A Few of My Favorite Things

This Christmas I received many gifts that made my Grinch-sized heart grow.  There are a few in particular that stand out.  None of them are extravagant.  None of them are expensive.  They are simple and lovely.  And I am blessed to have people in my life who gave me such wonderful gifts.

1.  A friend made me a beautiful dragonfly necklace.  She used understated earth tones and I appreciate the fact that she took time out of her impossibly busy schedule to create something she knew I’d love.  I gave her a book.  I bought it online.  I am lame.

2.  Our school has a Christmas Boutique where kids can shop for gifts for their families.  One little girl, a blond fairy of a girl, kept shooing me away while she shopped because she had something in her basket I couldn’t see.  The next day she slipped a small box under our classroom tree.  I unwrapped the box and inside sat this precious dragonfly brooch.

“How did you know dragonflies are my favorite?”  I asked her.

“You told me once a long time ago, when I was little, and I remembered.”  She smiled proudly, showing off the window where her front teeth used to be.

I wore the brooch all day and thought of the precious girl, who at the age of six is still little, but already has a big heart.

3.  This giant Hershey’s kiss was from another of my little ones.  He’s an affectionate boy and we’ve had some conversations about how we hug, but don’t kiss each other at school.  He gave me a basket of pansies and then handed me a wrapped box.  When I opened it, he said “This kind of kiss is allowed at school, right?”  The class erupted into peels of laughter and the clever little guy grinned from ear to ear.

4.  I received this angel ornament from another student.  The ornament is sweet and when I hang it on the tree each year, I will remember how tightly the little boy hugged me after I opened it.  He also gave me dish of Hershey’s kisses and repeated the line from the kid who gave me the giant chocolate kiss.  In first grade if a joke is funny the first time, it’s absolutely hilarious the second time around.

5.  I have a friend who used to race bicycles and he always gives me awesome cycling stuff.  This year he gave me a gift card to RoadID.com.  My emergency shoe tag was wearing out and so I bought a shiny new one along with a wicking hat for spin class.  There are two great things about this present.  First, if something dastardly goes down on my bike, my shoe tag can help emergency workers figure out who I am very quickly.  Secondly, and much less morbidly, RoadID gives a percentage of each sale to one of nine charities, so upon check out you can choose which charity receives some cash.  Naturally, I chose LiveStrong.

6. My grandmother used to wear White Diamonds lotion.  When she passed away earlier this year, I wore one of her sweaters just to have her scent on my skin.  My aunt wrapped up a tube of White Diamonds for me this year and when I unwrapped it and unscrewed the lid, I was immediately filled with the scent of my grandmother, the scent of all the joyous memories we had together.

7. Okay, when I said none of the gifts I received this year were expensive or extravagant, I apparently had a brain hemorrhage and forgot about the gift Terry gave me.  My hubby gave me a housekeeper for a year.  Let that sink in for a minute.  He gave me an Alice.  Revel with me for a moment here: an entire year of no vacuuming, no dusting, no mopping.  Ladies, I understand that you’re probably swooning.  Put your head between your knees for a sec and breathe.  Yes, he is that good.  No, he doesn’t have a brother.

I hope your Christmas was full of lovely gifts and joyous memories.  And even if your heart was already the right size, I hope this Christmas season made it swell at least three sizes bigger.

Five Golden Rings

Dear Gramma,

The other day when my little ones were lining up to go to lunch, I asked if they wanted to sing a Christmas song on the way to the cafeteria.  We sang Jingle Bells and then one of my little ones asked if we could sing “that one about the 12 things”.

My voice caught in my throat and not a single word cracked out.

I stood thinking about singing The 12 Days of Christmas at your house and always hoping, wishing, crossing my fingers that I would get the card that said “Five Golden Rings”.  It was my favorite line.  I could only imagine enough golden rings to slide on all the fingers of one hand.  I remember you singing that line in your best warbling Baptist church vibrato.  Your singing voice always made me giggle.

