Friday, December 23, 2011


“And so this is Christmas, and what have we here? “

Today is the day, before the day, of the big night for Santa to fly. For some strange reason I have felt so disconnected with the whole myth, mass retail sales generated hysteria, that this year that I have, for once, totally failed at Christmas hoopla, so far . Long time my favorite time of year with all the trimmings and lights, this time the recent stress of things has been more than I have been able to whip and so…few presents are under a tree, ( a cedar which we nabbed off a friends property around the corner), and my spirit isn’t exactly bright yet, but I remain hopeful for a turn around and feel it coming. It will be what it will be. It always is. It is, and will be soon, Christmas.

We were awoken this morning, not to the sounds of rheindeer on the roof, but to the low rumbling sound of a delivery truck, this time its goods being the blurb book Mark had ordered for this year’s accounting of my scribbling on my blog. He had done the same last year, gathered up all my cyber writing, and had it dumped into hard copy, real pages of words and pictures on real paper. This year’s gathering was not as large as I had not had the time to indulge in the freedom of writing as I had enjoyed the previous year, but here it was, 2011, a year in my life.

Writing a blog has been an interesting project in the past two years that I have posted these journals. Since I was a very little kid, I have written, though have never thought of myself as a writer, and have filled pages and note books full of pages with thoughts and musings, short stories, whatever came into this head of mine and felt somehow it needed to be jotted down. So once again now I see in a hard form, these thoughts from this past year, and read them and remember.

These books that Mark has had published will again be Christmas gifts for folks in the family. They are windows to my soul, and equally mere recordings of the happenings of a life in this place and time, and will perhaps serve to some future generation what life was like, for me, for us, on the farm, and all the inclusive events that make up what we call our days and lives. On one hand I am embarrassed to share but I am reminded that history belongs to those who wrote it down for posterity, and to that end I wonder what my granddaughter, and her children after her, will think when they read these journals long after I am gone. I hope it will give them an insight, to what I am not sure, but perhaps it will help them better know where they came from.

But back to this previously referenced tree that presently stands in our living room. It was not exactly stolen, but it is the first tree that I can remember having not paid anything for. We had asked permission of our friend Ray to cut one off his land and he obliged, and so we did. On Mark’s birthday eve, we took a saw and went off to nab us a tree. We had decided, with our youngest daughter’s suggestion that we refrain from purchasing a fir or spruce tree as par our usual, and go for a cedar, an old school basic, the tree of our childhood Christmases. And so we stalked our 2011 tree, and found it standing in a dried grassy field across from the Interstate exit nearby. Mark sawed it down and loaded it in the truck. Out in the field, what we thought was roughly a six footer or so, once indoors very surprisingly turned out to be more like sixteen feet tall, and nearly touches the open two story ceiling of our living room.

We drank bourbon eggnog and decorated this monster from the floor and from the balcony above it. Its delicate branches made decorating it a bit different from the heavily branched, store bought trees of our past years, as ornaments had to have careful placement to not droop and fall off. To find room for the really heavy ones, some of which I had made by hand out of bread dough over thirty years ago now, they had to find limbs close to the trunk, resulting in a very three dimensional quality to the tree as opposed to the stiff feel of the previous trees. This tree has been graced with old school ice-cicles and is topped with a cloth quilted version of a red tailed hawk, which I sewed about the time I made the ancient dough ornaments and which is the common sight in this part of the state where cedar trees in open fields are the perches for these birds to hunt from. I think it is my favorite tree, of all that we have had in a long time. It has a very nice feel to it, and Jack, the terrier, thinks it is both an ideal water bowl source and a place to hide under.

There are still a couple of things left to wrap, but it will be no where near the opulence of the usual spread of loot. This Christmas is about healing our hearts, and welcoming our new grand child into the traditions of the holidays. These will be new traditions beginning, as the old ones have changed in the course of the past months, and it is time for new ones to take their place. The decisions of whose house to eat which celebratory meal at and at whose home are gifts shared and unwrapped is a bit up for grabs at this point, and will evolve, especially now with the newest member having the biggest say in it all.

And so this is Christmas. It is again the time of sharing, giving, reflection, and for looking forward. It is a moment when grownups can relive childhoods through their recreation of the traditions passed down from previous generations, and pass it all along. We all still want the pony or puppy with the big red bow under the tree and secretly hope that Santa will grant our wishes. One of my favorite ornaments on the tree this year, is a snow globe type thing with a big draft horse pulling a sleigh full of happy folks with a lit up lantern as they perpetually trot through the snow, with writing on the bottom that says, “The joy is in remembering…” This year I will take that more to heart, and savor the season.

