…the kind you can almost feel, blanketed the hill tonight as I walked up to tuck in the chickens. Now, of course I don’t really tuck the chickens in, but bolting the coop doesn’t sound quite so lovely. The donkeys always let me know how they feel when I visit the chickens first. They are not at all shy about their hees and their haws. I know better than to believe that they are about to collapse due to lack of extra goodies. The neighbor sneaks them carrots and apples down at the lower fence whenever she gets the chance. They can’t fool me.
We’ve been decorating the parents’ house for Christmas. Mom’s second and a half round of antibiotics seems to have done the trick. She’s much better now. Still weaker, but when a person loses twenty pounds in three weeks while fighting stage four everywhere cancer and almost pneumonia, that kind of weakness is to be expected. She’s bound and determined to get the adopted grandkids each a crocheted blanket done in time for Christmas. Now that she’s feeling better, she might just make it.
Christmas with mom is always one of the best and worst times of the year. Best because when I was little, her brand of Christmas magic was the kind which transformed everyday reality into a season of red and green goodness. As I got older, of course, I had to pitch in. From the time I was eight or so, I was charged with wrapping all of the presents for everyone. With mom making/buying over 200 gifts some years, that was not such an easy task. I got really good at wrapping presents. When I hit twelve, the parents would tape up my boxes really well and I’d wrap those too. I promise, I never peeked! That really would have been a way to ruin the season.
I helped mom make pins for all of her students’ parents, her family, her friends, teachers on staff. I helped with caramel corn and stuffing handmade Christmas decorations. I cut branches to make angels and wired them into place. We baked cookies and I tried my hand at caramel making (perfect on my first try…never could make it that good again…I gave up trying). We made ornaments for all of her students; different each year of course. For me that was just the normal. And I loved it. Christmas used to be my favorite time of the year.
Except of course, that it was also the worst time of the year. Because as I got older, instead of just enjoying the wonder of it all, I realized how much my dad hated all of the hoopla. Sure, when I was little, I would catch him grumbling about mom’s insistence that the lights on the tree were done just right (none of that draping lights for her. Lights had to start at the trunk and wrap out to the end of each branch and then wrap back…the goal was never to see the cord, just the lights), but for the most part, mom did all of the magic making, and other than the lights, papa really didn’t have much to do–well, the outside lights were his job too. After mom’s first round of cancer, however, she had a hard time driving by herself to deliver all of her goodies. After her second round of cancer, papa didn’t really want her on the road by herself for long times, and, since mom wasn’t the sort to stop her Christmas traditions fully, it fell to dad to take her on all the deliveries.
With mom, this meant that if folks were home, each delivery included at least thirty minutes of talking and chatting, and oohing, and ahhhing over everyone else’s seasonal goodness. For papa, who really would rather spend his time sitting on a rock and scratching his feet, or napping, doing sixty or so deliveries on one of mom’s more productive years was just plain torture. Without me around to offset some of his duties, Christmas for dad just became more and more of a burden. For me, coming home from Seattle or New York to the stresses of trying to keep up traditions that mom couldn’t really handle anymore kind of turned the whole season into something to get through instead of something to love. (And really, when I was home for vacation, getting guilted into going on mom’s deliveries when I really just wanted to sit in front of the fire and play cards with the parents, did not help rekindle my former love of the season.)
Part of that is my problem, as a kid I never really realized all of the work…and when I say work, I mean WORK…that mom put into making moments worth remembering. My dad always said mom was a 300% person, and as an adult, I fully realize what he meant. On my good days, I used to be around a 150% person, but I had a rest mode. I can’t even imagine being fully 300%. I may have pulled off that level of getting things done on occasion, but it was usually followed up by the need to nap or sit and read books for a whole weekend. Lately, I’m feeling like more of a 75% person. Like this whole grumpy thing really has me wondering why we put so much effort into living when there so often isn’t much pay off. But then I think that living without the effort really feels much worse than at least giving things a go, so here I am. I’m still trying to kick myself out of grumpy, and without the need for serious gardening in the gloom of winter, that task is harder than it has been.
Still, I am grateful that this year, Christmas is going up again. Mom is supervising. She’s taken photos of all the places she hangs things so that dad can decorate for Christmas when she is gone. I know she is going to talk me into making almond bark/brittle and maybe a few different kinds of cookies. She wants to remind me how to crochet (I learned when I was five, but haven’t done it since I was around eight) so I can edge a blanket for the neighbors. She tortures me with all of the Hallmark movies she possibly can. I am not grateful for Hallmark movies, but that is a whole can of worms I don’t have time to open.
Here’s hoping that your holiday season, no matter what holiday you celebrate, gives you some time to rest while still making a little magic. The certain thing about this life is that if we aren’t making our own magic, there’s no one else going to do it for us. I’m off to fold the laundry and think about breaking out my own decorations. Good night!
I’m just someone trying to figure out how to juggle ten acres, work, a mama with stage four cancer, and a whole lot of grumpy. This blog started out as “Grumpy Gal’s Guide to Gratitude,” but since all I really keep typing about is the garden, I figured I might as well own it! So, thanks for joining me as I try and figure out how the heck to kick myself in the booty and get on with life.