Saturday, January 19, 2013

"Misty Watercolor Memories..."

I wake to a snowy morning, with school delays and closings scrolling along the bottom of the 6:00 AM news broadcast.  Snow days carry so many memories.  As a child I remember the tremendous joy of an unexpected reprieve from school. 

Memories of my child-rearing years focus on the pleasures of an unscheduled day with three ecstatic children -- the gift of "no school" and piles of fluffy snow was something to treasure.  The reality of those snow days was the repetitious process of gathering wet jackets, snowpants, scarves, hats, and gloves and shoving them into the dryer as I mopped up water on the kitchen floor and put cocoa on the stove to warm -- and then gathering the warm, dry outerwear from the dryer as everyone headed back outside for another round of sledding and horseplay in the lovely white stuff.  The memory that warms my heart, though, is the pleasure of having all three children and their friends together for the day -- hot cocoa and cookies from the oven warming their hands and hearts. 

This past week, our snow day was a time to gather my three little grandchildren together at my house.  For the past year and a half, I have cared for them at my son's home; this year, Alivia began full-day kindergarten, which means she and Luke have only an hour together in the morning to play.  They were so excited at the thought of spending the snow day at Grammy's house -- an entire day together.  We worked on a craft project, which my artsy little ones love -- snowmen made from socks -- as the snow gently fell on the outside world.

During the afternoon, I held them in my lap as I read favorite books to them -- and we recalled the days when they were babies together, and I snuggled them in my lap anytime we all felt the need for the warmth of a hug.  They carry so many warm memories of those years together in my cozy old house, and I cherish those memories myself.  I know the reality was less than idyllic -- stiff joints and aching back for Grammy, tantrums, diapers, the craziness of life with toddlers -- but these are the memories that must be deliberately summoned.  The memories that come to mind instead are those that have been gently colored by the brushstrokes of time -- the peaceful moments when I held two sleeping babies in my arms, the sight of two precious little heads side by side playing with their dolls or their blocks.  Even now, as I lay on Emma's bed at naptime, with pain in my back and my hands going numb from rubbing her legs as I sing to her, the memory I carry instead is of her precious little face on the pillow beside me.

And, while the snow day this past week was hectic, noisy, long, and very tiring, already my "misty memory" is one of a perfect day -- all three of my beloved little ones together again in my old house, playing, drawing, laughing, making snowmen that will not melt away, and memories that will become more and more beautiful with time -- 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sunday Morning

I sleep in a bit on Sunday morning, and rise slowly, enjoying the extra minutes of rest.  In these winter months, I have no birdsong or rays of sun filtering through the blinds to wake me.  I turn on the coffee, open the curtains, and look out at the dreary landscape on this January morning.  How I love this quiet time, though, with my mug of coffee, my journal, my books and my newspaper at my side. 

The first two weeks of January have been difficult -- the sorrow of a much-loved uncle who is seriously ill, a rib injury that has sidelined me a bit, illnesses of other friends and family. The national news speaks of more strife and anger over decisions that have to be made on the economy, social programs, gun control, and protecting the public from the mentally ill and the criminally angry among us.

And now, as I write, my Sunday is almost over -- a day of household chores, grocery shopping, and an afternoon of soup simmering on the stove.  A simple supper of soup and bread -- and a quiet evening ahead to prepare myself for the  coming week, whatever it may bring.  I am thankful for the peaceful moments in these difficult days --

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Wistfulness of Being Sixty

The Facebook photo I look at is a great one -- most likely taken by a grandchild or friend on some summer outing -- a closeup of a sixty-something friend of mine that somehow reflects the spirit of the woman behind the photo.  Nathalie's expression is of one deep in thought, and there is a wistfulness in her eyes.  On the same Facebook page there is an old group photo of one of the local bands of our youth, the lead singer a long-time friend of mine.  And I remember those times -- when we all looked forward to the future with great anticipation; no matter how wonderful or how lonely our high school lives had been, we just knew in our hearts that we would find love and happiness and success in the larger world.

We went our separate ways, and journeyed through life -- doing our best to create the lives of our dreams.  Some of us found great love; some reached the pinnacle of career success.  Some were blessed with good health, loving children, much joy.  Others struggled through life -- illness, family strife, job losses.  Some died.

For most of us, life was a balance of both the best and the worst times.  As we enter our sixties, we are a sundry lot.  Some enter this decade in financial comfort and good health.  Others are blessed with the contentment of having realized their dreams.  Some struggle daily with money or family worries and health issues.  All of us have experienced both those shining moments when the world seems perfect, and those crushing moments of deep loss and sadness, when it seems we will never rise up from the depths of sorrow.

However, as we move through our sixties, we come to realize that we are finally comfortable in our own skin.  We no longer judge ourselves by the standards of others.  We have reached the point where we can be who we are with confidence.  Whatever has happened in our lives -- both good and bad -- has shaped us into more interesting people than we were at seventeen.  We know that we are capable of working through the hard times and celebrating even the smallest moments of pleasure.  We are not in competition anymore -- we are what we are, and our family and friends either love us for what we are or they don't.  If they don't, we just move along with our lives without their approval.

There is a sense of freedom and accomplishment at this age, but there is also a wistfulness -- a remembrance of the dreams that were shattered, the losses that have left holes in our hearts, and a wish that some things could have turned out differently.  It is that wistfulness I see in Nathalie's face, and feel in my own heart.  We may be wiser and more confident and at peace with ourselves, but deep inside there is a wistfulness for that innocent hopefulness of long ago -- the "if only" in each of our lives.