Merry to all, and to all, a good year.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Greatest Gift

Imagine. Close your eyes and try to remember, the time spent before your own birth, floating in a warm  and watery darkness, protected, fed, free of gravity, hearing the heartbeat of your mother, so close, in a constant and steady rhythm, and having no thought of any other reality other than just being, there. From the time of one’s conception until the time when birth occurs, there is no sense of time. It is before one has any worries. There is no pressure to do this or that, and better, no concept of either worries or pressures. There is no sense of anyone else or any, place, else. It is a moment in space and time that is zen in its pure simplicity and tranquility. It is being in the place of the ultimate security. Cuddled in this womb, and tethered to the woman who carries you, one drifts along, just growing, and waiting without the knowledge of waiting, until the day you are to be born into this world.
At a given time in every gestation, hormones dictate the change is coming, and this watery wonder world life will be over. Contractions begin, and then suddenly this cocoon of darkness is no more and out you are sent into the light of the day into a new existence. This is the beginning of your life, where hours are first counted, then days, then months, and then years become the life span that you are granted. 
It is a brutal awakening to this life, pushed through a narrow channel, and literally cut from your life source. Eyes, that have before, seen nothing, are thrust into a bright and noisy new place, and skin is touched for the first time by hands that dry you and wrap you in cloth. Gravity is now a factor and you have few muscles to control your tiny body. In this new place you are helpless, and must rely on the care of parents, and many others who will teach you, feed you, and nurture you for many years, until you can do it by yourself and repeat the cycle.
Finally, in this moment of your birth, you are placed on the chest of the source of that heartbeat you have listened to for all of the infinity of time that you have spent in that dark world, a place that you can never return to and which is already becoming a fading memory. The warmth of a mother’s skin and the sound of the familiar heartbeat soothes this transition to life and the important issues become simple, to be fed, and go back to sleep, and to keep close to that heartbeat. This was the scene we saw when we walked into the room where my daughter had just delivered our first grand child. 
Last Saturday evening we had been watching a few football games on the tv when Mark got a text from our son in law that they had gone to hospital with contractions and were waiting for more information as to whether they were staying or not. This little bit got our rapt attention as Emily wasn’t due to deliver for another two weeks or so. More information came in that yes indeed she was in real labor and they were staying. Not remembering the progression of how long things took from my past, we quickly consulted the oracle Ipad and got our online medical degrees on the birth timeline and figured the usual nightcap martini might have to wait. 
At midnight we got news that they were figuring on her being another four to six hours before delivery and for us to get some sleep before coming in. We tried. At four am we both could not stand it any longer, tossing and turning, and wondering what was happening across town with our daughter in labor. So up we got and away we drove in the dark of the predawn Sunday. We did note that the roads are pretty empty at that hour which was a good thing as it gave us less things to run into in our sleep deprived stupor.
Once there, we knocked on Emily’s room and quietly went in to see our daughter sitting in her bed, looking like she had just come in from a walk in the park, (instead of what Mark described of how I had looked after delivering Emily, as though I had fought fifteen rounds of a heavy weight fight, and lost.) A proud new dad stood over her and presented us to our new granddaughter.
I know everybody thinks their baby or grand baby is pretty, and personally I think they all look alike at one point, but ours, however, was absolutely THE most gorgeous. We stood there in that moment, taking in the miracle of a new life in this form of this child, in awe, and were mesmerized by watching her taking in her new situation and responding to it all, peacefully laying there, slowly blinking at us.
Days have gone by now, regrettably marred by the unfortunate bit of aspiration by the little baby during her birth , and subsequent pneumonia which prevented her going home yet, and having to be tethered to an IV drip in the NICU ward at the hospital. This greatly disappointed her new parents, and us as well, but considering the situations of the less fortunate premi’s also in the room, little Margaret’s time there was an inconvenience only. Time has passed and soon she will grace her own nursery at her home for the first time, and there will be a new family, together, in their house.
Yesterday when I went to visit little Margaret and her mommy, I got there just before it was time to feed. Margaret was still sleeping peacefully in her new mother’s arms and I took a turn holding while Emily went to stretch her legs for a moment. Alone with this child for the first time, I looked long and deeply at this new life in my hands and felt at such peace.
She began to wiggle a little as the sleep was giving way to hunger and the pacifier she was pulling on in her ridiculously cute, little doll like mouth, was beginning to not cut it any more. I reflexively began to hum to her the first song that came to my mind, this, my first lullaby to my grand daughter, and it was “Amazing Grace”. I got through almost half of a verse before realizing the all of the connections in my brain, and I cried. I wept that my father could not see this child before he left. He could not hear me hum this tune, his favorite song and one of the last he ever heard. The droning notes of the bag piper who played it at his funeral rang in my head. This was the moment the enormity of it all hit me. I, was a grand parent, and now, I do understand.
In life, there is death. It is in its renewal and regeneration by the birth of a child, that the passing of the genes which define the child, serve to connect us to those who have come before us, and which will continue with each following generation. To look at this precious baby girl and see this and realize this shared line of continuity, binds me to her in a way I had never felt nor imagined. It has been a difficult year in so many ways that it is such a blessing now, to be given this lovely gift of a new life. It is, the greatest gift.
Born on her grand uncle Wilson’s birthday, the 4th of December 2011,  we welcome to the clan, our newest member, this wonderful little baby, Margaret Folmar Flowers.