And what a time it was…

Thanksgiving came to be my favorite holiday when my sons were in college.  Their arrival home on Wednesday would fill our home with renewed life.  We would feast on chicken enchiladas and decorate turkey cookies.  On Saturday, we would put up the Christmas tree together and Mr. Smith and I would try to persuade our sons to watch It’s a Wonderful Life with us.  We were never successful.  

My friend, LouAnne, turned us on to turkey cookies. The Smiths have devoured dozens and dozens.
My three sons.

Many Thanksgivings were spent with family, some with friends and one was spent just Mr. Smith and me.  Our first year out east, we spent the holiday on our own in the love nest 1.0.  Then on Friday morning, we hit the road for NYC and Mr. Smith made one of my childhood dreams come true when he took me to Radio City Music Hall to see the Rockettes’ Christmas Spectacular.

It was amazing!
Uncle Pete and Adam.
Hannah and Elliot. Everybody always wanted to sit by Elliot. I bet Rachel is on his other side.

It’s hard to recall all of the Thanksgivings over the past years.  However, the last two seem to accentuate the persistent drumbeat of time.  Last year we were with my mother-in-law in Cass City, Michigan.  We made dinner for her and her dear friend Mimi and Mimi’s husband, Dave.  There was much talk of Thanksgivings past and of course, Pat had many memories of the family over the years. 

Thanksgiving circa 1960.

Pat has since passed away so for the second time in three years, we shared Thanksgiving with our youngest son Adam, his wife Hsin Yi and their beautiful daughter, Eleanor Patricia.  Eleanor filled our apartment with giggles, energy and joy.

Helping make the whipped cream for the pumpkin pie!

It is sobering to reflect on all that has transpired from our early childhood through today and it is with a sense of wonderment that we look to the future.  By the time Eleanor is 18, we will (with any luck) be in our 80s.  I hope we are still making memories.

Long ago…it must be… I have a photograph Preserve your memories They’re all that’s left you.

Paul Simon, Bookends

C’est la vie.

And all the lives we ever lived and all the lives to be, are full of trees and changing leaves. Virginia Woolf

We’re hosting our youngest son and his family for Thanksgiving tomorrow.  This is Eleanor’s third Thanksgiving and we will have spent two of them with her.  Today I’m baking pies, making a centerpiece for the table and thinking about Thanksgivings past.

Mr. Smith and I married in August of 1978.  Somehow three months later (I believe his sister Patrice was the instigator), we ended up with the “privilege” of hosting Thanksgiving dinner for the Smith clan and my sister Jeanne and her family.

I had never made a turkey, I was a less than stellar cook, and we had a kitchen the size of a small closet.  But with the hubris of youth, we said we’d be delighted.  The menu was planned, the shopping lists made, and I requested the Wednesday before Thanksgiving off work. Although I accepted all offers to bring a dish, there was much to be done. Intimidated by my always seemingly perfect mother-in-law, I thought everything had to be from scratch. I practiced making yeast rolls and tried out different cranberry relish recipes. We ordered a large turkey, borrowed some tables and chairs and cleaned our apartment top to bottom.

The day before Thanksgiving started with a little panic when I discovered the turkey was too big to fit in our miniscule apartment-sized oven.  Commence the scrambling to find a roaster to cook the turkey.  This was actually serendipitous because it freed up our oven for baking the rest of the dinner. Figuring out how everything was going to fit in that tiny oven wasn’t something that made it on to my to-do list.  That Wednesday, just like today, I baked pies, cut up the bread for stuffing, and worried about getting everything done at the same time!

Thanksgiving morning, I was up early chopping and mixing, getting everything ready for the oven and crossing my fingers that the roaster wouldn’t die on me.  Guest arrived, wine was poured, and dinner was served more or less on time.  

It was a convivial afternoon and no one left hungry.  By the time everyone was gone, I was exhausted and had no interest in going back into the kitchen.  In a move I’m not sure I could pull off today, Mr. Smith and I went to bed and left the mess.  This was the first of many times Mr. Smith’s odd sleep schedule came in handy.  When I got up the next morning the dishes were all washed and the kitchen was spotless thanks to my own personal thanksgiving elf!

We have now shared 41 Thanksgivings, some as hosts, some as guests.  Sometimes a small group, sometimes lots of family and friends.  The recipes have changed a bit over the years, there’s no longer any cream of mushroom soup on my green bean casserole.  But there is always pumpkin pie.  And Mr. Smith always helps with the dishes. Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

C’est la vie.

