One Festive Moment

“Twas four weeks before Christmas, when all through the house, flour was sitting…” and so on. I love Christmas and all the festivities accompanying it. However, I diligently wait until December 1st to begin with music, decorating and cards (yes, I still write them). So, two nights ago I cheated. I decided to make chicken rice soup while listening to Christmas music. I was tra-la-la singing along with Hallelujah by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The soup called for flour to thicken the broth. Still singing loudly (I was alone in the house), I opened the pantry door and grabbed the flour stored in a large, square plastic Oxo container secured with its awesome push-down lock lid. Before you could wink an eye, as I turned around to leave, the lid gave way in my hands. At least half of the full container of unbleached flour soared into the air like confetti tossed on the bride and groom as they exit the church. 

After considerable cussing, I surveyed the area. Our wooden floor, the stove-top and oven door, the entire bottom half of the cupboards, the counters, the garbage can, the Keurig coffee machine on the counter, the pottery Keurig cup container and my sweatshirt, sweatpants and wool socks were covered in a flour mist. A rather thick one. 

I took off my sweatshirt, pants and socks, leaving footprints across the laundry room. Tossing them in the washer, I grabbed a broom. Bad idea. It doesn’t work. Just then, our dog Rusty came trotting around the kitchen counter to check out the situation. After walking through the floured floor to check on me, he happily pranced down the hallway to go to sit in his favorite chair, leaving white dog prints the entire length. Taking a very deep breath, I set the broom outside on the deck rather forcefully and watched as the bristles made a cloud of flour softly sift into the air like angel dust.

I didn’t want to use our vacuum, so filled the kitchen sink with warm water and a little dish soap. Using two sponges, a rag, and my hands and knees, I wiped it all. Over and over. I locked Rusty in my room and wiped up his canine trail. The entire chore lasted nearly an hour. I no longer wanted to hear Christmas music. Instead, I fixed the lid on the Oxo container and still maintained enough composure to thicken the soup. When my husband came home, I casually remarked, “Guess what happened?” I knew he wouldn’t be surprised. He knows me. And by the way, today I found traces of flour under the dining room table and oven.   

This Time

We move from Thanksgiving into Christmas this year of 2022. Holidays bring front and center so many emotions—happiness of sharing them with family and friends, loneliness for those not so fortunate, gratitude and appreciation for many reasons. Holidays bring back memories, too. I can get very melancholy over the past, especially during this time of year.

Growing up, my parents always had Thanksgiving dinner. My grandparents, aunts and uncles, plus cousins filled the length of our living room. Dad and my brother set up the tables while Mom made the dinner, her pies everyone loved included. After we kids set the table for over twenty people while Dad helped Mom, people began to arrive with more food and soon, the kitchen was packed and filled with laughter and the dinner table was covered with dishes of delicious homemade food (no Costco purchases then!).

It’s funny how when young, I took those times for granted, figuring Thanksgiving would always be like that. Instead, due to moving to different states, it often hasn’t been, and we’ve only had just our family of five at the table. That is the reason yesterday at our daughter’s house was so special with sixteen people at their table. It reenacted those memories of long ago and this time I was grateful.

All Kinds

A friend mentioned in her email that since her husband wasn’t feeling well, it was she who had to fill her car with gas, an act her husband usually did because he knew she hated doing it. It touched me, making me think about his act of love for her. These acts are all kinds and come in all sizes to expand one’s heart, no matter what. Like when:

My brother-in-law buys clothing for my sister’s birthday or Christmas—jackets and dresses that fit her perfectly. The gifts are nice, but more, he knows her. Relationship love.

A woman from Poland is raising funds to build an eighty-room shelter for refugees crossing the border from Ukraine, the old, women and children. Love for mankind.

A pet is euthanized with the owner’s arms wrapped around their neck, stroking them as gentle words of love drift over both like comforting incense. Animal love.

My granddaughter insists the stuffed animal you bought at the store with her is for you, not her, and she smiles when you hug it to your chest, her beautiful brown eyes gleaming with happiness that now you own one too. Child love.

Your hairdresser has moved and the one who takes her place gives you a style that closely resembles that of Elvis. Your sister says, “It doesn’t really look that bad.” You know she is lying, but doesn’t want to wipe out the little bit of self-confidence you have left. Sister love.

I could go on, but I’m sure you have a long list to add to mine. We just sometimes forget.

Veteran’s Day

My father died two years ago and missed hitting the one hundred-years-old mark by five months. My mother died six years prior and was his finest listener, especially when dementia entered her life. She would sit at the kitchen table, nod her head and recall long ago memories when he asked. Two years after she died, my brother, two sisters and I became his ears.

