Holidays & Other Natural Disasters

Grandpa Gregg, Aunt Linda, Me & Mom
My grandfather was a larger than life, complex figure. He was my champion. He would part the room in my presence, tell everyone that I was his granddaughter, buy me bottomless Shirley Temples and coax me into singing a song or two in random restaurants where he happened to know the guy leading the band. 

Time with Grandpa was like a Frank Sinatra movie meets Little Miss Sunshine.

There was one tradition that happened every (and I mean EVERY) year with my grandfather that confused me to no end.

On major holidays, and especially his birthday, there was inevitably a moment when he would raise his large Grandpa voice and proclaim: 

“That’s it! Now you’ve done it. You’ve ruined my birthday!” 

As the oldest grandchild and usually the only child in the room, he never directed his ire at me. He saved his discontent for the more seasoned children and spouse in the room who rarely raised an eyebrow when his rant came.

I remember thinking: Why is no one concerned that weve ruined Grandpas birthday? 

Fast forward to
A birthday in our household this year (person to remain nameless, wink, wink). We were at a restaurant of his choice after a long day of tennis that didnt end as hoped. The birthday boy looked exhausted, like he was about ready to hop on a red-eye, when he leaned over to me and said, Mom, no singing, right?

I smiled. No, of course not.

Id already asked the waiter to bring a dessert with candles. I hadnt asked her to singso that didnt count, right? And anyway, who doesnt like a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday on the anniversary of their arrival on the planet?

My fourteen-year-old son.

Soon after, our waitress arrived with a gaggle of other waiters and robust song commenced. Heads turning, candle burning. Teenager smiling, the most awkward of smiles.

I leaned in after they left and said, Sorry I ruined your birthday. 

He looked at me, annoyed. You didnt ruin my birthday.

No, but the day hadnt gone as expected and it happened to be his birthday.

I told him the story of Grandpa Gregg. A glimmer of recognition passed through his eyes.

Yeah, you ruined my birthday, he said, this time with a genuine smile. 

Fast forward to

Mothers Day, 2019

Day before had been a marathon workday. I was running on adrenaline when I awoke later than usual on Sunday morning, ready for the onslaught of motherly gratitude.
House was quiet, teenagers still sleeping. A bright gift bag was perched on the kitchen table. 

Not long after, thoughtful husband was heard in the kitchen clanking bowls. Teeing up the love, I asked, What are you making?

Pancakes. Want some? he said.

I dont eat pancakes right now (on middle-aged eating plan) and he knew it.

Its Mothers Day! I exclaimed. 

Yeah, I know, he said, sheepishly.

Ill give you two options of how it went from there

A:
I very sweetly said, No worries, Ill make myself some eggs. Because after all I have three men in my life who routinely show me how much they love me; and Mothers Day is the definition of a Hallmark holiday; and there was a beautiful gift on the table.

B:
I rather robustly said something like, Fine, go ahead and make yourself breakfast, its not like its Mothers Day! and then huffed off into the other room to watch Meet The Press (which wasnt even on because of a soccer game.)

Yup, there was a full-fledged conspiracy involving European football and pancakes to ruin Mothers Day.

I wish that before each holiday there was a questionnaire. A simple survey that read, What do you need this year?

Cause when my kids were little, them sleeping in and me watching TV by myself on the couch with a cup of coffee would have been the definition of heaven. But now, with time flying on by, I can picture a day when theyre not even upstairs and that scares the begeebers out of me.

And some years, like when youre 8 and have a party at Bounce U, youre more than okay with a group of friends singing to you. Then other years, you just want to eat a hamburger and for everyone to leave you alone.
I hope that when Im gone, my kids and their kids will sit around and tell stories involving my sage wisdom and undying love. More than likely theyll have some other memories to haul out too. Ones that involve holidays and trips to Staples and throwing a shoe. 

I get it now, Grandpa. 

Im already working on how to ruin Fathers Day.

Ranunculus






I recently had the pleasure of visiting Chihuly Garden and Glass, a museum in Seattle, Washington. I knew Dale Chihuly’s glasswork to be colorful and whimsical; what I didn’t anticipate was the overwhelming experience of taking in his creations one after the other as we wandered from gallery to gallery.

Prior to seeing Chihuly’s work in a collection, I’d only ever observed his large-scale glass pieces in venues that played up their grandeur. Chandeliers in ballrooms or hotel lobbies that screamed: look at me! 

