Thursday, December 19, 2013

the greatest love of all

I don't know why it's taken me so long to really know in my soul that I'm a grown-up.  Maybe it's hard to face. Maybe no one wants to believe that they are officially middle aged.  But the bright angel of wisdom has been shouting down at me from the mountaintops lately.  Shouting, watch!  Listen!  It's here.

There we were the other night with Poppy and the kids.  Jeff had been feeling stressed and guilty that we were leaving for the holidays.  His dad would be all alone in his special home.  Granted, he's never, ever alone in his special home.  In fact, in his home he is surrounded by people just like him.  They are old (very) and content (sometimes) and confused (always).  The lie around on sofas or shuffle around the hallways.  They mumble and stare off into space.  They make unintelligible comments to the kids and like old movies.  They are sweet and tired and have lived a long, long time. 

While we spend a lot of time with the gang at Rosetta Assisted Living, we rarely visit with Poppy outside of his cozy confines. But Jeff decided we needed to take him out for an early Christmas dinner (even though he's a Jew).  An early Christmas dinner for an 89 year old Jew at Noodle Express with a three and six year and their ten year old dog.  Just to keep things extra exciting.  Just to solidify that this was, indeed, a family trip.

After we maneuvered Pop into the car we drove, slowly down the road to the nearest restaurant.  The car was unusually silent.  Even Lucy didn't do her usual backseat whining.  The vibe was anticipatory.  Anxious.  Anything could happen. 

So there we were, finally eating our noodles.  Eliana had done a great job keeping everyone entertained while we waited (PopPop does not like to wait.  Instead of wait, he'd rather just shuffle out.  Or around.  Or something like that).  She was telling us about her dream, wild and vivid, involving penguins and masks and crazy chases in the snow.  Sol and Pop began to dig into their bowls.  And that's when we realized it.  Jeff, at the head of the table, was helping the two males on either side of him, his young son, his old dad, get their noodles on their forks.  He was passing them both extra napkins and refilling their fountain drinks.  He was making sure that they ate their chicken and had one more piece of brocolli. 

At one point I stood up -- probably grabbing more napkins -- I stood behind Pop and put my arms around his neck.  I said, PopPop, do you know how much we love you?


And it was a clear yes.  It was a heart-filled yes.  I was filled with that same feeling I have with my own kids.  How even after a long, full day, after meltdowns and rush-arounds, after slogging through homework and teeth brushing, my children know with their whole selves, with their whole hearts, that we love them.  Absolutely.  It's our one and best truth. 

We finished up our shoyu, our stir fry, our MSG quota satisfied.  I took care of the kids while I heard Jeff say, Come on.  Take a step.  Two steps.  There you go.  You got it.  Dad, look at me.  We are going to the door.  You can do it.  Walk with me to the door. 

Just like he used to say to the children.

They moved, Morty and his loose leg shuffle, hunched back, clenched grip on his son's hand.  They made their way slowly to the car.  Slowly up the big step into the truck.  Slowly with the seat-belt. 

After we dropped Mort back off at the home, Whitney Houston's, "Greatest Love of All" came on the radio.  Jeff, in his relief, in his wonder, in his thank-god-we-got-through-that relief, started singing along.  Like, hard-core.  In case you don't know, my husband is not one to sing along to anything.  Definitely not Whitney.  I started crying happy tears.  The kids were just sort of shell-shocked by how weird their parents are.  And we drove down the snowy, winter roads, back up the hill to our  house:

I believe the children are our future.  Teach them well and let them lead the way.  Show them all the beauty they possess inside...

Monday, December 9, 2013


Eliana had special homework tonight, part of her new unit on Celebraciones.  She was supposed to choose her three favorite holidays and then answer some questions about them.  This was terribly amusing on many levels.  First, the three favorites:

1.  Christmas (predictable)
2.  Valentine's Day (pretty normal)
3.  Dia de los Muertos (I wonder where she goes to school)

Then we got to the meat of answering the questions.  Eliana had to say why our family celebrates Christmas.

Me:  Okay, El.  What do you think?  Why does our family celebrate Christmas.
Elie:  I don't know!  Wait, to save the trees!

Hmmm.  Perhaps celebrate the trees.  After they've all been cut down.

So I launched in a bit.  Well, you know in our family we like to celebrate the season of winter and the love in our family.  We want to be generous and show appreciation for the people we love through giving gifts.  But really, the origin of Christmas has to do with a birthday.  Remember Jesus Christ?  Well, Jesus's birthday is actually on Christmas.

Eliana...after a bit of quiet reflection...:  Wait.  Why does Santa bring us presents when Jesus should?

She was thinking about how when she goes to a birthday party, she brings a gift but she also gets a gift (the party itself, the treats, the goodie's a win-win).  So, yeah.  Who the heck is Santa anyway?  How'd he get mixed up in this whole shebang? 

The whole homework process began to deteriorate right about there.  Valentine's Day was kind of a repeat of my, "love and appreciation" spiel.  She knew way more about the real origins and meaning behind Day of the Dead than either of the other two.  So, way to go Internaional School.  Bad job mommy and daddy on any sort of folklore. 

I guess if she keeps focusing on love and appreciation she's on the right track. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

the simple life

On Thanksgiving morning the cabin is cozy,
flannel sheets worn and soft.
The men rise early with orange vests and
heavy arms while the girls
find their fancy dresses, red velvet and colored tights.
I extend my time in bed as much as possible,
move slowly,
take in the red of their lips,
the dissarray of hair,
the silver-white mountain peaks and
golden earth, open wide.

There's something about unihabited space,
mile after mile of prairie,
hill, then mountain,
rocks and sage,
a frozen creek,
a still resevoir.
I settle inside,
chest softens,
mind slow and soft.
The children color and chat,
play hamsters and kitties, baby eagles,
throw earth at ice,
slide and search for crystals,
the sun just warm enough,
the cold breeze of November,
quiet and comfort of old friends as
we settle in, move through shared space,
cook and clean,
gather and come,
flow in the rhythm of a simpler time,
languid and luxurious.

 As the sky opens
there's a settling in the chest
a deeping of breath,
a slowing --
after months of early mornings,
lessons and lunches,
deadlines and departures,
moods and mess.

The settling is like nectar,
poured down a withered throat,
necessary and perfect.