the room. But there is also the fact that my teenagers are excited about decorating the tree, but not so excited about taking it down after Christmas.

So I sat on the couch and opened the large, green plastic tote, removed the first cardboard box, and began to unwrap small tissue paper balls to rediscover what was inside. Plastic animals dressed in Santa hats with wreaths, hand-painted cinnamon sticks and wooden disks picked up at a long forgotten craft fair, needlepoint plastic canvas squares… these were the items that found themselves in the ever-growing “give away” pile.

As I sorted, I came upon a yellowed box that said, “Mom’s dwarfs” in the handwriting of … I’m not really sure … one of my aunts, maybe? And in pencil, in a similar handwriting, it said, “For Suzanne from Nana.” More recently written were a number of notes in Dad’s handwriting: instructions about being careful, about the fact that there were extra parts wrapped up by themselves, about the things that Dad would typically warn me about as he removed these very fragile items from their carefully crafted tissue paper cocoons.

And now, I pulled one out of the box and placed it in my lap. I unrolled the tissue, getting closer and closer to the treasure it held. The weight of the ornament was less than one might expect, making it easy to fumble or accidentally drop it. But it was cradled securely in my lap. Finally, I was rewarded for my care when I spied the first glint of pointy shoes, a leg, and then a jolly face, its paint cracked and peeling from years of use.

My breath caught in my throat as I could feel Dad’s large hand carefully placing the “dwarf” ornament in my own then small hand. Each year, without fail, before he let go, he would ask, “Got it?” double-checking that this delicate figure was secure and would not fall to the floor where it might meet its demise.

The fact that these old ornaments had seen better days did not make them any less precious. The memories they evoked were worth the extra care needed. Of course, now that I have carefully unwrapped these very fragile ornaments on my own, I believe they are less fragile than all the past fuss would indicate. No matter. I still took great care as I hung them on the branches of my tree.

My one question that will never be answered: why, with elves all around at this time of year, did these ornaments end up being labeled “dwarves” rather than “elves” that might be more fitting for the Christmas season? I suppose I’ll never know. I will be left to devise my own theory.

 

 

Journeys

It’s been a tough week of walking the line. Some days, it seems gremlins have attached themselves to my brain, and they are sneaking around the edges, working their way into my thoughts when I least expect it. There has been much going on around me—accidents, illness, suffering, loss—all way too close. So many of these situations demonstrate how quickly our paths can veer off course and life can change. But these are also the things that tend to bring my blessings into focus. Being an eternal optimist, I always look for the blessings.

This year, our Thanksgiving table was filled with many family members. But throughout the day, I couldn’t help thinking about the one who was absent… Dad. There was much laughter around me, and I spent the day tip-toeing the precarious line between laughter and tears. Wanting to flee to a quiet spot to cry, but being drawn by the warmth of the laughter. I chose to show up and be present.

Life is a one-way trip, and we’re all going the same way. The clock always moves in one direction. We continue to move forward because… well, it’s the only worthwhile choice. There is no going back for a do-over. If you make a mistake, learn from it and keep moving. If there are gremlins in your brain, holding you back, figure out a way to get rid of them or sneak by them. Just. Keep. Moving.

Life is a journey. Pack what you think you might need, show up (with as much confidence as you can muster), and be present. If you need directions, I can help. Forward. Go forward.

And along the way, be the eternal optimist. Always look for the blessings.

Gratitude in the small things

It has not been a typical week here in New England. The week started with a wind storm, a power outage, and a day off from school. While we got our power back fairly quickly, others in town did not. Add to that Halloween, trick-or-treating that was postponed by a day because of the storm, and an approaching full moon, and I have to say a peculiar vibe has been simmering all week.

Last night, as I slipped into my daughter’s room to say good night, the heat kicked in for the first time this season. Well truth… I finally turned on the heat last night. It’s been so warm we haven’t really needed it. But last night, as I hugged her good night, the heater began its telltale tick-ticking as the water carried heat through the pipes. “Mmm,” she settled deeper under the covers. “I like that sound!”

Today, I’m thankful for the little things—the “normal” things—we so often take for granted: electricity, heat, and a comfortable bed.

Halloween masks

It was just a regular night at Target here in New Hampshire. That is, of course, until we stumbled on the “Booporium,” which I’m sure they intended to be pronounced Boo-porium, but which my son and I insisted on calling the Boop-orium (with an extended pause in the middle for greatest effect).

On the top shelf, there were these cute, full-head masks. No doubt, they were on the top shelf to discourage people like me—okay, people just a bit shorter than me—from trying them on. These “masks” were more like the heads of college mascot costumes than masks. Today’s masks are a far cry from the ones I (and my contemporaries) wore on Halloween.

Against my better judgment, I had to try on the black cat because it was so cute. I put it on, and looking quite fashionable, I slunk off through the aisles (as I imagined a cat might do) in search of my son. However, I have to say the visibility was a bit limited, reminding me of Halloweens past and the reason I don’t do masks. This mask had several small spots of screening, allowing the wearer to see out, but the view was partially obstructed from all angles.

