Friday, December 27, 2013

In Closing '13...

When I reached for my coffee cup this morning, my right upper arm, quite unexpectedly, screamed a silent “OUCH!” to me. What had I done to deserve this new pain, I wondered. Oh yeah, I reflected, it was the kid. Quality time baby sitting it was. In trying to help out our daughter suffering with a sniffling, sneezing, head stuffed up cold, we had offered to keep little Margaret for a few hours yesterday. The few hours turned into an over night visit, which is great because it takes time to get past the point where its all about hello and what do you want to eat, play with, watch on tv, etc. When the rhythms of her day become settled, well perhaps that is not the right word as settled is seldom her thing, but when she allows the time to sit and be read to or to be held, that is sweet. But back to my screaming arm and why and how it came to be. Holding her of course.

In a post afternoon nap stupor she wanted to be held. In a cuteness that can not be described with any level of reality, she looks up, holds her arms to you and says, “I hold you” with a strong emphasis on the “I” then “hoed you”, and you comply, of course. Little Margaret is now two, and nearly, or maybe there, at thirty pounds, and while I am used to lugging heavy feed sacks and pushing thousand pound horses around, I have long been out of training for holding a thirty pound kid on one hip for long periods of time. So yesterday, as her cobwebs cleared, and while she watched her grand dad, Uno, introduce her to the wonders of Play Dough, I held her. I finally gave up when my arm was dead, finger tips numb, and my thigh muscles were in spasms, and put her on a stool to continue the Play Dough session with her Uno.

Later, last night, I wondered why my arm shook when I reached to the ice maker with my glass, and noticed an unexpected and uncontrollable quivering to my hand as it waited for the clear cubes to drop in. My arm has never been the same since a rowdy horse pulled it from its roots years ago now, dislocating the top of the arm to the middle of my sternum, blowing the joint to shreds, pulling and pinching nerves to their end, changing my daily life forever. Surgery tried to amend but came short, so I have learned to cope with a defective limb, but was surprised at this new level of trembling and quivering. This morning, my pain reminds me of the source of this strain,  the holding of the kid, and it is a sweet pain.

We talked last night, Mark and I, of how the seasons have come to pass so quickly and how there really isn’t any point in taking the Christmas tree down because next week will be Christmas again. Margaret is now two, having passed this milestone in early December. She is now the self proclaimed “Dr. Super Margaret” having gotten both a super girl cape and a toy stethoscope from Santa. It was, only yesterday that we opened the door to the delivery room to find her newly born laying on her mommie’s chest. Now, she is a toddler, running on tippy toes through the house and around the farm yard, squealing, laughing, and bringing us joy as we follow her and try to keep her away from all of the things that might hurt this precious package of life.

So today our house is a wreck, and now sadly quiet, with her gone. I have this morning’s oatmeal in my hair and everything below waist high in the house has been relocated at least three times. The piano bench has been painted yellow and her toys lay strewn from room to room, and, my arm hurts. The fact that our band has a gig tonight and I, as the drummer, and will need it to be semi-functional for a few hours, is going to be interesting. In all though, this grandparent thing with the exclusion of having to change some really special diapers, is good.

And so the year is closing out with a new one hot on its trail. Birthdays have come and gone and Santa’s visit was brief as they all seem to be. This year’s Christmas had a few more elements of chaos than normal, but that begs the question, “what is normal?” Certainly none for me have ever been the same. The family changes with births, deaths, and with marriages and with them, the traditions. Traditions are a nice framework to go by, but they all morph as the need directs, and I suspect that next year will have its own significant changes in many ways.

One very big change we know of and are waiting on, is a new addition to the grand kid pool. Our youngest daughter is expecting a girl on Ground Hog day. The new baby is to be named Marilyn after Mark’s mother, the grand mother who our daughter never got to know having been born years after Marilyn had died. A recent 3-D ultrasound picture we saw, showed baby Marilyn to be quietly resting, floating in time, waiting for her grand entrance into life. Another human, another being, unlike any other.

Life in a continuum, goes on. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


I had an assignment this week, to fill in some blanks on a mailing list for an upcoming post holiday, party. In these modern days of Face Book events taking the place of formal invitations it was refreshing to be a part of a slower, and more personal way of doing something, but  I had no clue where to begin finding some of the snail mail addresses for a few. Sadly, I actually had to resort to a quick trip to FB and a few instant messages, and there I found the answer to several of the puzzle pieces. The others were remaining elusive, and then, I remembered, my address book.

