Thanksgiving thoughts

We had 9 for dinner yesterday. Not our biggest crowd ever, but a good size party.

Lots of conversation and fun.

I also enjoyed the quiet visits I had while I was getting ready.

I thought of my friend Jeff who gave us the magical extending table that seats us all – it has 5 leaves! We used to work together, and we had so much fun! When he got a new table, he gave us his old one. We love it, and are so glad to have it.

The dishes we used were from my grandmother, “Ma”, and the glasses were from the other grandmother, “Gram”. They had such different ideas about how one should live a life and entertain. I think I learned a lot from each of them and blended it all with what Mom taught me until I came up with how I live my life and entertain.

“Pa” (married to Ma, of course) stands with me as I sharpen the carving knife. I remember him with his sharpening steel and the big carving knife every year, those long smooth strokes, then perfectly carving the big birds Ma cooked. I am pretty sure he would have cringed if he saw what I did with the knife I sharpened on my little knife sharpening gizmo! I can get the meat off the bird, but it isn’t pretty!

Then there is my ex SIL, L, mother of nieces B and C the younger. Potato peeling is what brings her to mind. I always make too many mashed potatoes (except the year I baked them, and the reaction was so bad that I won’t do that again!) but I can’t beat L in the too much department. One year, early in their marriage, she and brother C hosted Thanksgiving in a cold, drafty-but-beautiful farmhouse in the middle of nowhere that they were renting. There were 5 of us for dinner. She made 20 pounds of potatoes!! She wanted to have enough. She nailed that! She also wanted to keep the stove going because it kept the house warm. I don’t remember being cold, but only how much fun we had, and how we all laughed at those potatoes. And still do.

My 1st stepmother,P, helps me get the gravy right. Stir, stir, stir forever. Longer than you want. Longer than your arm can stand. Just stand by the stove and stir while people move about you, move you to this side and that, while the meal gets itself ready to be eaten. When the gravy is ready, it’s time to eat!

It got quite crowded in the kitchen at times with all the present people and the past people, but that’s what makes it a good holiday celebration, isn’t it?

Christmas traditions and decorating

Last week toward the end of the carol sing at Mom’s, Cousin M lay on our Gram’s wonderful deacon’s bench, which graces Mom’s music room.  She was looking up and said to me “doesn’t that little piece of reflected light on the ceiling remind you of Gram’s house?”  I looked and it really did – the light was bounced off a small mirror on the table, reflecting light up through the angel-abra so that shadows of angels were on the ceiling.  It really was simple and pretty.  I couldn’t figure out WHY it reminded me of Gram’s, but I had to agree with M, it definitely was a special vignette.

I usually put up the Christmas decorations Thanksgiving weekend, but this year is different – it was so crazy that weekend, and I have not got my decorating mojo going.  But this  weekend I DID get out the candles for the windows, and the paper snowflakes for the porch door, and Gram’s Danish Angel mobile for the living room ceiling.

Last night I stood in the kitchen and looked out toward the living room.  And I knew why the angels on the ceiling at Mom’s reminded us of Gram.  Her simple little mobile always turned gently in the light, and the angels flew above our heads.  Gram may not be with us anymore, but her pretty little angels still are.  As are the wonderful memories she created for all of us with her simple, special decorations and traditions.gram's angel mobile

Of course, she also had a TREE and GREENS and GARLAND, none of which have I done yet.

The universe is unfolding as it should

Tomorrow is All Soul’s Day, and it is so appropriate. Tomorrow is my grandmother’s birthday. She would be 104. She made it to 103 and three weeks. On her 100th birthday, my oldest and dearest friend Kate died after a 45 year-long illness. When my grandmother heard the news, she called me, and she broke down and wept, asking me why she was still here at 100 and Kate had died after such a long hard fight, at only 50.

Who can answer that?

I miss them both every day, but lately, as this day approaches, I have been thinking about them more and more, remembering all the wonderful times I had with each of them – and with them together on many occasions. They were two of the people who knew me the best and the longest, and they are gone.

