Turning the corner

Its the day of the longest night. A chilly one for many of us, a night that’s perfect for nesting, and the long winter’s nap we hear about in stories.

Its inside time for most of us, leaves are raked, shrubs covered, plants have gone dormant, squirrels are piling up those last few acorns for the winter so we’re not being distracted with too many outdoor chores. That means reflective time is upon many of us, sometimes of our own doing, sometimes just because its a season of memories.

I’m remembering scavenging my old toys, radios, and flashlights to find a pair of “D” cell batteries to power a cub scout flashlight for just a few minutes of clandestine recon around the christmas tree. It was our christmas eve conspiracy. All six of us kids would wake up around 4 or 430 in the morning, get the littlest among us ready, and in our quietest socks or pajamas sneak down the stairs, checking for mom’s traps or alarm bells as we went.

The year before had been kind of mission failure, as we all crept around the living room in the dark, arms in front of us, my brother pushed forward what turned out to be a punching bag on a spring rod, which in turn, thwapped him or my sister in the face once he moved his hand, the ensuing shrieks and squeals gave us away and mom caught us all and sent us back to bed. I think that mission cost us each a chocolate santa from our stocking, the fine for being caught infiltrating, but i remember we got them all back after we did the christmas dishes.

This year, the flashlight was our secret technology, we would not be caught due to tripping, tipping, or crashing into the tree. As it turns out, Mom slept on the couch that year, waited till we all had our backs to her, and scared us half to death. I remember scrambling back up the stairs climbing over my little sisters as all six of us sprinted to the relative security of our bedrooms.

I don’t remember many other spy missions like that. If we were kids today there would be night vision goggles, kid-sized boroscopes that would help us see around corners, maybe even infra red scanners to detect a parent laying in wait for us.

I wonder what mom thought of us during those early mornings? They truly were some of the few times all six of us kids worked and acted together during the year.

All those memories came about thinking of mom and dad. We only had a few Christmas’s with them over the years, our three year rotation between them, Fred and Fran, and the third year at home was kind of limiting, but I always hope it made some positive memories for my favorite youngest and favorite oldest daughters.

I remember mom and dad loading all six of us up to take us to grandma and grampa’s for a little christmas at their house. Grandma’s tree was always flocked white, and she had red ornaments on it I think. But the herd of us didn’t spend much time upstairs, usually we were sent downstairs to the basement full of cousins. Kids we kind of knew, but always had the sense we weren’t as good as them. Maybe we were more of the rowdy irish and not as much in the kennedy irish models, I’m not sure. Grandma and Grandpa usually gave us nice sweaters and such as gifts, I think one year us kids gave them a door-sized colored santa picture, one of the two or three dad would bring home where we would all lay on the floor and burn through all the red crayons we had, and by some miracle, we’d always get a new box of crayons either in our stocking or wrapped as a gift from Santa. As I look back, that was another way mom and dad kept all six of us busy and a little quiet as we filled that 3 foot by 7 foot piece of paper with red and green crayon. Pretty clever of them.

Dad usually brought home gifts that suppliers and other subcontractors had given him. Sometimes candy, mostly cheeses and sausages, individually wrapped, carefully packed in plastic green grass inside a festive holiday box. The best ones had candy sprinkled in too. Grandma and Grandpa B would usually give us fruit from Florida, oranges and grapefruits that mom especially liked and we would make a production line to cut, squeeze and bottle juices. Fruit was a special treat during the season of the longest night. We didn’t really have the access to summer fruits year round like we do today.

A year ago I was putting the finishing (that is to say sanding off and re-applying the finish) touches on a table for my favorite oldest daughter and her husband. The came south to have a Christmas with us and like the table, so we shipped it east and I sit at it today as I type this. Like most things I do, its not a perfection piece, but it seems to work well. The best part for me was putting the family map on the underside of the top, one that gives some clues about who we all are and where we all came from. I carved a hummingbird in the underside too, the icon of my favorite eldest daughter. The table was an attempt to lock some memories in wood for the grandchildren to puzzle over.

Like maybe most of us do when reflecting on the past, we run across those feelings where we wish we had made a few more trips, spent a few more hours, caused a few less heartaches, for the parents who raised us and the relatives that supported them. Maybe in our heads we could always be better, but like the table, perfection is something maybe a person has to work their whole life to achieve. Which means maybe my next table will be better…?

In the meantime, we do what we can to make each day meaningful to those around us. Look for the opening to do little things for people that they might not notice, but makes the day a bit better. It could be I’m at the age where standing by and looking for the thing to contribute is my role. Maybe we’re not in that time of life where we’re building a family, we’re in that time of life where we’re fixing, straightening, raking, to take a few things off the to-do list of the ones we love.

Remember the ones who can’t be with you this holiday, say their names out loud so that they live another year in the hearts of the family they never got to meet. Tell their stories on this longest night, it might make the morning brighter.

Remember, the days will get longer from here on, more sunshine, more warmth, more things to do. Enjoy reflecting on Christmas past and the people that made them possible!

Time to insulate some pipes.
Be good to each other, Be kind to yourself

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