He was a World War II veteran, highly intelligent and drove for a general in the Army. He was exempt from serving due to being the youngest son to help my grandfather farm. One day, without my pregnant mother knowing, he enlisted. He said he felt it was his duty to go. Serving from April 1944 to May 1946, he wasn’t present for their first-born son’s birth, nor at his death and funeral eleven months later. My mother was only nineteen. Both she and my father never spoke of it.

My father latched on to his WW II memories, especially during his last years. We kids all listened patiently as he reiterated his stories over and over. His favorite referred to Koblenz, Germany. Others, besides us, also heard his war stories—relatives, friends and staff at the nursing home he lived in for his last two years. Unlike many veterans, my father was never in combat, and I’ve always wondered if that was the reason he so comfortably talked of the war and his experiences. At his funeral, he was given the twenty-one-gun salute. We, his children, cried. It was at that moment we truly realized the importance of his service and that of others. Dad, it’s Veteran’s Day. Just know we’re proud of you.

Talk Story

“All of that was swimming through my head the evening I finally called the pups together again to talk story.”  The Wolf’s Trail: An Ojibwe Story, Told By Wolves by Thomas D. Peacock

We are sharing a cabin for a few days, resting on Lake Superior with our longtime friends from Minnesota. We always look forward to relaxing and catching up on our lives and there’s nothing better than sitting on the deck overlooking the lake, listening to the waves sweep the shore’s rocks while we chatter, read a good book, and just close our eyes, absorbing the sun. 

Before my husband and I traveled to the cabin, we spent time with our son and his family living in Buffalo, Minnesota. One afternoon, while waiting to pick up our five-year-old granddaughter from school, I spent two hours at the independent bookstore downtown, Buffalo Books & Coffee. I stumbled across the book written by Peacock, an Ojibwe teaching story, and was immediately entranced. It’s a story about the wolves’ love for each other and the Anishinaabe people. 

In the novel, Peacock uses two simple, directive words—”talk story.” Later in the book, he tells the young pups “…run towards your thoughts.” I love that. It’s advice for writers, too. We talk story and run towards our thoughts, capturing them, and writing them down for ourselves, and others, if we so choose. Recording oral and written tradition, even our own, serves a meaningful purpose, connecting us with each other, guiding us forward.

Reasons

I like to purchase a book from a place we have traveled to. Recently, it was Ireland. My granddaughter and I were checking out a local bookstore and she came to me with a book. “Grandma, this looks good,” she said, handing it to me. The cover read, The Choice. It was written by Edith Eger. At age sixteen, she was sent to Auschwitz. Of course, the reader can imagine what she went through. She survived and lived to help others with trauma as a licensed psychologist.  As she wisely writes, “We cannot choose to have a life free of hurt, but we can choose to be free, to embrace the past, no matter what befalls us, and to embrace the possible.”

I read her quote more than once and thought about how it was such a good way to approach life with all its trials. 

I need to read writing like Eger’s. She, like other authors, help put my own world into perspective. That’s what writing does—inspires, teaches, relates, enlightens and more. It doesn’t just have to be one genre. Poetry, memoir, fiction, nonfiction, editorial and more become the avenue.  Writers willing to take the risk, to put their name on a book, a novel, story, or article can help others, even though they may not have made it their main objective. It’s not easy being vulnerable, allowing others to view and critique your personal creativity, but it just might serve more purpose than the writer realizes. 

Chair Yoga

I spent thirty minutes yesterday morning practicing chair yoga. Ever since and during the continued pandemic, my yoga teacher has been virtual. I chose to attend her bi-weekly chair yoga with all its postures. For one thing, being visible from the waist up only is a pretty good way to exercise in confidence. No audience with access for watching the bottom half’s attempt to tighten the gluteus maximus and no observers, except possibly your dog, to watch you learn to move easily and in harmony. You might even sweat some, hoping your teacher notices, as you attempt to tune up decades of other muscles on vacation. I have to say, many a morning, I awaken and entertain the thought of ignoring 8:45 A.M. every Tuesday and Thursday. However, once I enter the Zoom world through the computer in my office, those thirty minutes disappear sooner than I can lift three-pound weights to my shoulders. Too soon, we’re finished and I’m pleased because I’ve just accomplished another day of improving my well-being.

Writing is yoga. Thirty minutes, an hour, two hours spent exercising in another manner. The mind, with its whirlwind whims and urges, slows down. Life quiets as fingers move to create. Stretching, reaching for words, becomes beneficial over time.  Breathing deeply, pausing, then exhaling what lies inside, releases one. This meditation practice involves using a chair once more to sit, to tune out noise, prevent interruptions, and listen to ourselves, what we have to say, what we know. Yoga uses props, as does the writer. A journal, a story, a poem, a pen and paper or a computer, aid the writer with the results being improvement not only in writing, but even in the mind, spirit, and body. It just requires time and good attendance.

If a writer continues to practice day after day, or at least as much as possible, he or she just might feel more motivated to pen more words, more pages, and more books.

Namaste