The other day the word for the day was knit. My grandmother could crochet and tried to teach both of us how to do it. I didn’t catch on but Janet quickly learned how to make afghans. She made me a white clutch. It amazes me that a ball of yarn could be made into a beautiful sweater, throw. I used to bemoan the fact that I wasn’t talented like grandma and Janet so Janet told me you have other gifts. At the time I didn’t think scrapbooking or taking a picture was a gift but as time passes I realize that it is. I recently found a photo in an album that happened to be the only one taken at a wedding. When my cousin got married in 1995 she ended up putting my photos in her wedding album because she liked them so much (her brother’s mother-in-law thought they were professional). I made a Christmas card for a friend. It’s literally just plunking pictures into a template that they give you but for her it’s more than that. For both of us it captures a happy memory. It makes me so happy that I could brighten her day.
This is why I continue the tradition of sending cards for the smile it puts on someone’s face. Last year I received an unexpected package from a twin friend in the US. Sending a card is a way of saying I was thinking of you. When my Mom sent a letter it was her way of catching the family up on what we had done during the year.
Yesterday a fellow blogger wrote about Christmas music which reminded me of Mom telling me the story of this woman who she worked who every year brought out the Alvin and the Chipmunks song. Of course Janet and I would start singing it. Not the whole thing just the first line and she would run from the room. She used to wonder who thought up the song “Grandma got run over by a reindeer” she thought it was horrible. Mine would be Santa Baby. I don’t know why I just think it’s so hokey.
Christmas is full of these little “snippets” in time. Memories that bring a smile or a tear (sometimes both).
Yesterday I met up with a family friend who happened to be in Shoppers Drug Mart at the same time as I was. After we were finished shopping we went to the market for coffee. In the course of conversation I mentioned that I hadn’t put up my tree yet and I’m not sure whether I will or not. He tells me “do it anyway”.
Here’s the thing about grief, it doesn’t go in a straight line. I can’t explain why I felt so excited last year and this year I’m having to force myself to write a few cards and buy presents. I learned at a bereavement support group that we have to do what is best for ourselves. Every ornament on the tree has a memory and right now it hurts to much to have that reminder to look at.
Christmas was pretty low key in our house. We would go to the Christmas Eve service and then go for a drive to look at the lights. Mom would get up early to put the turkey in. Dad would be up long before we were and he would watch the fireplace or log channel. My job was always to break up the bread for stuffing. We rarely bought stuffing bread we just used the end pieces because nobody ate them. Mom would make the whip cream for the pumpkin pie (store bought). We opened presents after we ate and if Christmas was during the week we would watch Days of our Lives the hanging of the ornaments. Yes, even the men watched.
Christmas is so full of traditions and every family has their own. Last year my friend and I got to walk through Victoria Park to look at the lights. She has drawn a picture in my Christmas card for the past 9 years which is now a special tradition. Janet and I used to go to Starbucks for hot chocolate so I bought coffee cup ornaments as a reminder.
Last year I wrote a post that it’s not Christmas without love and that will always be true.
Last night I was looking through a bag in my closet that I hadn’t emptied since I moved. I found the first drawing my friend drew in a Christmas card. I remember showing it to my Dad and he couldn’t believe the detail. It was slightly cheeky too because she drew me with a campaign button on (we were polar opposites when it came to political parties). I found some loose photos taken at my grandparents. There is one that is so Janet she’s leaning over with her arms spread wide with the goofiest grin on her face. I didn’t turn it over to see the age but think we must have been about 11.
There were formal church photos too. I think it was 1995. We couldn’t get my brother to agree to go. The one of the 3 of us is not one I like. It looks so unnatural and Mom isn’t even recognizable. The one of the 2 of us is “ok” but the thing about formal photos like these is it rarely captures the essence of the person. I guess that’s why the last portrait we had taken as a family in 2008 is so special because 1 Dad is in it and 2 although we are all dressed up there is something about it that looks natural.
We don’t have many photos after 1993 which is the year we graduated high school. I had one when I graduated college. There were 2 sisters that were in our class who got their picture taken together. At the time I wanted my own photo but now I wonder why we didn’t do it. 20 yrs ago film was expensive so I only used it for vacations and special occasions like a wedding. I wish we had more. I remember going to my cousin’s wedding in 2000 and my parents were sitting at another table. I had wanted to get a family picture since my brother was moving to the States for work but it didn’t happen.
Looking at photos transports me back to the time when the photo was taken. I have friends that don’t believe I used to have natural curl in my hair because it’s so straight now. We went to West Virginia in August and well it’s humid!! In one picture my hair was quite full. I will have to scan it so that I have proof! Our hair would develop red highlights in the summer too which came from Mom. The funny thing about photos is it captures that one moment when everyone is smiling and not the other 75% of the time when I couldn’t wait to get away from them! There were 5 adults that went on that trip and it was like having 5 parents and we were stuck in a van together for many hours. This proves there is too much togetherness!!!
