As promised on Sunday, here is a list of ten things I am thankful for right now. Happy Thanksgiving to you all.
Maturity, perspective on life, whatever you want to call it. I love the feeling of being old enough to believe ‘this too shall pass’; that a crisis no matter how serious, will eventually be only a memory.
2. A roof over my head, a warm and safe place.
3. I don’t have to go hungry. Despite any COVID hoarding, I live in a land where I have plenty for me and some to share.
5. Living in a country where we can speak our minds and most of us don’t have to live in fear of being silenced.
6. My family and friends. I doubt anyone’s top ten list of things they are thankful for would not include the people who make our life better. I am grateful for the support, kindness and inspiration of the people in my life.
7. And the kindness of strangers. On many occasions, I have been touched by the quiet everyday kindnesses of strangers, whether it be holding a door for me, rushing to pick up a dropped item or even a smile on a gray day.
8. My health. I have been blessed with my father’s sturdy genes. During the Pandemic, my daily walks with Mr. Smith have done wonders for my sanity.
9. While Mr. Smith often entertains me with his quick wit, it is my grandchildren who most often make me laugh out loud. Bad jokes, silly riddles or a “floss” dance off, their banter and playfulness add a note of fun to my life.
10. Blogging. Particularly these past several months when our activities have been limited, blogging has been a lifeline. It is often my raison d’être, the prod that forces me to exercise my brain to think about what matters to me as well as others. To be relevant. I appreciate every reader, every comment, like and share. The support and kindness of other bloggers I have met “virtually” has been amazing. Thank you…
Mr. Smith and I have spent Thanksgiving alone before. The first year we moved east, it was also a table for two. But that year I knew we were getting up on Friday and heading into New York City for a couple of nights, complete with a trip to Radio City Music Hall to see the Rockettes’ Christmas Spectacular. But that was then and this is now. With my Thanksgiving boxes in the mail making their way to my grandkids, I knew it was time to turn my attention to the home front. I decided that instead of feeling sorry for myself, I would put my energy into creating a fun, festive celebration for Mr. Smith and me.
While Mr. Smith’s focus is on the menu, mine is always on setting the table and creating a gracious atmosphere. I scoured the Internet including spending way too much time on Pinterest in search of inspiration for my tablescape. There are sooooo many lovely, inspirational table settings to peruse. Unfortunately, they often make me want to start ordering up new items to recreate the settings. I almost broke down and ordered some special “turkey” dinner plates that I would have had to store the other 364 days of the year. Luckily reason prevailed. While in my dream life I have a dish room/butler’s pantry to store all types of wonderful bits and bobs, that is not my reality. I have a small, highly curated collection of fall decor and I’m always pleased with myself when I create with what I have on hand. There is also the added bonus of being able to savor the memories associated with each holiday trim when it comes out to make its annual appearance.
I wish I had noted the year on this little handcrafted turkey. It was given to me by niece Rachel many years ago when she came for a holiday visit. Every time I unpack it, it is a warm reminder of the many Thanksgivings our families celebrated together. I can see her sporting a black olive on the tip of every cute little finger. I can see her – and her sister Hannah – squirting whipped cream into their mouths straight from the can. Rachel and Hannah are similar ages to my sons and we shared many a holiday.
Earlier this fall I had purchased the Fleur des Indes tablecloth from Couleur Nature. We have a small dining table by American standards so it’s always fun to discover a company that carries a variety of sizes. Covered in curling vines and floral designs in harvest tones make this cloth the perfect backdrop for our holiday table.
I’m using our Guy Buffet dishes I found over a decade ago on the clearance table at Williams Sonoma. I found the gold pear napkin holders while shopping in a consignment store with my sister. I added a ceramic turkey, faux leaves, faux pumpkins and pomegranates, and candles. When some of the pomegranates wouldn’t sit up quite like I wanted them to, I simply put a little double sided tape under them and voilá! The one good thing about daylight savings time and it getting dark so early is being able to eat by candlelight earlier! I love the incredible warmth created through candlelight and like to blend tapers and tea lights. I have gravitated away from a large formal centerpiece in favor of scattering treasures throughout the center fully down towards the ends. A mix of textures and height always adds interest to your creation.
Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie & Whipped Cream – Libby’s!