I imagine that every kitchen has one, the over stuffed drawer where everything from thousands of unsharpened pencils lay in chaos with lip balm, staplers, glue, business cards, stamps, and vast amounts of whatever. I prowled through this hopelessly over crowded drawer and pulled it out. It has long since lost its cover, one that used to have a bunch of cats floating with balloons perpetually drifting down the page. Now the plastic spiral bound bunch of pages hung tenuously to the rings, some better than others. I opened the archaic contact list and began to scan.

The front page was dotted with long forgotten names with attached telephone numbers, land lines and no emails, most in pencil, hurriedly written as notes. The next page was the emergency contact form filled out with the pediatrician and childhood dentist’s numbers of my now adult children. Various school contact numbers were scribbled, all numbers which I have not called in decades. Then I turned to the “A”s and read the list of names.

It very quickly came to my attention that in this archaic form of contacts, was a history lesson, and one that made me realize how long it had been since this had been my main source for information, and how disconnected I have become from a great many folks who at one time I was friends with, worked with, was associated with, or just needed to keep up with on occasion. The first entries had long passed, the next were divorced, the next had moved, and on it went with pretty equal numbers of dead and divorced entries. And with some, who were once close friends, it was stunning to remember the last time we had even spoken. It was a sober revelation that, time indeed, stands still for no one. Life goes on, and life changes, for us all.

For many years this little address book was the primary source for the generation of my list for our annual Christmas party, which was part Christmas party but also birthday party in celebration of Mark’s unfortunate timing of having been born on the 19th of December. His entire life had been “happy birthday and merry christmas” rolled into one gift with birthday being slid under the main stage of Christmas. So for many years we hosted large parties out here at the farm to celebrate these two separate, but conjoined events. This little book had the history of who I invited,  and of those that came.

But, it made me remember the parties. The parties sort of grew into a being of its own. If you were on the list of the invited, and came, then it became expected that the same thing would happen next year, and did for nearly two decades or so. People would send me changes of their addresses so not to miss the coveted invite to the event. It became a bit of a Gatsby affair with the folks attending being from the strange and diverse cross section of folks we knew and called friends, but it always worked like magic.

With all the candles lit marking the way down the driveway, and others floating adrift  in the pond, I would lay out a spread of food, covering the dining table, kitchen counter, and any unused surface around the open spaces of the kitchen, dining, and living room. The main attraction were the venison meat balls in a sweet and sour barbeque sauce. At the other end of the table was the huge bowl of shrimp, marinated in a tarragon vinegar mix of herbs and spices, and tossed with artichoke hearts, mushrooms, broccoli, cherry tomatoes. Surrounding these were various veggie dips, cheese boards, chicken spreads, and various stuff enough to fill a hungry, and seriously imbibing crowd. My deal was, first come first serve. Once the dishes were on the table that was all there was going to be, and complying crowds showed up early and often.

They also showed up late. There was one night that we had said goodbye to what seemed to be the last guests standing, somewhere in the very wee hours of the night, when to our surprise, we see in the long drive to the house, a set of headlights heading our way, guests just arriving. There was the night after the party, when the entire troupe of the Shakespeare Theatre Company had called to say they were heading out to the party, which they had unknowingly missed the previous night. We turned out every light in the house and hid, and hoped they would miss our house, and go somewhere else. We never saw them so I guess that they did.

Once we began playing music as a band it became a later in the party thing to
play some music. The first year we did this was really special. We knew three songs that we could play, and we did, to a small crowd of very enthusiastic listeners all crowded around our feet in the room that is now serving as Mark’s studio. Giddy as hell after the first three, we took a break, and bounced like puppies on a walk to the barn in the dark of the night. We asked our much more experienced singer and leader, Ham, what we were going to do to appease the requests of more music to be played, and his response was simple. Play those three songs again. We, did, and no body cared. It was the moment that we all shared of mystery, excitement, and we all shared the rhythms of the evening.   

We have not held the party in many years for various reasons to many folks’ regret and sadness. It was a huge under taking to put it on, and expense, with all the food and open bar, but it was great fun to see all of those people having such a great time together under our roof. I do miss it and maybe at some point might revive the beast, but for now a simple Christmas is best.

Tomorrow I will make Mark’s once a year, birthday cake, a decadently rich, German Chocolate cake and fire up his candles for him to try to blow out with a wish. It is so divine that it is sin incarnate, but seriously incredible. I hope he enjoys many more birthdays to come, and many more cakes that I can help him with. 

So in closing out, here’s to wishing my hubby and best friend ever, Mark, a very Happy Birthday, and I am sending all, best wishes for a very Merry Holiday Season.

May the magic of Christmas  always be with you. Ho!