Monday, December 29, 2008

A Wonderful Christmas

Christmas was wonderful. Only the Grinch or Scrooge wouldn't have laughed and felt happiness bubbling up inside just watching Kylie and Logan.

She smiled the entire time -- not just because of the gifts that flowed around her like lava but, it seemed to me, because she was so glad she and her brother were being honored on this special holiday. That child has perfect comedic timing. She loves having her picture taken and posed with a big grin, and then just as the button was being pushed, she held Richie Bear completely in front of her.

Aside from Eric and Keri with their yearly demand for lasagne, I am not usually sought out for my cooking skills. Okay, mac and cheese is not a culinary achievement but I feel like Julia Child as Kylie scoops the morsels up with her fingers and hands me the spoon to allow me to feed her a bit. How does she read me so well?

Her little brother also has the gift to make you feel special. He just smiles beatifically as you squeeze him. I have never seen Alexa look so peaceful as when she fed him a bottle -- she was positively transformed.

They seem to be a perfect team to me. Kylie will run the show and Logan will play his part, admiring her direction all the way, but will no doubt sit back after a little while just to enjoy the scenery. He'll say, "chill, Kylie, just chill for a while," with a big smile and then we'll know his grandad Stan passed down a gene or two.

I got up this morning and when I went to put away some Christmas bags I had to pull out years and years worth of stuff from an overcrowded closet. I came upon a book with Keri's first published prose, written when she was in kindergarten. Luckily, there was a translation because it was obvious she hadn't learned phonex (and never did, thanks to the idiotic whole language phase in the school system in the '90's). Her story was about a friendly giant ("the Jit") who shared his food with her, "hot dogs as big and long as a car" and who "can climb up mountains in one step."

I can see that kind of imagination in Kylie and with all the reading she and her mom do, I know she will have fantabulous stories to share very soon. Hers might also need some translating but I can't wait to hear them.

This is the time for resolutions. I've got one and only one: Have fun! I know two little people who will help me to stick with it. Happy New Year.

Friday, December 5, 2008

We Need a Little Christmas

You know how everyone always says, "Christmas is for kids"? And of course, all the marketing spiels say that there is a kid in all of us -- but who believes advertisers? So, shocked am I that behind all these bags and wrinkles there lives a clammoring six-year-old. I can't wait to get out to Target later and see all the toys and books that I know Kylie and Logan absolutely have to have even though there isn't an empty inch of space in their playroom.

I got positively giddy yesterday when I saw that a small set of Christmas lights that never fit on anything were just the right size for the doll house my brother-in-law built for Keri about 20 years ago. That is the only thing in my house decorated right now but it's a start.

This Thanksgiving was so much fun -- the best in four years for me -- just being with family. Okay, sharing books with Kylie is one of the highlights in my life. I loved it when she walked backwards and wiggled her little butt into my lap, ready for the books I brought. One was about the Nativity and had tiny stuffed animals -- she knew sheep instantly and loudly. The petting zoo trips haven't been wasted on her.

I have been hearing from well-meaning people and bereavement experts over the last few years that the holidays are really rough when you're grieving. I wonder if they were born with that wisdom or had to learn it!!! Then there are those who are a quart low on empathy and proclaim, "Get on with life." Lately, I'm finding (surprisingly so) that they're both right. This Christmas season, or Advent to be specific, is so much more hopeful and peaceful. It really is possible to feel real joy while missing someone.

I work with a woman who refuses to read any book that is "bittersweet." I love those novels -- maybe because I feel comfortable with them. Isn't real life bittersweet? You've got your laughs and your tears, now and then at the exact same time, but perhaps I'm unique there. When I was pregnant with Keri, I remember telling the doctor during a visit that I was very emotional and would laugh and cry at the same time. He was nice about it but told me later that he had been very concerned for me since he found that behavior quite strange. Obviously, the dear man didn't know me very well.

I better get busy -- the North Pole calls and says I am way behind, but this year there is no stress, well, a teeny bit but that's okay. Let's go jingle some bells!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Ho, Ho, Ho befor Gobble, Gobble?

The Christmas season is here, according to the stores and the Home and Gardening television channel. Wait a minute -- did I sleep through Thanksgiving?

Now that I am a joyful, proud grandma, Christmas can't come soon enough. But it just doesn't seem right that Thanksgiving, a meaningful and sentimental celebration for families, should be preempted by "holiday" festivities, meaning Christmas sales, shows and assorted activities.

I went on a tour of five homes in Lilburn today with three friends. Each one was magnificently decorated for Christmas with trees and elaborate trimmings in every room. In the last house, Santa Claus served sips of Chardonnay to visitors ogling his wine cellar.