We will toast the day with a special bottle of wine Mr. Smith has chosen for our dinner. We will reminisce about Thanksgivings past and make hopeful plans for Thanksgivings future. And just in case my pandemic pal and I run out of things to talk about – we do spend a lot of time together – I printed up some conversation questions I found on www.skiptomylou.org. I hope Mr. Smith gets ‘If you were a circus performer, what act would you perform?’
Our Thanksgiving will be different this year, but we will be ok. We will miss our family tremendously, but are happy to do our part to help keep them safe. I will start the day like I have almost every Thanksgiving day for the past 42 years. I will put a pumpkin pie in the oven. Mr. Smith will make us a lovely brunch. Hopefully we will go for a walk. We will definitely do some reading. I haven’t watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in years but I may tune into this virtual event in hopes of catching the Rockettes’ performance. And I will be thankful. Check out the blog on Wednesday for the top ten list of what I am most thankful for right now.
On this chilly, late fall morning, what better subject could there be than books??? Here are the titles I read in October. Again, I don’t want to give a fulI “book report”, just a brief overview. I hope you find something that piques your interest. And if you have a title you would like to share, I’d love to hear!
The Jetsetters by Amanda Eyre Ward
I don’t remember where I came across this title. I am going to start keeping yet another list and when I do request a book from my library, I’m going to write it down and note where I found the recommendation.
The premise of the book did catch my attention. Seventy-year-old Charlotte Perkins submits a sexy essay to the “Become a Jetsetter” contest in hopes of winning and taking her three estranged children on a ten-day cruise traveling from sun-drenched Athens, glorious Rome and onto Barcelona. Charlotte, of course, wins and everyone packs their bags.
I did find humor, poignant moments and a little twist at the end I didn’t see coming. But, and it’s a big but, much of the book was written too easy breezy for the underlying heaviness that triggers the family pain. I did read the entire book, partially because I thought it was building to something that never materialized for me. I’m giving it 3 grandmas out of 5.
A Bookshop in Berlin by Francoise Frenkel
Originally published in 1945 under the title No Place to Lay One’s Head, this memoir documents the fulfillment of a dream for Francoise Frenkel and her husband, opening La Maison du Livre, Berlin’s first French bookshop in 1921. They are both Jewish. Their dream is shattered on Kristallnacht in November 1938. Though the shop is miraculously sparred, fear of prosecution forces her to flee, first to Paris, then to southern France. Chronicled in her writings are the countless horrors she witnessed along the way. She survives the war at the courageous hands of strangers who risked their lives, secreting her away in safe houses.
Ms. Frenkel believed it was the duty of those who have survived to bear witness to ensure the dead are not forgotten. She tells her story in gripping, compelling prose. I will not forget this book. 5 grandmas.
Paris, A Love Story by Kati Morton
I have mixed feelings about this book. Kati Marton is an award-winning journalist and distinguished author. After the sudden death in 2010 of her husband, American diplomat and author, Richard Holbrook, she retreats to Paris where she and Holbrooke had purchased a pied-a-terre in the Latin Quarter in 2005. The book jacket describes the book being “For anyone who has ever fallen in love in Paris, or with Paris.”
Born in Budapest, Hungary, the daughter of to reporters who spent two years in prison on false charges of espionage for the U.S., Kati and her older sister were placed in the care of strangers. Following the revolution, her parents fled Hungary and settled in Chevy Chase, Maryland with Kati and her sister. Kati eventually studied at the Sorbonne and the Institut Politiques in Paris where she began her love affair with Paris.
I thought the book was going to be about the death of her third husband, Richard Holbrooke, and how she recovered from this loss. What I found was story of her three marriages. The first short one barely mentioned, her second marriage to Peter Jennings and her third to Ambassador Holbrooke. Perhaps it is because we live in such different worlds, the book felt obsessed with glitterati and name dropping. While she certainly has led an interesting life, I never felt engaged with her thoughts or emotions. Maybe I read it at the wrong time. Sometimes I reread a book and wonder why I didn’t like it the first time through. If someone else has read it and found it engaging, please let me know. Back in my Kendallville book group, other readers insights often helped me see things differently. But for me, it gets 3 grandmas.
