Monday, November 30, 2015

The Nativity Set


I didn’t get married until January of 1973, so while shopping for Christmas presents the months previous, I found a beautiful old-fashioned Nativity set on sale that I bought for my hope chest.  It is all wood and the figures, the people and the animals, are made of sturdy clay.  It has the look of old European artwork, so I fell in love with it the moment I saw it at the store.   
It has graced my Christmas tree every year for the last forty-two years. It is the first thing we set out before a single ornament is hung.  Each of my three children has played with the figures and I encourage each of my grandchildren to do the same. I like knowing that when they hold the baby in their hands, they are acknowledging who is the cause for all the celebration.
The “grass” has worn thin in some areas and some of the brittle wood has chipped off the ends, even the angel fell off its pegs years ago so we hitch her at an angle onto a plank that sticks out of the roof. 
It has seen several artificial trees, some tall and some short.  It has graced some magnificent real firs in some years.  It even towered over a small table-top tree the year I got divorced and I could not afford Christmas for my three children and myself.
There was the year that we could not find the box in which it was stored and I feared we had lost it altogether. It showed up, hidden in a back corner of the garage, behind a pile of plastic storage boxes filled with auto parts.

People buy me Nativity sets and I have quite a few.  They are expensive and more beautiful and definitely more glamorous, but they could never replace that one. It represents the dreams of a dreamy-eyed, twenty-two year old woman, but while my family and faith and future did not turn out how I thought it would, I am grateful that it turned out the way it did. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

My Thanksgiving Promise


When my youngest son told me I was going to be a grandmother, I had just turned 51.  I felt I was too young to be the oldest ranking person in the room, but I had no choice.  A baby was on the way and I was going to be a grandmother.
Memaw, Nana, Mimi, Oma – I tried them all on, and decided I wanted to be known as Grandma.  It was simple and descriptive.   
That little baby boy awakened in me a warm, strong, memory that I did not know I missed. He reminded me of a time when my own children were young, a time that slipped past too quickly because I was distracted with work and home and a difficult marriage.   
Being around this little boy allowed me to relive those moments; this time with a wisdom based on knowledge and appreciation.  
His little brother followed seven years later, and then we went through a baby boom. My daughter gifted me with two step-children and two more babies all within three years.  My youngest married a second time and I soon had another step-son and two more grandbabies.  Then last summer, my oldest had a precious baby girl. 
Ten beautiful grandbabies; all in a matter of fourteen years, and my husband’s two sons have not begun to add to their families yet, so there may be more.
People think I love my grandchildren more than my children.  No, that is not true. I love them each differently.  My children and my grandbabies are my legacy, my step into the future once I am gone.  
I have much to be grateful but my grandchildren are a blessing that fills my heart with joy.


Monday, November 16, 2015

The Greatest Table


Back in 1994, I discovered a wonderful children’s book called The Greatest Table: A Banquet to Fight Hunger.  Printed on one side of a continuous sheet of paper, it folds into itself like an accordion and creates an amazing book. 
Sixteen children’s book authors collaborated with the charitable group Share our Strength. The money raised by the sales of this book went to fight hunger in America. Each artist interpreted what “the greatest table” meant for them and the editor Michael J. Rosen arranged it into a unique treasure.
Because I could not presume that all of my middle school students would be celebrating a traditional Thanksgiving dinner - nothing like those idealized and elaborate feasts one sees on television - I used this book to demonstrate that we each celebrate differently and to different degrees.
In the book people of all cultures and ethnicities sit around different tables; some are seated on mats or blankets.  Some are indoors; some are outdoors. Single souls or whole crowds, everyone is grateful for what they have. Some pages show two parents; others show several generations, but others have only one parent or none. On some pages groups of children sit together.  They might be siblings or they might be friends.
The food varies and not one page has the traditional American turkey and dressing menu.  Soups, fruits, and breads are served. Everything looks inviting.
There is no one definition for what makes “the greatest table,” except for one thing – the invitation to share.  Throughout the book, the message is clear.  The greatest table is one in which we share what we have with others.  

With Thanksgiving approaching soon, we are all reminded that the day is to show our gratitude, and what better way than to share our bounty with others.  

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Album


Born in the early light of day, the baby’s eyes are shut tight, so are his fists. Swaddled and lying in his crib, he wonders who this strange thing is that smiles at him, flashes lights in his eyes, and laughs so loudly.

One day he will understand why she props him up against the corner of the sofa and giggles when he teeters over and falls onto the soft cushions.  She tickles him, but he forgives her because she smells of milk and she is warm when she cuddles him. 

A crowd of people (for now he knows what these creatures are) gather around him.  Mommy dresses him in a scratchy outfit and there is laughter and jabber, things people do when there is more than one in the same room. They “ooh” and “aah” in one voice as one of them, he sounds like a daddy, pours water over his head and smears slippery stuff on his forehead. Doesn’t that usually go on the other end?

Pages turn. Birthdays and Christmases come and go. Some school day pictures capture smiles, others don’t. Only his family, his grandmother, or Farrah Fawcett gets a smile out him.  

He loves to swim, to eat potato chips, and to play outdoors. He doesn’t smile in soccer pictures.  He hates being a little teapot, and he hates the jerk who stole his bike when he was ten.

He dyes his hair purple and green, and the camera turns its attention on the baby sister and the little brother. Instead, Mother collects his stories, his poems, and his art in the album.  

The pages slow down, but that’s okay. Now a new face smiles on those pages. . . .  


Born in the early light of day, the baby’s eyes are shut tight, so are her fists. Swaddled and lying in her crib, she wonders who this strange thing is that smiles at her, flashes lights in her eyes, and laughs so loudly.  He tickles her but she forgives him because this person she calls Daddy is so warm and cuddly. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

In Thanksgiving


When the ex-husband decided he wanted a divorce, there was little I could do to stop him.  For almost thirty years, we danced to the same song: he left, he came back with promises, he broke the promises, and he left again.
My marriage and my patience were worn thin.
He swore he had never been happy with me and with his life. I could understand his displeasure with me, but what about his children, his home, his livelihood?  He said this was his one shot at happiness, and so we got divorced.
If you lost everyone and everything in your life, what would you miss most?  What would keep you going?
I tried to understand his motivation but I couldn’t. I liked my life.  I loved my children and my family.  I had friends who rallied around me. I liked my home, my career, and my things.  I had a bed, clothes, food, books.  I had a roof over my head, running water, and an alarm system that helped me feel safe at night.
Other than the divorce, little had changed in my life. I considered myself lucky and blessed.
When I expressed too much optimism to one of my friends one day, she gaped at me and asked why, after all that had happened?  I was surprised she didn’t know me better.  I had my health, my family and friends, my home, my job, my faith. The ex was the unhappy one.  Now that he was gone, I could shine again instead of constantly being blamed for his misery.   
And there is my answer.  I am grateful for my family and my faith. They keep me sane and hopeful. I have hope in my heart and determination in my soul. 

No one can make you happy; only you can find it within yourself.