In the face of setbacks, Kate used to cheerfully say “the Universe is unfolding as it should” and I remind myself of that philosophy so often, as I did my grandmother that rainy day 4 years ago. She was still with us and Kate was gone because the universe was unfolding as it should.

We do our best, we do what is right, and the universe unfolds as it should.

Thinking of you, Ma and Kate, and all the laughs we had over so many years.
Kate – I overcome introversion and talk to strangers in line in honor of you.
Ma – I will always love the ocean and my pets in honor of you.

You are both with me in these things, I know.

Remembering

Funny thing as I get old… I miss things I took for granted when I was younger and that are gone now.

This time every year the sandy jungle we call a yard erupts in berries of all sorts – raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries. I bemoan the lack of a yard most of the year, but this time of year finds me out with a bucket picking berries in the hot sun, enjoying the peacefulness of the process, and breathing deep the smell of the berries, the sweet fern that grows everywhere, listening to the hum of the bees and cicadas.  And thinking about being a kid on Block Island with Ma, picking blackberries in hotter sun, when all I wanted to do was go to the beach.  But first we had to go berrying with a bunch of “old” ladies who didn’t really appreciate other people’s grandchildren.  I did not enjoy it.  It was the price I had to pay to be on the island and to go to the beach after lunch.  But now I find I miss it.  I miss the days when all I had to worry about was someone saying I had certainly grown since last summer, or how soon we would fill the baskets and head home. I miss having my grandmother sharp and lively and able to hold a good conversation, and to take enjoyment out of life. While I still have her, I sort of don’t, and I miss her.

And all week, my other grandmother, Gram, has been on my mind. I wasn’t sure why, but I would think of her sort of randomly as I worked on an art project or put things away in the craft room.  Finally, I realized why she was coming to mind more and more.  Her 101st birthday was Thursday.  She isn’t here to celebrate it, but she was certainly on my mind all day. She was not lively or fun when I knew her.  She was steadfast and calm, with a sharp wit, very observant.  She was a skilled craftsperson, a wonderful seamstress, but not a teacher.  So my Ma taught me how to do the basics of things like sewing, and then Gram would demonstrate how to do things better, or give me a book that told me how. It is an interesting combination of skills these two ladies had. One could knit and cook to beat the band. The other could do any kind of handwork (except knitting!) and thought a day that didn’t involve meal prep was a gift of the gods.

Then there is my friend Kate.  She has been gone nearly three years now, she died on Ma’s 100th birthday.  When I called Ma to let her know Kate was gone, she cried.  She wondered why she should live to be so old and someone like Kate should die so young.  Good question that of course there are no answers to.  Kate was a friend who did all the heavy lifting in the relationship.  We met, we think, in kindergarten or first grade.  But we became friends in 6th grade.  When we went our separate ways, it was always Kate who would call on my birthday, or when she came back home. We would chat like we saw each other yesterday, and it was like that for the rest of her life.  We would see each other maybe once a year, for short visits, where we talked nonstop for however long we had.  We rarely talked about troubles or troubled times, but about fun and life  and the universe and friends and people we loved. She made me think about things differently, in a more positive way. Yet I knew that for Kate there were many troubles.  I would get worried when I didn’t hear from her for a long time, but I learned not to call her then, that if she was in a bad place, she could not be upbeat and she didn’t want to talk about the bad things.  She would call me when she could handle it.  A funny sort of friendship that way.

Now Kate is gone, and even though I didn’t talk to her often, I realize that I always knew she was there, and that a bubbly fun conversation could come at any time.  But now it can’t, and the world feels very much emptier.  I have been thinking about Kate a lot this week, because her sister called the other day – she is in town and wanted to say hi. I thought what a powerful person for relationships Kate was, if her sister, who was grown and gone by the time Kate and I became friends, thinks to call me when she is in Maine.. Kate must have loved me very much.

I miss Kate, and both my grandmothers… but I need to learn from this missing.  Learn to appreciate what I have and who is here now, because there is no telling when they will go and I will only have memories.

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