Fifty Words for Rain by Asha Lemmie
Spoiler alert, this book gets 5 grandmas out of 5. It follows the story of Noriko, a young half African American, Half Japanese girl as she grows up in post-WWII Japan. Abandoned by her mother, 8-year old Noriko is locked in the attic by her grandparents. Noriko’s isolation and suffering are palpable and I was rooting for her the entire book. It is not until her half-brother, Aira, enters her life that she seems to have any chance of happiness. In her debut novel, Asha Lemmie tells a story I had never heard before and tells it in a compelling and compassionate way. I didn’t want to put it down, reading it in two days.
During my recent autumn retreat to Michigan, I was lying on my sister’s couch on a rainy, cool, dreary afternoon. With the fireplace spreading a cheery glow, I was idly flipping through catalogs and looking around her living room. She had created a cozy, eclectic space that reflects her life. “Oh, I found that in Paris” or “I picked that up in Spain.” A very artsy vibe, every so often dotted with a touch of whimsy. One of those touches that captured my attention that cozy afternoon was a little sign on her fireplace mantle, “The hardest thing in life is to know which bridge to cross and which bridge to burn.”
I questioned her about the sign. She said the expression spoke to her and she knew she needed to bring it home as a small reminder of learning to navigate her own life. I tried poking the bear a bit to learn what bridges she had burned and if she had any regrets without much success. She did offer up the following reflection for this post:
“When I spotted this small block on a shop shelf it struck a chord with me. I am not a person who travels the familiar paths in life but one who has often taken the road less traveled. Occasionally, over the decades I have encountered the proverbial bridge. Now I know the conventional wisdom is to not burn those bridges, however, I am not the conventional sort. After considerable thought and due deliberation, I try to judge, does the person or circumstance that the bridge represents enhance or damage my life.
I believe that life is precious and time the ultimate gift. Do I continue to beat my head against the same old wall or straighten my spine and walk away, recognizing there may never be enough time in the world to solve a particular problem? My kind sister once sent me a card which read, ‘Backbone beats Wishbone Every time.’ I love that card and it is framed in my office. So occasionally in my life I have chosen to burn the bridge down. It is sometimes difficult but after a stern talk with your conscious, it may be the self-healing path you need to travel. And only once in a while do I look back and like a nighttime arsonist, smile into the flames.”
We have all been at crossroads in our lives when we had to decide whether to cross the bridge or burn it down. Prevailing sentiment does steer us not to burn bridges. I am particularly fond of, “Don’t burn a bridge and expect me to send a boat.” When you burn a bridge, there is (usually) no going back. Yet some people burn them and proceed to blow them up with explosives. For some, the no going back is part of the motive for the fire.
Between celebrating my milestone birthday of 65 and having more downtime due to the Pandemic Pause, I find myself reviewing my life and choices made. My life has been more conventional than that of my outlier sister. In fact, I can only think of one time I truly burned a bridge. I was engaged to be married to another man before meeting Mr. Smith. As I sat down to address the wedding invitations, I was struck with the strong realization this was not the correct bridge for me to cross. Breaking off the engagement was difficult, no one wants to be rejected or be the rejecter. But I had a clear recognition that I could not go through with the marriage and for the sake of both parties involved, the bridge needed to be truly burned. My father unscored this thought. When I told my parents I had decided not to marry, my dad said, “That’s fine, but there will be no going back and forth on the decision.” He understood the importance of not trifling with someone’s feelings and his words helped me fully grasp the finality of my decision.
That burned bridged forced me forward. I made a move to Ann Arbor, Michigan where I met Mr. Smith and the rest is history! We have crossed several bridges together, we have ridden a few rapids, and a couple of times we have had to portage. Some bridges were breathtaking and lovely. Some were rickety and scary. And we are still here.
Have you burned bridges that you regret or like me, did that push you forward, exposing you to new people and new adventures? Crossing bridges has allowed me to discover new strengths I didn’t know I had. And the times the bridge collapsed while I was on it, I learned I can fail and survive. I doubt many of us reach the age of 65 without a few regrets – should I have crossed that bridge, should I have burned it? But I can’t go back, I can only go forward. As I sit on my perch and look out over the magnificent bridge over the Susquehanna, I wonder what the next bridge will be and if I’ll cross it.