As I stood there watching my little ones pull their jackets on and grab their lunch boxes, I spun the gold ring on my right hand, the one my mom gave me from your trip to Greece together.  It is carved with the Greek symbol for eternity.  We walked to lunch singing and when we got to the part about the golden rings, I sang through the lump in my throat my voice trembling each time until I got to those four calling birds.

Christmas is a hard time to be apart from you.  The tree, the music, the decorations, the food-it all reminds me of you.  Those memories are so sweet.  And I’m thankful for all of them.  I just wish you were here to make more.

But then I turn the ring on my finger and remember that this season, when I am singing of the Christ come to Earth, you are singing with Him for eternity, singing in your best Baptist church vibrato.

I can’t think of a sound I’d like to hear more.

Come sing to me in my dreams, Gramma.  Come sing to me about the Christ come to Earth.  Sing to me about eternity.  Sing to me about Heaven where five golden rings are a mere drop in the bucket.



Goodbye, White

Labor Day is here, banishing white pants to the back of the closet for another season.  Well, I don’t own any white pants, ’cause my bottom half just doesn’t need that level of attention, so instead I’m writing about other white things that have come and gone.

Goodbye white lace on the baby pillow my mom stitched for me.  I loved you until you were dirty tatters framing the yellow gingham,  Come to think of it, goodbye white stuffing that filled the pillow and in the end came out in puffy lumps through the hole where I loved that pillow too thin.

Goodbye white stephanotis corsage that I wore to a junior prom.  You were so much more beautiful than the red roses all the other girls wore.  Good riddance to the boy that gave me that corsage and didn’t ever talk to me again because I wouldn’t smoke a joint and sleep with him.  Wait, not even good riddance to him.  Just riddance.

Goodbye Saturday morning sweetmilks with mounds of snowy powdered sugar spooned in the middle.  This isn’t so much a goodbye as it is a “See you later on a lazy winter morning.”  I will wipe powdered sugar from my lips and remember wiping my mouth on the corner of Grandpa’s “Kiss Me, I’m Norweigan” apron.

Goodbye white seashells washing ashore in the shadows of the pier.  I keep you in a jam jar on my night stand, remembering the day I last kissed my grandmother.  I can’t wait to walk barefoot in the sand and gather more shells for my jar.

Goodbye white wedding dress, all boxed up on the top shelf in my closet.  I take you down every now and then and blow the dust off the front of the box.  You made me feel like a princess on our wedding day.  You were spotless and new and so was I.  One day I will work up the nerve to free you from your box and wear you around the house.  Until then, wait for me with your satiny train all tucked in.

Goodbye blackberry blossoms, bursting white among the thorns.  It’s time for you to rest, time to pull fall’s burgundy blanket up to your chin as the earth breathes a sigh of relief.  It’s Labor Day and the laboring is done.  For now.

Letter #7: Your Voice

Dear Gramma,

Today I woke up in the small morning hours and wandered out to the living room.  The house was cool and dark and I tapped away on my computer, writing in the stillness.  All the windows were open and the croaking frogs were the perfect metronome to my words.  When I was done, I crept back into bed as Terry was getting ready for work.  I drifted off to sleep for one last precious hour.

In that snippet of morning sleep, I dreamed that our family was having a party.  It was a backyard party with crisp white tablecloths snapping in the breeze.  Aunt Nancy poured some sort of exotic soup into bright white ramekins.  She filled one too full, and soup dribbled over the edge, seeping into the tablecloth like a tea stain.

My mom and I set the tables and I stopped for just a moment to watch Terry.  He sat near the grass and looked so handsome.  He didn’t see me sneak a peek.  You always told me he just gets better and better looking with age and I couldn’t agree more.

You arrived at the party and came up from behind me, putting your arm around my waist.  I put my arm around your shoulder and kissed your cheek.  It was so soft, like the cheek of a baby.  You said “Hi, honey.”  Your voice was so clear.  In my waking hours I have trouble recalling the particular lilt of your voice, the rhythm of Texas buried under years of California.  But in my dream your voice was so familiar, so filled with love.