In their native space, Chihuly blends his work with his inspirations. Textiles, photographs, architecture, and nature mingle alongside the glass sculptures they incited. It’s an honor to peer into the world of an artist, to glimpse the well from which creativity flows.
I was particularly excited to learn that Chihuly and I share a favorite flower. I’d never seen the fleeting blooms growing in their wild state before Chihuly’s garden. But, there they were scattering their bold inspiration.


ranunculus | rəˈnəNGkyələs:


Pillowy perfection.
Buds bursting
 This way, that
Pink, yellow, orange, red:

Spring.


Knees


It happens every year. The must sort this and toss that bug. A drive to lighten the load and let excess stuff go. This year it happened early, timed perfectly with the start of a new year.

I tackled the unruly kitchen cupboards first. Why are the serving bowls in with the Tupperware? Making things make sense felt good. The hall room closets came next. Coats that no longer fit. Doo dads that went with other doo dads that weren’t around anymore. Mittens and gloves and…
Rolls and rolls of manila paper. Portraits made for me by Will in preschool. Fifty-seven portraits, to be exact. Taking up space, quite a bit of space, in the back of the closet. 

Memory candy:

As John departed for kindergarten, Will filled-in his big brother’s shoes at preschool. Will had the same teachers, same classroom, same, same, same, so I figured his experience would be the same. Not so much.  

First day, at pick up, his teacher pulled me off to the side. “Will didn't want to do the class craft but he drew a portrait of you instead.” She smiled non-judgmentally in true wonder teacher mode. (Love you, Mrs. Letizia!)

“Wow, look at me!” I said, as she handed me the stick figure drawing. Will was already half way out the door. He didn’t really care what I thought of his drawing; it was time to go. 

“Why didn’t you want to do the craft?” I asked, in the car.

“No one looked like us in the magazines,” he said. 
Aaahhh. Will came out of the womb a fact based guy. When he didn’t see literal cutouts of us in the magazines they’d been given to recreate a family portrait, he drew the real thing to match the reality in his head. 

Rule follower and people pleaser don’t always go together, even at three.

Weeks rolled around and each day he’d come out with the same picture. He’d shove the grayish white paper in my direction, like he was presenting a hall pass to a monitor.

The portraits kept coming for most of that first year. I started tucking them in the closet in disbelief at how quickly they were accumulating. I frequently boasted to Rob that the portraits were always of me. It was hard to mistake the two dots in the center of every drawing. I was the only one in our house sporting those.

A few years after preschool, I unearthed the old artwork and showed them to Will. I pointed to the round dots. “Those always made me giggle.”

“They’re knees,” he said, matter-of-factly.

I laughed, assuming he was embarrassed.

“There was this episode of Sesame Street where Elmo explained which body parts were important and at the end he said, “Don’t forget the knees! Without those your whole body will fall apart.” I didn’t want you to fall apart so I always drew the knees.”

Knees? Knees! Leave it to him to not only remember the episode but what Elmo said.

This year, mid-sort, I showed the haul to a now eighth grade Will, reviving the first day story (which he had already heard a few times). I pointed to the dots and before I could get the next word out, he reaffirmed, “Knees!” Then, recited Elmo’s words with classic certainty.

“So you didn’t want your old mom to fall apart?”

“Everyone falls apart without their knees.” He smiled. “According to Elmo.”

You can probably guess where the portraits are now, post cleaning binge. Yup, right where they were a year ago and where they’ll be a year from now: in the back of the closet taking up as much space as they need.

I considered saving just one or two, since they are all very much the same. But on the edge of high school and college, and whatever comes next…

I am going to need every last one of those knees.




PoP = Points of Passion


PoP4
Found Time

Flutters in my gut emerge when something—anything—gets cancelled. 

There are, of course, a plethora of ‘must-dos’ ready to fill the space. But if my world is not ready to explode, if everyone in my family has at least one pair of clean underwear, if, if, if…

I have learned to embrace found time as my time.

A walk in the woods with my dog Daisy;
Read, read, read;
Call a friend that I’ve been thinking about;
Try a new recipe (or better yet improvise);
Take a nap.

Those are just some of the ways I bask in time that finds its way back to me.

PoP5
Antique Bottles

I started collecting antique bottles in elementary school. Tiny time capsules kept safe from the destructive forces of age.

What medicine did it hold? What was wrong with the person who needed the tonic? Did they have any idea that I’d be holding their bottle one hundred years later? 