No matter which side of the aisle we find ourselves on, I hope we can all appreciate that history was made this past weekend. The United States will FINALLY have a woman in the White House, just a heartbeat away from the presidency. I was teary eyed when Kamala Harris strode onto the stage in Wilmington, Delaware on November 7, 2020, to give her victory speech. Wearing all white in a nod to our historic suffragists, the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, she thanked her country for turning out to vote in record numbers. She challenged our children to “…Dream with ambition, lead with conviction, and see yourselves in a way that others may not, simply because they’ve never seen it before, but know that we will applaud you every step of the way.” These are our hopes and dreams for all our children, but especially our daughters and granddaughters.
Vice-President Elect Harris was not the only woman to make history this election cycle. More women were elected to Congress than ever before. Republican Cynthis Lummis was elected the first woman to represent Wyoming in the U.S. Senate. Missouri elected its first Black congresswoman. Congress will now have a Korean American woman, a Native American woman and the first openly trans person. Congress took a giant step towards looking more like the diversity that is America.
After CNN called the election for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on Saturday, my daughter-in-law looked at my three beautiful, smart, kind, funny granddaughters and told them, “A WOMAN! A woman, ladies, holds the second highest position in our country! A WOMAN will be representing our country in the world! You get to LIVE history, I hope you are proud!” My granddaughters cheered! Then they coyly asked, “Can we go to McDonalds?” Everyone celebrates in their own way…
I’m thrilled my grandchildren are growing up in, in the words of Kamala Harris, “…a country of possibilities.” On Saturday night, I did a quick, non-scientific poll of some of my friends over the age of 65. I wanted to know if when they were nine years old (the age of my oldest granddaughter), they ever wondered why a woman wasn’t president. With the exception of one self-proclaimed rebel, they were right there with me, accepting without question that men run the world. By the mid-sixties, some of us started to question the status quo, but it truly has been a loooooong process.
So, Kamala, while I toast your accomplishment, I will be watching. I fully realize you and President Elect Biden face staggering challenges you didn’t create and every decision you make will be scrutinized. We know you will remember the wisdom of the extraordinary Congressman John Lewis, “Democracy is not a state. It is an act.” Don’t let my granddaughters and me down. We’re counting on you.
The combination of crunching of leaves beneath our feet as Mr. Smith and I take our daily walks and the bombardment of emails in my inbox with subject lines like What to Wear for Thanksgiving (it’s coming soon!) and 7 Tips for an inspired Thanksgiving at home, persuaded me it was time to drag my attention away from my election obsession and think about the upcoming holiday. With new COVID cases topping 100,000 a day, we have decided to take the advice of the learned Dr. Fauci and celebrate Thanksgiving 2020 with only the people who already live within our household. In other words, Mr. Smith and I will be the only two jockeying for the last piece of pumpkin pie. We may wish things were different, but facts don’t lie and the danger is just too great.
After indulging in a (fairly) short pity party, I knew I needed to make a plan. This year it will be Thanksgiving boxes packed by grandma that will be going over the river and through the woods, making their way to all my favorite little turkeys. Taking inspiration from my daughter-in-law, Becky, who teamed up with her sister to create Candy Casino Night to replace trick-or-treat for their kids, I started looking for fun Thanksgiving ideas to connect with my grandkids and replace an actual get together.
Chocolate turkeys that would normally be used as place setting favors on my holiday dinner table are being packed and mailed. I’m sending books, turkey crowns (saving one for me!) and other festive gee gaws. That’s all well and good, but how to truly engage my grandkids??? M&Ms of course! While searching the web for inspiration, I stumbled upon the blog, Unoriginal Mom, who posted Roll a Turkey – Free Thanksgiving Game for Kids. I will provide the M&Ms, dice and game cards. You roll a die and the number on the die dictates the color of M&M that gets placed on the turkey. Full instructions as well as the downloadable game cards are included in this link. Donning my turkey crown, I will connect with my grandkids on Facetime and let the good times roll.
Well aware that the game may be short lived due to the gobbling of the M&Ms, I wanted a second game. Thanks to Heidi at Happiness is Homemade, I created Thanksgiving Bingo Cards. Click here, print out the cards and get ready to play! I don’t want my grandkids’ parents to have to scramble to find any game supplies, so I prepared a bag of nickels for each child to fill their bingo card. Wearing my crown, I will be the bingo caller extraordinaire.