There are days when I can look at photos and smile and other times it makes me miss them so much it hurts. I treasure all of them…even the ones with Grandpa’s thumb, or Grandma caught me sneezing (that one’s the best!).
Yesterday I caught a segment on The Social where they asked if it’s too early to start decorating for Christmas. About half of the audience said yes and half said no. Personally I think the first Sunday in advent is a nice guide but growing up we didn’t put it up before the second week in December. My Dad was not big on Christmas so this was the earliest we were allowed. At the same time I can understand the one hosts point of view that it’s extending the spirit of Christmas. I know that some years I feel so sad when I have to put everything away.
Last night I was watching The Little Couple and he had a huge inflatable Rudolph, Santa, nutcracker and snowman. His wife thinks they are tacky but she lets him have free rein on decorating the outside. Personally I think less is more but if it makes people happy go for it.
My friend’s husband gives mall gift certificates for Christmas. For a long time I thought it was an impersonal gift. My Dad liked to have something to open and thought it was cheating but I would tell him at least I knew he could use it.
I’ve titled this post have mercy because as I was thinking of all of these things there is some sort of judgement there. I remember a few years when my brother would get expensive gifts for us and I couldn’t affford it. My cousin told me it’s ok just take it for the spirt in which it is given. I send out Christmas cards and sometimes I get one from someone I didn’t send to. I don’t always send one in return. Maybe I phone, maybe I don’t. I don’t beat myself up over it.
I was rereading a poem I wrote for my writing class titled ?Traditions. It’s about the little things…decorating the tree while listening to music, baking, taking a walk to look at the lights. 2 out of 3 don’t cost any money but the memory lives on forever. That’s the spirit of Christmas.
This morning a memory came up on Facebook where a twin friend wrote on my wall thanking me for a gift that I gave her. At that time she was working at a farmers market about half an hour outside of the city. I remember that it wasn’t about the gift but the big hug I got. She wrote that it would have been something her twin would have bought her.
I decided to get a package ready for a friend that lives in
Australia. I hunted in the desk because I was pretty sure I had a card with her address on it. Although it’s early to send I wanted to avoid the rush of people at the postal outlets closer to Christmas. I always figure it’s better to allow lots of time too.
Sending cards is the way I get into the spirit of Christmas. I don’t have many that I send to anymore. I don’t think of the monetary cost because thinking of the person opening up a gift that I specifically picked out for them is priceless.
With email and Facebook I can keep in touch with people easier but it’s not the same as sitting down and writing a letter. My friend takes the time to draw a picture in my card. Somehow she always knows what I need. She and I both know that it’s Janet whispering in her ear.
Mom and Janet aren’t physically with me sitting at the table but I know they are glad I’m keeping the tradition alive.
Mushrooms are one of those things where you either love them or you don’t. My brother grew to like them. My cousin can’t stand them. When I was visiting my friend in Vancouver she made spaghetti one night and was going to put mushrooms in them but first asked if I liked them. Of course!…who doesn’t love lots of mushrooms in their spaghetti sauce? Well her roommate for one.
When I went shopping with Mom I would get a paper bag and it would be almost full of mushrooms that’s how many we went through in a week. If they had them on the reduced rack that was even better because I would pick up 2 trays. They are so versatile. Slice them for salad, cook them in stir frys, and we had to have lots as an accompaniment for steak. Mmm steak. One time I was making a salad and decided to saute the mushrooms before I put them in the salad. From that moment on that was the only way my Dad would eat them in a salad.
If I’m taking a veggie tray to someone’s home I make my own as it’s less expensive and I get to choose what goes in it. I always put mushrooms. Some days after my Mom died when I didn’t feel like cooking much I would cut up whatever veggies were in the fridge and have that with spinach dip as my vegetable.
Some people put mushrooms and sausage in their stuffing or dressing. My Mom’s was pretty basic…onions, celery and apple. The recipe called for cranberries but we always had apples on hand so one time we threw those in and it was good. Plus cranberries are good the first day but the colour on the leftovers is kind of funky. This time of year my Mom would buy boxes of apples. I would buy a basket for myself as I liked a sweeter apple for eating. We also had to buy a couple of jars of apple butter for my Dad. One to have right away and one I put away for Christmas. There was nothing my Dad liked better than apple butter on “crusty bread”.
Every time I write about food it mushrooms into so many memories of my family. The woman who led a blogging class at Byron Library recently wrote about pumpkin pies. My sister in law didn’t like pumpkin so we had to have apple so the following week I made one. It smelled so good. I remember one time I set it on the counter to cool and I was getting something out of the cupboard above and a plastic cup fell into the pie. All that work and there was a hole in the middle. My Mom told me it would be fine you put whip cream on it and nobody would notice.