The homes were all lovely in different ways. Some were warm and cozy and you could tell a family really lived there. Some displayed amazing collections of Christmas villages and nostalgic figurines. One was elegant and sophisticated but didn't seem to say "sit down for a while" as much as to whisper, "didn't our interior designer do a faaaaabulous job"?

As I left each place, I wondered if the owners would be celebrating Thanksgiving at home. And if so, wouldn't it feel strange to be carving Tom Turkey to the beat of Jingle Bells?

Of course, those people are now fully prepared to smugly sit back and admire their fully decked out abodes and laugh at prograstinators like me who will be untangling strings of lights and scavenging through bags of ornaments in mid-December. The holidays have begun!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Potty Talk

Here I am, as usual, a day late and a dollar short! Yesterday was National Toilet Day and I forgot to observe it.

The mention of it made me think of my own private (until now) fearful relationship with the toilet. I have been the not so proud owner of exploding toilets, leaking toilets and apparently possessed toilets (one was known to let out eerie noises only at certain times of the night).

A coworker happened to tell me a few years ago that when her roommate went to use the commode, surprise, surprise, an alligator appeared in the bowl. I didn't doubt her for a second. Back in the '60's in the suburbs of New York City, a very popular present for high school boys to give their girlfriends for occasions when they were expected to come bearing gifts was a baby alligator. Why pet stores would sell such a creature is still beyond me but they did. The girls would be either amused, horrified, or annoyed at their beloved's lack of imagination. The mothers usually found no humor in this whatsoever and would promptly discard the critter into the toilet and flush it into the already overly inhabited New York sewage system.

Esso, which later became Exxon, advertised "Put a Tiger in Your Tank" for years -- they probably didn't realize their beloved animal had serious competition in many domestic tanks.

I read on-line that in Edinburgh, Scotland, a number of college students taped campus toilets shut to try to bring attention to the very serious problem of lack of proper sanitation across the globe. An estimated 40% of the world's population does not have the luxury of using bathrooms the way we are so used to taking for granted.

It puts a new emphasis on the severe consequences of our water shortage in the South and when we sit on the throne helps us to appreciate the possibly endangered opportunity.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Fall is here -- even in Georgia, hooray!!! I don't love the cold, windy days and nights but I don't consider 60 degrees freezing. I love the feeling of Autumn and all the things that come with it -- beautiful leaves, even if they are colorfully carpeting the lawn, warm apple cidar, fall festivals, being outside more, and Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday.

As I was dashing off to work a few days ago -- I'm always dashing because I'm always running late -- I noticed a holly bush that is climbing up the chimney has bloomed. Maybe not earth-shattering news, but I've been in this house since 1985 and not one of the several holly bushes has ever produced one red berry. I got so excited and today ran out and snapped off a couple of twigs to brighten up one of the rooms. Of course, then I panicked about the very real possibility of my cat attacking one of the sprigs, chomping on its fruit and being found dead on the carpet hours later.

Amber, the cat, was brought home by my husband, Stan, nine years ago, after she had been found in a fire and brought to his office. We were not "cat people" but he fell in love with her and thus we were permitted to become her family, which she undoubtedly would sometimes like to reconsider. Anyway, he passed away in 2005 and she and I have both done our share of grieving. She stopped grooming for a while and her usually shiny, thick white mane stuck up in gray tufts all over, showing bare pink spots of her back. The vet said she was mourning. Hey, so was I but I couldn't stop washing my hair. We are now best buds and she is on my lap as I write this.

I realized, as I guess everyone who loses someone they love does eventually, that the sad moments come without any bidding so you need to notice the little joys in life and appreciate them as gifts. When I look at my two precious grandchildren who have never met their granddad, I try to focus on how blessed I am to have them. One of my goals in life is to keep a journal of stories about our family life as their dad and Aunt Keri were growing up.

I figure this way they will have some idea of the funny, loving family man who played Santa Claus every Christmas for a few years and who was their dad's best buddy almost all his life. I hope they will get a glimpse of how their daddy was a cute little boy who wore glasses and cried when he was told he didn't have to wear them anymore because I had told him he looked handsome in them, and who left handprints on ceilings because he was always practicing basketball jumps. I'm sure Eric will not want me to share some of my memories of his teenage years but we'll see about that when the time comes. Even grandmas need their private arsenals!

It's all part of a good life -- the funny memories and the sadness that he won't be physically in new ones but will always be a part of our family life. He still makes me laugh, even when I'm crying. Yes, that might be strange but what's a normal life without its quirks?

Whether it's a holly bush that blooms for the first time, or a baby who grins at you, or a beautiful crisp fall day that makes you glad to be alive, I hope you can laugh today even if there are a few tears.