If you are observing Thanksgiving without your grandkids, the internet has a plethora of online Thanksgiving games. I decided to be realistic about my computer skills and go with games that we can play over Facetime. Technology has failed me before, or perhaps I have failed technology! If they are old enough, you could cook together over Facetime or another video conferencing app. Some brave people are planning a virtual dinner. With some preparation and organization, you can set a festive table, dress up a bit and stay safe while sharing the holiday.
Mr. Smith and I were both lucky enough to grow up in households that were filled with the tantalizing smells of yeast rolls and pies, onions and celery sauteing, and turkey roasting accompanied by the soundtrack of family on Thanksgiving Day. We carried on some of the same traditions, sharing many memorable holiday feasts with our own sons. Those celebrations eventually grew to include their spouses and children. It is my fervent grandma wish to gather all my people together at a Thanksgiving table and bask in the conversation and chaos. I have accepted that it won’t be this year, but you can count on the fact that the wheels are already turning, figuring out a way to make it happen in the (not too distant) future. Never underestimate a grandma on a mission!
No, we don’t yet know the winner of the 2020 presidential election. The votes are still being counted. What we do know is that voter turnout was unprecedented and I believe that makes democracy the winner. It was likely helped by the highly contentious political climate, as well as the clear attempts at voter suppression. Americans rose up and said, “Oh, no you don’t. I will vote in spite of your shenanigans.”
Many voters voted early or by mail. Luzerne County’s early in-person voting took place at the county’s Penn Place building in Wilkes Barre. The wait was often nearly two hours. While I was doing errands in the past couple weeks, I drove by Penn Place several times and felt verklempt looking at the lines of citizens waiting to exercise their constitutional right to vote and have their voices heard.
In a bit of local excitement, NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt broadcast from Wilkes Barre as part of his “Across America” tour, highlighting battleground states across the country last Wednesday. I knew he was going to be in town because my always au courant sister texted me that morning. She had seen a teaser on The Today Show with a bridge in the background. Our apartment overlooks the Market Street Bridge which spans the Susquehanna River between Wilkes Barre and Kingston, Pennsylvania. Our first clue…
That afternoon Mr. Smith and I set out on our daily walk as soon as he was home from work so we could be back to watch NBC Nightly News. Walking along the elevated levee path through Nesbitt Park we spotted NBC News trucks, crews setting up lighting and putting down plywood to cover the squishy river front. We may not be Holmes and Watson, but it didn’t take us any time to realize Mr. Holt would be broadcasting directly across the river from our apartment with the Market Street Bridge and Wilkes Barre skyline behind him. Without even trying, we had stumbled upon the broadcast location. While we were standing there looking down at the action, we were approached by a man coming from the other direction. He wanted to know if anyone had “given us any trouble” about walking on the path. He had come to play disc golf but was told he could not. I explained that was probably because of Lester Holt. “Who’s that?” Oh, Lester, we’re sorry. We explained who he is to our new friend and told him we were pretty sure he could play disc golf tomorrow.
Continuing on our walk, I was silently chastising myself for not having my phone with me so I could snap a couple pictures. When we got to a turn in our route, Mr. Smith said he wanted to continue on and finish the walk, but suggested I cut through King’s College campus and head home to get my phone and go grab some photos. I swear sometimes he can read my mind.
This picture below was taken moments before a very polite security guard approached me and asked if I needed any help. I responded no, no, I was just heading out. No arrests were made.
Mr. Smith got his full walk in. I was able to get a couple of pictures and we were home and settled in in time to watch the news. Thanks, Lester.
Yesterday I was a poll worker. It was a very long day. I arrived at 6:00 a.m. and left at 8:45 p.m. It was an experience I won’t soon forget. So many new first time voters, some elderly voters who had been voting for nearly 70 years and everything in-between! If you have an opportunity to be a poll worker, I strongly recommend it!
For many of us, 2020 is the most stressful election cycle we have lived through. I hope we can now take a breath and no matter which team we are on, acknowledge the momentous problems our country faces. Hopefully we can emerge less divided and more compassionate. Then we would all be winners.
We all have hopes and dreams. Some of us express hopes of one day writing a book, running a marathon, or opening our own business. And some of us do it. Martha Lowry and Meghann Labadie, a mother and daughter team, pieced together their talents and ambitions and followed their dream. In November 2019, they launched their own quilt shop, Bee Quilting & Such, in Munster, Indiana. Ah, the pre-Pandemic innocence of it all.
