Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, blogland.  
I want to hang out more in 2015.  
Here's a little note from my family to yours.
Love you!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Mom's Christmas

I don't know how old I was when it occurred to me that my mom got the shaft at Christmas.  Her hours of shopping, wrapping, and planning were reciprocated with a $5 necklace with a cheap gold chain that said "#1 Mom" in red lettering on a crystal (plastic) heart purchased with (her own) money given to me at the "Little Shopper's Shop" at school.  I'm sure she and my dad exchanged gifts before they divorced, but what stands out in my mind is realizing that my mom had so few presents to open on Christmas morning, and feeling sad about it.

Was she sad?  "No," she assured me when I asked.  I chalked it up to one of those "Mom Things," where she just puts up a front because she's The Mom and that's what you do.

But now, I'm The Mom.  And I get it.

The first time the excitement washed over me was two Christmases ago, when Levi was two.  His gifts that year were a tool bench ($5 at Community Aid), a kid's guitar ($11 at Jubilee), a small train set ($10 at Ikea), and a few race cars.  His presents were physically big, but money was tight and I was so happy that thriftiness had yielded so well to make Christmas morning special for my little guy.    As soon as he was asleep, Herb, my mom, and I rearranged the living room to make space for the tool bench and carefully wrapped and placed other gifts under the tree.

Each year, intensity in Levi's spirit builds.  Will it climax and start to descend?  I'm sure, that will come, but for now, Christmas is pure magic in our house.  Even without Santa.  He asked me straight up if Santa was real, I said, "No, but it's ok if you want to pretend," and he's completely in to that.  "Santa is like a mascot!" He says.

Herb has been so miserable sick (on and off) for the past two months.  This week it's shingles. They are a special kind of horrible.  That being said, the present planning, buying, making, wrapping, arranging has fallen on me.  And because of my new camera, I made him promise to let that be my Christmas gift this year.

In a full circle moment a few minutes ago, I carefully arranged Levi and Herb's gifts under the skinny Christmas tree, stuffed three stockings, and tidied up the living room and kitchen.  I realized how amazingly excited I am for what the next 24 hours will hold and that that thrill has nothing to do with any gifts I may receive tomorrow.  The joy is in making Christmas happen for Levi (and Herb).

The gift is the title of Mom.

Thank you, mom for the love poured in to making Christmas special for me for so many years (decades).  I will pay it forward to the best of my ability.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Thanks a latte, Grandma and Grandpa

The last two months have been incredibly eye opening in regards to my grandparents.  And when you learn more about your grandparents, you better understand your heritage, and ultimately, yourself.

Since their car accident in October (the month of Herb being sick and tons of blogging), my 91 year old grandpa has been in the hospital, then the nursing home, then again in the hospital, and ultimately back in a nursing home.  Previous to the accident, he's been in ridiculously good health for being 91 years old - so annoying/ironic that a car accident of all things ruined his clean bill of health.  

About once every two weeks, I pick up grandma and we go visit grandpa in the home.  His eyes light up when we come in.  "Do you think I'll be going home this week?" He asks.  He tells us about the terrible coffee, the other residents who "aren't quite all there," and his frustrations with physical therapy.  Then he apologizes for complaining, he knows he could have it worse.  

Seeing their despair over their temporary separation and his fire to regain health has truly been a blessing.  I'd never seen them show affection to each other (or anyone, really) before.  In fact, in the last ten years, I've been trying to say "I love you," and hug when I leave.  It's usually received with a side hug and a "Yep, you too." It's so awkward, yet heart felt.  Now he throws his arms up for a hug and a kiss (on the cheek of course) when she leaves.

Both grandparents are Mennonite, but they go to different churches. They have functioned this way for 64 years! Grandma is old order Mennonite (horse and buggy, no electric - well for the other congregants) and Grandpa is just "normal Mennonite"  (Mennonite USA if that's helpful).  Her hair is twisted in a bun and a white bonnet that covers ears is tied in a neat bow under her chin.  He has a driver's license and a television.  They were both brought up in The Church, but neither joined before they got married.  In fact, she spent a few years working at a general store/ gas station and had a driver's license at one time.  When they married they did not join The Church, until six months later, my grandma did.  She gave up driving and modern dress in favor of cape dresses and a simpler way of life.  

I've been thinking a lot about their way of life.  Their passion for reusing and conserving.  Their self control and doing without.  I've heard the joke that Mennonites are the original "green" people, but they did it for finances, not environment.  If you ask my grandma for a bag (like a grocery bag), you might get a bread bag.  She saves the salvage edge of fabric from the bolt to use to tie up newspapers and gifts.

Today I realized when Grandma, caught between two different worlds, was raising four young children she was always stuck at home.  She didn't drive herself (Church rules), but of course wouldn't have owned a horse and buggy like other church members because her husband had a car, so why bother?  Can you EVEN imagine being at home with FOUR kids, NO internet, NO babysitter/distraction  television, NO car, NO play dates, NO connection to other mothers.  

How much of the differences in their lives and mine are generational and how much are due to religious simplicity?  

For example, today I called Grandma on my way to pick her up and told her I was stopping for coffee, and asked if she would she like a cup.

"Oh, you mean coffee that's already made, not grounds?"  She asked.
"Yeah, like hot coffee."  I replied.  The Starbucks coupon I had was burning a hole in my pocket.
"I had a cup already this morning, I think I'm good."
"Even if it's a fancy one like a cappuccino or latte?"  I was trying to convince her.
"Well, I've never had one of those, so that does sound good!"  She sounded very excited.

You've got to be kidding me!!  87 years old and never having had a latte!!!  That really put things in perspective - and again I ask - is this "doing without" generational or more to do with religion?

They are truly a unique couple and I am so thankful to still have them in my life.  I have had so many thought provoking moments as a result of their presence.