In my dream you had cancer, but it appeared you were undergoing treatment.  I asked you “How are you feeling?”  You squeezed my waist and said “Much better.  How are you feeling?”  I laughed and said “I’m feeling fine, Gramma, just fine.”  You said “That’s good.” and patted my bottom twice, like you always did.  I have no idea why you always patted my bottom like that.  Was it because I’m so tall and you were so small?  Is that all you could reach?

There was music in the background and Uncle Jon and Aunt Jill danced close together on the patio.  Hayley was mortified until Katie pulled her on the dance floor.  Katie wore a gorgeous, dark pink dress that made her rosy cheeks even more striking.  Katie and Hayley danced and laughed.  Everyone laughed with them.  You and I stood there, your arm still around my waist, my arm draped around your shoulder.  You leaned into me, just the slightest little bit until your hair was touching my chest.  We watched them dance and we were so happy.

You turned to me and asked “Is everyone here?”  Before I could answer, I woke with a start back in my own bed.  I gasped for air like I was breaking through the water’s surface after swimming down deep.

My dream hung around me like gauzy sheets and as I sat up in bed, I realized my alarm hadn’t gone off.  I swung my legs over the edge and for a second my mind convinced me that my dream was real, that your cancer was responding to treatments.  That you were indeed feeling better.  That you were still here.  My feet touched the carpet and I realized it was not real, that it was just a dream.  A cruel dream that left tear drops on my shirt as I got dressed.  The dream looped in my mind, always stopping when you asked “Is everyone here?”.

In the unforgiving light of day, I answered your question.  Everyone is not here.  And today that thought has seeped into me, leaving me stained with sadness.

I love you, Gramma.  Come talk to me in my dreams again soon.



Letter #6: Postcards From You

Dear Gramma,

Last night I was enjoying the quiet of the wee morning hours.  I could hear Terry snoring in the bed as I sifted through a box of things my mom gave me.  There was a book of things I wrote in first grade that I can’t wait to share with my class.  There were cards from my first few birthdays.  I traced your signature on the cards you sent me and I traced Grandpa’s name, too.

Underneath the stack of birthday cards were items my mom brought back from your house, including the postcards you bought on our trip.  The backs of the postcards were blank and I sat in our office staring at their stark backs.  Tears welled in my eyes because those postcards will always be blank.  I sunk to the floor, wishing for your words to trace with my fingers.

I flipped the postcards over and ran my fingers across each glossy image of the places we’d been together.  It occurred to me that it was exactly three years ago to the day that you took me on that crazy bus tour for my birthday.  We had such a good time, didn’t we?  As I studied the postcards, I remembered the day we visited Novi Sad.  Do you remember when we stopped on that bridge and I asked you to take a picture of me with the beautiful buildings in the background?

You took this:

I asked if maybe you could take another picture.  One that captured the buildings and especially the clock tower in the background.

You lined the camera up carefully and took this:

I laughed and asked if you could possibly take another photo with the buildings in the background and preferably my entire head.

For a third time you lined the camera up really carefully and clicked the button, confident that you’d certainly got a good shot that time.  Do you remember how hard we laughed when we saw this?

And then our bus was leaving so we never did get a decent shot of that clock tower.  Gramma, you were so good at so many things, but you were an awful photographer.  Just awful.  And I’m so glad because each time I think of that bridge in Novi Sad, I remember how hard we laughed that day and how relieved you were when I banned you from taking photos for the rest of our trip.

Later that night, we ordered banana splits for dinner in the hotel bar.  The bar was closing and you asked the waiter to take our picture.  We ate and talked well into the wee hours of the morning.

Thank you for taking me on that trip.  And thank you for never sending those postcards to your friends.  Three years later they have come back to me, reminding me that the things we saw on our trip paled in comparison to the time we spent together.