I was trying to sneak up on my son, and thought I saw him turn into one aisle. When I approached, he was coming out of a different aisle. He saw me, let out a half disgusted, half surprised, “Oh my!” and quickly turned down another aisle. No doubt, his teenage self-protection kicked right in on seeing me—concerned he might be spotted by someone he knew while his peculiar mother was trying on the Halloween masks. I laughed and turned away as I pulled it off my head.

But really, who can stop at just one? They were all cute and begging to be tried.

Yep, it was just a regular night at Target. My son might think twice before he agrees to wander with me to the back of the store—home of the BOOP-orium—the next time.

Memories

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I have a mug that I have been using all winter for my morning coffee. It made its way from the back of the cabinet right after Thanksgiving, and I have been using it ever since. Supposedly, it’s a Christmas mug, but in truth, there isn’t much about it that screams Christmas. Aside from the wreath on the door of the house in the background, it is more of a winter mug. Which is a good thing because I’m having a tough time putting it away this year.

When I was little and winters were snowy, we would spend hours playing outside in the snow. We built snowmen and snow forts and entire houses with room upon room upon room on top of the snow banks in the parking lot across the street. Our fingers and toes would be numb, and it would be dark outside before we finally retreated to the warmth and light of the house. Or we’d wait until Dad got home from work and we had to go in for dinner….

These memories are why this mug has always reminded me of home. But this year, especially, it reminds me. When we were little, Dad would take us sledding on one of several different hills in town. We would load the sleds in the back of the car (or the back of the truck) and off we’d go. Dad built snowmen with us, sometimes adding an extra couple of snowballs for ears and noses and calling them snow bears, families of them, at times, populated our yard.

This year, winter has been a challenge, and I’m not ready to put away my Christmas mug. So I’m calling it a winter mug. This mug, it’s keeping me centered. It’s giving me pause to sigh and remember the good times. Remember Dad.

So if you see me using what looks like a Christmas mug in the middle of the summer, just let it go. I’m reliving some good times. And holding tight to some memories.

Altered Messages

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I have a set of “grown up” alphabet letter blocks as part of my living room décor. With these blocks, I can create a wide variety of sayings and greetings—pretty much anything that can be said in 18 or fewer letters. I have had the letters for many years, though I don’t remember which mail order catalogue I found them in. After my initial set of letters, I asked for the images and numbers for Christmas (or my birthday) one year. Over the years, I have used the blocks for greetings, holiday sayings, birthday wishes, announcements, etc.

The sayings have a spot on the top of the shelf-unit where the television sits. The shelf is six feet high, so I create the sayings on the living room rug, and move the words to their perch one at a time. I move the bottom word first and work in ascending order, placing one word on top of the other until the message is complete. For many years, I could create a saying, place it on the shelf, and not even think about it again until I it was time to change it.

Lately, however, I have noticed that the sayings I write are often … well, altered in some subtle (or not so subtle) way. For example, my Christmas message: Joy, Peace & Love morphed over time. After only a couple of days of sitting on the shelf, it suddenly read: Joy, Geese & Love. Hmm… because everyone hopes for geese at this time of year…?

Now that everyone is tall enough to reach the block sayings, it’s anyone’s guess as to how the message will change from what I write, but there is no doubt that it will be altered in one way or another. I can only sit back, relax, and anticipate the changes. Certainly, the message I put on the shelf makes sense. At least for the first day or two….

One final thought–Christmas antics

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Stuffing stockings—one of my annual Christmas challenges. Have I found enough stuff to fill each stocking? Will I have too much stuff, and if so, what will I do with the extra? Even after years of filling the same stockings, I always second-guess myself.

This year, we approached the holiday in “scaled down” mode. Finances are a little tight, so when I was searching for stocking stuffers, I decided to go the practical route. In addition to some toiletries, toothbrushes, and a tiny puzzle-y-thing or two (okay, and the requisite chocolate…), I purchased socks and underwear to fill the extra space in the stockings because, well… practical (and necessary).

When I started to actually fill the stockings, I found that I did not have enough room for the underwear. I had purchased a package of underwear for each of the teens in my house. While the packages were a good idea and would have taken up a sizeable chunk of space, the stockings were full enough without them. So late on Christmas Eve, I made the decision to place the packages of underwear in the children’s rooms, as if Santa, himself, had gone to their rooms to check on them and placed the item there.

On Christmas morning, I wanted to make sure none of them missed this amazing Christmas treasure. W was the first one up. “Did you see that there is underwear in your room?” I asked him.

“Yes,” he told me, and then his face brightened. “I was so excited that I had to wake C to let him know. ‘Santa came! Santa came! And look what he brought us: new underwear!’” he recounted the scene for me, and I had to smile at his sense of humor and fun. In fact, he actually did wake his older brother with his humorous rendition of childlike Christmas excitement.

And because that childlike excitement of their younger days has tempered to a much calmer holiday emotion, I always smile at the moments like this one—humorous or not.

The big brother who is trying to sleep in … maybe he doesn’t find these antics quite so entertaining.