Antique bottles contain more questions than answers. I think that's why they’ve always represented a world of possibility to me. 

Must pick up the pace...the holidays are almost here!

PoP6
Ribbon, ribbon, ribbon
Not sure what that's about but I have LOTS.

PoP7
Daydreaming about living by the ocean
Yes, please!

PoP8
Collages of any kind
PoP9
Crappy pottery created by my kids 
They have many talents, my boys, but ceramics would not be one of them. Still, their colorful early endeavors tap an endless reserve of wonder in me.

PoP10
Gardening!
Speaking of things that provide joy despite a lack of aptitude….as any reader of this blog has no doubt noticed, I glean an inordinate amount of joy from watching plants grow, especially weeds.

That’s it for now.
Wishing you a merry holiday season filled with your own PoPs! 



Points of Passion (PoP3)

Chairs

I have a hard time walking away from one that I like. Even though I have plenty. I could easily fill a Doors of poster, only mine would be called Chairs of Holly.

Green, blue, formal, antique—there is no real criteria except that when I see one that makes me want to sit and ponder…it comes home with me.

When I started my work at The Connecticut Forum, I brought simple matching grey chairs with wood trim into my new space. I could see the unspoken head scratching on the faces of co-workers, that the new girl thought it necessary to bring her own chairs. 

"I have a lot of chairs,” I finally started saying when a colleague would politely admire my decor. If they only knew…
It’s like Shel Silverstein said in his poem Hector the Collector:

Three-legged chairs and cups with cracks.
Hector the Collector
Loved these things with all his soul--
Loved them more then shining diamonds,
Loved them more then glistenin' gold.

(Although truth be told, unlike Hector, I do prefer diamonds over chairs.)





Points of Passion (PoP2)





Poems by Shel Silverstein


I received Where The Sidewalk Ends as a Christmas gift in 1982. I know this from the inscription inside my well worn copy. The book has been with me, quite literally, ever since.



In elementary school, I performed the poems with solo gusto in my dresser mirror. In high school at my first summer camp job I always kept my copy nearby. A spontaneous reading of Sick (one of my favorites) was a surefire way to grab attention if the day’s activities went awry. In college, I hosted a local children’s television show. It was my responsibility to come up with content. There was no question where I would begin...

When I introduced my coveted volumes to my boys, I began by telling them how important these books were to Mommy, how they were special and should be treated carefully, and…then I stopped.

I knew that Shel wouldn’t have appreciated the lofty introduction.

His work isn’t meant to be revered or explained. It was created for consumption. Disappointment, loss, adventure and happiness are more easily digested in bite sized black and white.

I bought them their own copies. Everyone needs a Shel Silverstein. 

Just the other day I opened Where the Sidewalk Ends in search of inspiration and nostalgia tumbled out. A letter from my father that I received in college. A thank you note from a camp parent. A commemorative card from my grandfather’s funeral. A to-do list from my high school days.

Silverstein’s books have always transported whiffs of life that matter to me.



Points of Passion (PoP)



I’ve been feeling a little blue lately about the state of things. Maybe you can relate? 
I’m a devourer of politics and news, have been since a very young age—but—after the last couple of weeks, I’ve reached my limit. I am craving a break.
So…for the next little while I am going to spend the time I would normally be gobbling up the day’s catastrophes—here—creating a vision blog of inspiration. I’m hoping that less time wading in the muck and more time reveling in personal Points of Passion (PoPs) will lead to good things. 
Here goes…hope you’ll join me!


PoP1
Flowers

My earliest flower memories are of the peony bushes that lined my childhood driveway. Outside, they’d spring from the ground, a colorful magic trick, not long after piles of heavy snow would dissipate. Inside, their pink pillowy puffs would spill out of antique pitchers—summer’s warning cry that it was indeed on its way.

I had a childhood of flowers, come to think of it, the impromptu wildflower kind. I can still picture a patch of farmland in the hour long drive between my grandparents' house and mine. A secret resting place covered in Black-eyed Susans and Queen Ann’s Lace. We’d get out of the car, venture in waste deep, and pick a custom bouquet. Nature’s floral delivery.

I now understand that there is no such thing as free flowers. Someone owns the land. Someone scatters the seeds. And those flowers that line the driveway come with a lot of weeds. 
Which makes me appreciate the flowers more. 

Cut from the earth, plopped in a vase, a masterpiece of not-so-accidental grace that always inspires me.