Sunday, December 28, 2008

Of Christmas dinners, winter chill and not needing to save anything for best

"Well, it's all over till the next time"...I can hear my Dad now, hear his lovely Irish brogue ...that was his pronouncement at the end of Christmas dinner each year. It was usually followed by "back to old clothes and cabbage "... a reference to discarding the "go to church best" clothes we'd been forced to endure at family gatherings. The "best" table clothes, the treasured pieces of silver and the opening of the front parlor signaled either a major religious holiday or the priest stopping in for tea. Seems so long ago now. I was raised in a family where the "good" things were saved; where not everyday was celebrated as special; where emotions were kept tightly held to the chest; where compliments were rare and basking in one considered boastful. I think how different is my life today and wonder what seismic shift moved me from rigidity or 'sensible" to open enjoyment of each moment.
Being 'sensible' was a virtue in my childhood. Gees, how stifling. Barefooted running through grass was usually admonished as " unladylike"; wolfing down a piece of cake and wetting fingers to lift the last crumbs from the plate was "unladylike" - for my brothers it usually meant a cuff on the ear. It wasn't an unhappy childhood by any means but it was a childhood constrained by worry over what the neighbors, the priest, the relatives might think.
I don't think I can pinpoint a specific time in my life when I said , to quote a Maurice Sendak character..."higgledy, piggledy pop, there's more to life than this." But a slow erosion of what was considered proper, sensible, happened and the bare bedrock of my life is much more honest, joyful, open than it was in those early days of adulthood. Not that I don't, on occasion, draw up to my full 5'4' and cast a withering glance in someone's direction and use my 'queen' voice to stop malingerers in their tracks! Not often though - yesterday I came close.
My heating system went down and wouldn't you know....on the coldest day of the year in Tucson. Three servicemen and $683 later we (me, cat (elderly so I cosset her) and dog) had heat. We also had a new thermostat at $249 and a new defrosting plate at $219....neither of which appeared to need replacing - it was, as the somewhat contrite young serviceman explained, "done in the course of eliminating the problem"- the problem it appears is in wiring. I've spoken with the service manager and am assured that my original thermostat and defroster will be replaced this coming week and I shall be credited. But I wonder , were I really a little old lady, if I'd have had the wits about me to question what is obviously a sanctioned scam. If they fail to make good, I will disclose the company name in the Tucson pages of'll do the same if they do make good.
So the Yorkshires rose a treat, the roast was bloody enough to keep the carnivores at the table happy and I did break out all the 'good' china and crystal...what am I saving it for and if something gets broken at least it was being enjoyed rather than preserved. It was a raucous kids one upping each other telling stories ...the Christmas that... and so on. They have wonderful stories to tell and the teasing is all in love.
Tomorrow I'm heading up the the cabin with cat, dog and grandsons (11and 8) it will be a long drive punctuated with the "are we there " "no we're here" routine. "Do you need to pee" as we come close to a perfect stopping place and not three miles further up the road "grandma, I've got to go...NOW". A treasured memory of a road trip with my two boys involved what appeared to be very heavy breathing and then gasps from the back was quickly followed by raised voices and an appeal to Mom. It seemed that as one boy breathed out, the other leaned over to breath in his air...provoking the charge of, "Mom, he's stealing my air". At least it was a break from the "he's touching/looking" at me routine.
Part of me resisted this jaunt tomorrow...the weather down here is lovely and up there it's snow, snow and more snow but what's the point of saving a day for 'best"...having just had a birthday I'm conscious of the dwindling rather than accumulation of time and why save this day for mundane tasks around the house when I could be with my grandsons and participating in the memories that will be the subject of dinner table talk long after I'm gone. I'm trying to apply the same principle to "using" all of my life to my determination to use all of my stuff. Closets keep things means no experiences, no challenges.
My father died suddenly at 72; my mother talked of all the sacrifices to get to the point where they could enjoy life and yet they put it on hold. My husband died at 61 and I know full well how much of the time we spent building the business was accompanied by promises to do all sorts of wonderful things when we just got the business to the next stage....
Onwards....trails to be discovered, good chocolate to be eaten, dinners to be cooked, snow to be played in, memories to be stashed.

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