Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Blessings

I rose this morning to clouds and a drizzle of rain which has diminished my Christmas snows into a bleak reminder of the lovely mounds of white that gently molded our landscape last weekend. That is winter in the northeast now – instead of the winter-long snow cover we enjoyed years ago, our snows are sporadic and quick to disappear. But, this year we were blessed with a White Christmas, which always enhances the holiday for me.

My time was limited for pre-Christmas activities this year – caring for my grandbabies during the day, working in the office on evenings and weekends, and trying to keep up with mundane household tasks leaves me with little time or energy.

One of my fondest memories of this year’s Christmas, though, will be the afternoon I spent baking cookies with my sixteen-month-old granddaughter. I thought she was probably too young to really participate, but I unearthed a pretty child’s apron from the chest upstairs, and she was transformed into a little baker. Actually, she loved it. She helped stir the dough; as I rolled each ball of dough in sugar and placed it on the cookie sheet, she grabbed it off and took a tiny bite. Then she kept an eye on the oven window as they baked. I have a photo of her standing at the counter in her little apron, wooden spoon in hand, that will always warm my heart.

Last week we enjoyed a Christmas brunch with my sister and her husband. I love visiting other peoples’ homes during the holidays – enjoying their lovely decorations, delicious foods, and conversation.

After several evenings of furious wrapping and a trip to the grocery store on Christmas Eve morning, I was already a bit exhausted. However, I managed to put together three arrangements of roses and greens for my daughter-in-law’s Christmas tables, bake a chocolate cream pie for dessert, and prepare a delicious cream of chicken soup to enjoy with my husband and daughter on Christmas Eve.

On Christmas morning, my three children and their families came to open gifts. It was a meager Christmas this year, but we all enjoyed watching the babies open their gifts. At sixteen months, Alivia was a pro at opening the packages, and was particularly taken with a new doll and stroller. Lucas was celebrating his first Christmas at six months, but he jumped right in, ripping paper and playing with each toy as he opened it. Kirk, our fourteen-year old, passed the gifts around to everyone. My family gave me a live Alberta Spruce tree, gaily decorated with tiny gifts; I will plant it outside in the spring and next year my grandchildren can help me string tiny lights on it for Christmas.

My son and daughter-in-law hosted Christmas Dinner – the first time in years I haven’t had dinner here, and it was blissful to see them carrying on the tradition. It was a large gathering of loved ones, and her lovely table settings and delicious food created a memorable time for all of us. Then, we all sat peacefully in the living room and watched the babies play – a quiet time to reflect on the joy of families.

Both of my grandbabies will be with their mothers all next week, so my time will be my own. I have plans for entertaining – with my limited time now, I socialize so little – but, this week will be filled with friends and family. This afternoon I am reconnecting with cousins I haven’t seen in a few years. Tomorrow my husband’s family will gather here for an early supper. I have plans for lunch and shopping with a favorite cousin, a quiet dinner here for a favorite friend, and a day-long shopping trip to the Woodbury outlets with my daughter, daughters-in-law, and a close friend.

This morning my house awaits in its Christmas finery. I baked a cake and some brownies yesterday for today’s visitors, and just before they arrive I will light some candles, turn on some peaceful Christmas music, and enjoy these special moments of the season. The birth of our Lord is the focus of our holiday celebrations, but these precious times with family and friends are indeed reflections of His great love for us.

May His love enfold you at Christmas and always.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Legacy of Grandmothers

For the past few days, a voice in my head has constantly reminded me of my grandmother’s birthday this coming Monday – for some reason, I have been moved to reach out to my sister and cousins to come together for a celebration. My grandmother was born on December 15, 1898 – 110 years ago – and I can’t get her out of my mind this week.

This isn’t surprising to me – she lived with us during my growing up years and was a tremendous force in my life – providing loving security and all of the lessons needed by a girl child of the 1950’s to grow into a “lady” with morals and faith and “manners.” She was far from perfect, and as I grew up I recognized her flaws as powerfully as I appreciated her love, but her voice forever speaks to me as I make crucial decisions in my own life.

In earlier blogs, I have mentioned that I share the daily care of my grandson, Lucas, with his other grandmother, Sheryl. We each have him at our separate homes two days a week, and spend Wednesday at my house, giving Lucas and my granddaughter, Alivia, a double dose of grandmothering. I jokingly call it “doubles day”. This arrangement works out wonderfully for Lucas – he is secure and happy, and always surrounded with the loving faces he knows so well.

Sheryl and I have become very close friends since our children were married, and we enjoy sharing this precious time with our grandson. Our day together is filled with conversation and laughter, and we handle the stresses with grace. Sheryl often says that we “zig and zag” well together.

Over the past few days, as I was pondering this strong feeling of my grandmother’s upcoming birthday, I also thought about Sheryl’s stories of growing up with her grandmothers. Both of them lived with her for a long period of time during her childhood, and had a strong influence on her – passing on a deep religious faith, a love of crafts and needlework, and a loving security.

I wonder if being raised with grandmothers intimately involved in our lives has made us more determined to care for our own grandchildren. Maybe on some level we are called to pass on the love and security that they provided to us – we realize the importance of their unconditional love and will perpetuate this grandmotherly love for another generation.

These three women, who have been gone from our lives now for a long time, are still alive in our hearts, and passing on the greatest possible gift to their own great-great-grandchildren – a grandmother’s love and care.

Happy Birthday, Grandma!!!