Martha started making little doll blankets when she was eight years old and has been sewing ever since, even teaching home economics before she and her husband, Jim, started their family. Meghann was a little later to the game, not pursuing sewing in earnest until she had her own family. They both became interested in quilting about a decade ago. Frustrated with the lack of availability of good quilt shop near them, Martha suggested that they open their own and Meghann quickly got on board.
Martha retired from Purdue Calumet where she was the Wellness Coordinator and ran the wellness program for students and staff. Meghann has her own law firm focusing on wills and trusts. Since retiring, Martha has been assisting Meghann with her law practice. With the decision made that they wanted to open a quilt shop, they began squirreling away their profits from the law practice and started planning and researching opening their own business. They eventually found a location that would work well for both them and their shop. They painted, ordered inventory and fixtures and were finally ready to open on November 5, 2019!
A store for modern sewists, they offer fabrics, notions, classes and clubs for all skill levels. You can visit their website here. They have a long arm quilting machine and can help you get that quilt top out of your closet and turn it into your family heirloom. But a visit to their delightful shop reveals their most valuable product is their enthusiasm for their venture. Both Martha and Meghann love coming to work each day. They love teaching the classes, helping customers choose fabric or figure out a pattern. Each day is different, filled with creativity and energy.
Then came March 21, 2020, when Indiana issued a Stay at Home order due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Who plans for a Pandemic??? They closed for two weeks. Never ones to sit idle, they spent that time making samples for the shop and getting their e-commerce site up and running. They also needed to perfect their machine cleaning and repair service process because once the Pandemic hit, it exploded. People were pulling machines out of storage they hadn’t used in years, many wanting to make masks and some using their time at home to tackle their UFOs (Unfinished Objects!) Luckily Martha’s husband, Jim, formally retired and became a Janome-certified repair person. Machines were coming out of the woodwork as people were rediscovering their creative juices. After a couple of weeks, they reopened at limited capacity, mask required. They offer curbside pickup and online ordering to be shipped.
Two women living their dream and surviving the Pandemic. The new business has turned friends into customers and customers into friends. One day Martha was out for a walk in a park near her home when she was approached (socially distanced, of course) by a customer who had purchased a pair of scissors at the shop that she loved and wanted Martha to bring another pair on her next walk so that the happy customer could give them to her sister for her birthday. That is quite the customer service! Both Martha and Meghann are particularly touched by the customers who shared that their very first Pandemic outing was to Bee Quilting & Such.
But I think what they will most remember from this time is the generosity and kindness of their customers. When an old high school classmate of Meghann’s experienced a devastating house fire and lost everything, Meghann wanted to provide quilts for the parents and children. They put out a call to action to their customers to donate blocks. The response was over whelming and they received more blocks than they needed. After completing the quilts for Meghann’s friend’s family, the extra blocks were donated to a local chapter of Sew It Forward, a group of people around the world that gift quilts to families after they have lost their homes and belongings to a fire.
Martha is my granddaughters Olivia, Emily and Elizabeth’s maternal grandmother and Meghann is their aunt. It truly warms my heart that my granddaughters are being raised in the bosom of this creative, resourceful, useful family business. Back in the storeroom there is a deep cart that my granddaughters love to push around and “shop” for goodies. They know where the “treat” bucket is hidden and carefully select a piece of candy each visit. The other day young Emily was spotted dancing with a wire mannequin. And they are always happy to “help” their Pops with his repair work.
Back when they were dreaming about opening their own quilt shop, I doubt the thought of a Pandemic ever entered their minds. Like so many entrepreneurs, they have had to learn survival skills and the ability to adjust to challenges and obstacles. The pioneering example of women who have sewn throughout history may be their guiding spirit. Resiliency and creativity win the day. Congratulations to the owners of the shop for preserving and daring to dream.
Mr. Smith and I have been savoring our daily walks in the crisp, sometimes downright chilly, fall air. We remark on the beautiful foliage like the old folks we are.
With the frightening surge in COVID numbers, we’ve also been talking about how to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas sans family. We reminisce about holidays past, including Halloweens. I understand Halloween during a Pandemic will be different for most and some traditions may need to be modified, but in the interest of protecting ourselves and others, I’m pretty sure we can still have some fun. Visit a pumpkin patch, carve a jack-o-lantern, or watch a spooky movie,
Our neighbor down the hall is observing Halloween and we don’t even have to wait for Halloween for a treat. Her door sports a festive holiday wreath and she has a cauldron of candy set out for passersby. I consider it a personal triumph each time I pass without sticking my hand in for a tasty treat.
