Monday, January 04, 2010

Packing Away and January's Silver Shimmers

I always feel a bit sad packing Christmas away, tucking all that glow into boxes and putting them up into the cold attic. As I was taking the ornaments off the tree I was thinking about my family and about my Grandma. I grew up with lots of Christmas tree ornaments and decorations from Germany -- and now have some of those in my home too. I love the knitted red and green mittens and crocheted stockings, the wooden ornaments from my "Aunt" Pam that she made each year and sent to my family. I love the German ornaments: the straw stars and angels and bells, the intricate wooden angels and manger scene ornaments, the little golden bell with fun golden fringe. I felt a bit homesick, in a way, as I put these away and thought of Christmases gone by, growing up. I felt the same way as I looked through photographs for my sister Susan's Christmas present this year. I went through several old family photos and felt a pang of sadness with the other side of joy as I was reminded how much I belong to these people, how much I love them, how much meaning they have given to my life. But the new special ornaments that became all the more precious this year were the hand-crocheted "snowflakes" that came from my Grandma. She's the one that just passed away a month ago, and her mother hand-crocheted a beautiful, white, lovely ornate tablecloth as a present for her wedding day. My grandma never used it because of all that work and what a gift it was, and eventually, years down the road, she cut it up into individual pieces. My sisters and I all have a piece of that tablecloth framed with small bios about my grandmother and her mother on the back. But the real treat for me came when I got a box of those snowflakes when my grandmother moved out of her condo. This year, they went on my tree. I felt aware of my grandma and her mother, how both of their hands had held what I was holding -- aware of the labor of love and the mothering that linked us through the generations. In a way, I felt them with me. I thought about all of this as I put them away, anticipating next year and pulling them out again. (But not before the anticipation I now feel for spring and summer and bbqs and long walks and a garden and breakfasts, lunches, and dinners on our deck and sunbathing. You know what I mean.)

My dad came down last night and my entire family was in bed. It was quiet at my house, with almost all the lights out at 9:30. That never happens. We ended up talking for three hours and my dad stood up to go at 12:40 a.m. We had a long talk about family, about the passing of years, about my great-grandparents, my parents, how life marches on. One analogy that my dad made is dear to me. He described life like a stage with a conveyer belt, with the audience really only seeing what is going on in the center of the stage. When you are born and "come onto the stage," so to speak, your parents and grandparents are ahead of you in the middle of the stage, and you are on the side from your vantage point, just coming on. Those people are at the center of your universe. And time marches on. That belt keeps moving, and suddenly you are in the middle of that belt, and your parents and grandparents are on the side, ready to exit behind the curtain. But here's what I loved. He said something to the effect of, "They are now about to exit and the audience can't see them anymore, but you can. They are still there -- they're still on the belt, the same as you -- only the audience can't see them anymore." Do you know that this is possibly the thing I hold most dear? Life doesn't end -- it continues! And my dad went on with that idea by saying something like, "There isn't a day that goes by for me without thinking of every one of you girls, thinking about the grandchildren, worrying about you, thinking about you." And then he said, "And when the time comes for me to 'exit the stage,' that isn't going to change." That's the beauty of it. That's why I can still feel my grandma and her mother and others that have gone on. They don't relinquish that love. God gives us that love to last forever and the relationships continue forever and we will be together again.

In the meantime, I rejoice in remembering. I really do.

And even though I was sad as I took down the Christmas things, I spent some good hours on Friday and Saturday making what was going to grace the mantle to make a winter scene for the next couple months. I liked the way the penguins and red cardinals turned out and I fell in love with the silver sparklies in the craft store. If it's going to be January -- cold, being-stuck-mostly-inside, stark trees against a frequently gray sky -- I'm still going to love it as best I can.

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