It’s just everyday moments spent with people you love.
I love online shopping. I can order practically anything I need from the comfort of my own home and it’s delivered to the door. Not right to the door because I go down to the lobby.
A few days ago I was searching for Christmas napkins and maybe a tablecloth. The one I liked was sold out. Probably because it was fairly neutral plaid and had a little bit of metallic. As I was searching I also looked through the ornaments for fun and found this. He’s bigger than I thought but will go nicely with the singing mouse I bought Janet..wow it’s likely 20 yrs ago. I bought her a hallmark sister to sister mouse ornament in 1995 and it became a tradition she expected one. They don’t even sell them anymore. When I went to Detroit for a regional meeting with a twin friend we stopped at a restaurant that had a little gift shop. I picked up this ty ornament that was a mouse with a scarf and told her this is what I would have bought for Janet. But I put it back. Then a voice in my head said you are here to honour your twin this is a way you can do that.
It’s usually by chance that I come across these items. One year my friend and I were walking through the market. Last year I had to go to the postal outlet to mail cards and walked across the street to this store that sells furniture and stuff for home. At the time I was looking for a mirror for dining room. The store wasn’t actually open for another 15 minutes but the owner caught me looking in the window. I wandered around and came across this tree with mice on it. I didn’t have my debit card on me but had enough cash to pay for it.
Last year a twin friend sent me a stained glass mouse in the mail. I need to find someone to send to her. I exchange with my coffee buddy and right now I have no ideas.
Janet and I used to be told that we were good at picking out shower and wedding gifts. We always put a little thought into it.
It’s like you see on the commercials it’s all about the reaction. Seeing their face light up. That’s special.
Yesterday when I got groceries delivered the guy asked if I had started Christmas preparations. I must have looked dubious as I haven’t really started. I remember going to church and people would ask “are you all ready for Christmas” and at one week before I still didn’t have all my presents purchased, someone was sick…you get the idea.
It seems like such a simple question but nobody thinks about the family where it will be their first Christmas without their mother, father, sister.
This morning I went to the mall to get some items for chicken noodle soup and then went into Carlton cards to buy a funny card for my Uncle. It never fails as I wander to find the section I ended up in the Mom and Dad section. As I was looking over the cards I would pick one up and the wording was talking about sitting around the table with your loved ones…not appropriate for some people. Mom found it hard to find ones with just the right wording. My friend commented that they should make ones for people who have a harder time with Christmas.
Because the mall I go to is in a seniors area they had a table with Knick knacks. One had ceramic Christmas trees. Oh that transported me back to my grandparents dining room table. They are for people who don’t want to put up a tree. Although my grandparents had a tree too.
I was watching Oprah’s Master Class in which she had a combilation of clips from actors on certain subjects. Billy Bob Thornton was talking about his brother’s death. He said he’s 50% happy and 50% sad. Another person referred to it as happy sorrow because you get to a point where the memories make you happy but you are sad because you miss them. Both are honest representations of what it’s like.
Be gentle with people this time of year.
Just before I woke up this morning I was having a very vivid dream about 2 friends. Not surprising because I have been praying for my friend and her family since we went for coffee. I have known her family for a long time since we both grew up in the same church (although she’s about 5 yrs older).
As to the other part…have you ever had a dream where something happens and you have that aha moment? That’s what this was for me. In my dream I had locked my bedroom door and this person pushed it open. I woke up realizing it represents boundaries.
For me I tend to dream more when something is going on in my life. January when I had a couple Dr appointments, June, September. I remember having a dream about 5 yrs after Janet died that we were lost in an airport and in my dream I didn’t care because the only thing that mattered was that we were together.
Of course not all dreams make sense. I’ve had some where I wake up and think what the heck was that? My Dad was a letter carrier and would often dream that he was still on a route after he retired.
Dreams…what we see when it’s “black” outside
This morning I checked the mailbox for letters and grocery store flyers. Since I don’t get much mail I was surprised that I actually had a stack. Since we get some junk mail I have to sort through it over the recycling bin in the mailroom. I received an envelope for MS society with address labels. I remember the first time I got mail addressed to myself what a thrill that was even if it was just a bank statement. I know understand the excitement people have buying their first home…this is mine.
Unfortunately I know that the novelty will wear off as my Mom had more Christmas cards and labels than she would ever use in her lifetime. I did use the cards myself but quite often the wording is so generic I wouldn’t use them. Sometimes if I like the picture I will print off a poem to stick in the inside.
The irony is that I donated to 2 charities this year online…no envelope or stamp needed. I have a few friends I send cards to, some family and a few that I exchange in person. Christmas is the only time I even send anything in the mail.
I have fond memories of sitting at the table with Janet and Mom addressing our cards. Us at one end and Mom at the other.