Our granddaughters are decorating pumpkins. Spread out on the kitchen floor under the supervision of their mom and dad, they got creative.
And our “fifties girls” were able to go visit their great-grandfather for the first time since the pandemic hit.
Halloween may look different this year, but there are still fall pleasures. Shorter days mean more candles lit in our home in the early evening. Cooler temps mean more soups in the crock pot. And falling leaves mean fun for my grandchildren.
Happy fall from my beautiful granddaughter Elizabeth and me!
“Holy shit!” These are the words that flew out of my mouth when I came across my diamond earrings that had “gone missing” for over seven years. When we were packing up our house in Indiana back in 2008, I carefully put them in a special place for safekeeping during the move and thought “Now, am I going to remember they are here?” Obviously I didn’t and it annoyed me all those years. Perhaps that box never got unpacked in Pennsylvania, it could have been one that remained in storage. But years later in New York, I was sitting on the dining room floor, unpacking once again, and there they were. Yay!
Mine in not a family rich in heirlooms, these earrings were my sole inheritance from my mother. A gift from my father to her, a legacy I hoped to pass on to a granddaughter. My mother didn’t live long enough to meet any of my grandchildren. My plan had always been to pass these earrings on to one of my lovelies, telling them stories that focused on the strengths of their great-grandmother and not her weaknesses, creating a link between the generations of women in our family. These connections can be forged with stories and memories, but sometimes an actual memento is a concrete reminder of a life.
One memento I truly treasure I actually rescued from the trash. I was visiting my dear Aunt Ruby in Illinois. There in a corner of her kitchen, piled up with items to go out to the garbage, I spotted what looked like a quilt. When I asked her about it, she said it was not worth keeping and was in her way. Turns out, it was a handstitched quilt she made when she was a young woman. The individual blocks have the name of a state, each colorfully embroidered with its official flower. She had started it so long ago there are only 48 state blocks! After a little persuading (whining) on my part, that beautiful quilt became mine and I treasure it to this day. There have been low moments in life when I wrapped myself up in it and imagined wrapping myself up in her love. I have never doubted her unconditional love but having something that she created is sincerely one of my most cherished possessions. It has the power to transport me back to a time of being fussed over and feeling like one of her treasures.
What does discovering an old treasure make a 78-year old woman feel? My sister has also moved several times including trips across the ocean. She has purged and curated, packed and unpacked. One day while going through a box of old stuff of no particular value, she found a shoebox with a collection of small, ornate opera purses. Thinking it really was time to let go, she paused a moment to open and check each one. Suddenly she spied a small orange ticket. But it was what was on the ticket that made her realize the meaning of the word serendipity. It was a ticket to an unforgettable concert on March 15, 1969. The headliner, her favorite, the amazing Janis Joplin. The ticket is now framed in a small cherrywood frame with two musical sons eyeing it for when she kicks the bucket. But today it still makes her smile to remember that incredible night.
But it is a treasure I recently unearthed from my past that may be the most valuable to me of all. When cleaning out my mother’s apartment after she passed, I came across an old school assignment of mine that she had saved. Just the fact that she had saved it was miraculous as she wasn’t one to squirrel away keepsakes or relics of her children. At the time of her death, I tucked it away, just recently coming upon it again. I can’t remember what grade I was in at the time, but I remember the assignment. Write an autobiography! I do recall being gobsmacked, frantically trying to figure out what to say. Reading this assignment 50 years later, I am first struck by my false bravado. I don’t think I was ever in a fist fight and I know I never beat up any of my sisters. What I remember of that time was often feeling insecure and uncertain, grasping for confidence.
But finding this half-century old writing shifts my perspective of myself at that age. I admire my pluckiness to say, “my country needs me” and the audacity to state, “I turned into the sophisticated woman that I am now.” I am misty eyed to see the burgeoning determination that was there all along. It is a reminder that our lives are full of forgotten treasures that may require digging a little deeper into ourselves. And yes, Johnny Depp, that is a treasure worth more to me than silver or gold.