It’s coming on Christmas…

When I was a child, my siblings and I looked forward to the arrival of the Sears & Roebuck Christmas catalog with great anticipation.  When it arrived, we would flop on the living room floor and page through that massive wonder until many pages were dog eared and some falling out.  I could spend hours looking through it to search for the items that could fulfill my Christmas dreams.  

Decades later our sons would spend hours leafing through catalogs and providing Mr. Smith and me with their Christmas lists. I wish I had saved them all, but I do have their lists from 2001.  As they grew older, they usually asked for music and clothes and these lists were no exception.  Except for Emmet.  His wishes were for a Ford Escape and a pony.  Sadly, for him, he received neither.

I’m not a part of the grandparent mindset that believes grandchildren are for spoiling.  A vast amount of love, yes, but vast amounts of gifts, no.  One gift I will always give without guilt is books, so I was pleased when Eleanor’s father forwarded me The 2019 New York Times/New York Public Library Best Illustrated Children’s Books article.  At age two, Eleanor hasn’t begun sending us Christmas wish lists, but I hope she’ll enjoy the books we chose from this list.

While the Sears & Roebuck Christmas catalog may be a thing of the past, there is no shortage of current Christmas catalogs.  During our recent visit with our grandchildren, history repeated itself with a new generation of munchkins flopped on the floor pouring over the colorful, enticing catalogs.

Having raised three sons and shopped for more Transformers, Ninja Turtles and He-Man figures than you can shake a stick at, I was thrilled to enter the glittery world of Christmas shopping for granddaughters.  They are a diverse and delightful crew with Christmas wishes running the gambit from Harry Potter, American Girl, Fancy Nancy, Legos, books, art supplies and more.  Our girls are as happy building a fort as they are having a tea party so it’s next to impossible to get them something they don’t like. I will be careful not to stereotype, case in point, our newest bundle of energy granddaughter has forgone the world of pink for Coco Chanel black.

I believe my grandsons have enough Legos to build me a grandma pod in their back yard should I ever need one, and I had promised myself Mr. Smith and I weren’t going to buy anymore Legos.  Yet every birthday and Christmas, the boys always ask for Lego sets.  While grappling with whether to stick to my guns or grant their Christmas wish, I remembered some words of wisdom I received years ago from an old friend in Kendallville.  Amy’s two daughters are the same ages as my two oldest sons and we shared many a parenting challenge through the years. When one of my sons wanted an expensive class ring, my first instinct was to say no.  I had a class ring back in 1972, gave it to some boyfriend and never saw it again.  I viewed buying a class ring as a waste of money, something they wouldn’t care about a few years down the road.  Amy told me “Just because it won’t be important later, doesn’t mean it’s not important now.”  Her words stuck with me, a little reminder to perhaps consider my son’s wishes more thoughtfully.  I’ve carried these words of wisdom with me through the years and they have reminded me to listen more carefully and to take my time responding.

When we asked our grandsons what they wanted for Christmas, we didn’t ask what they wanted that grandpa and grandma would find acceptable. We simply asked them what they wanted for Christmas. During the years our boys were growing up, I tried to impress upon them that when you are giving a gift, you should endeavor to give the recipient something they truly want, not something you want them to have.  How could I object to giving a gift that would provide a few hours of reading, following directions, and building something amazing? The grandsons are getting Legos for Christmas.                                                                                                                                                            

With Christmas just over five weeks away, my holiday shopping is in full swing.  I do much of it online, but still take pleasure in meandering the stores, checking out the seasonal decorations and taking advantage of being able to see items up close and personal.  I’m planning a day trip into New York City soon to peruse the holiday fairs, museum shops and the new Nordstrom.  This trip will be an opportunity to fill in any gaps on Mrs. Santa’s list, and hopefully find something for the fabulous Mr. Smith.  He hasn’t given me a wish list and I’ve yet to see him flopped on the living room floor paging through catalogs, but 42 years of familiarity should help me pick just the right thing.

C’est la vie.

Head out on the highway…

I will remember 2019 as the year of the road trip. I have logged many hours and miles across Pennsylvania and Ohio and down to Washington D.C. I spent time with my sister and my mother-in-law, I connected with an old friend, and spent an almost dangerous amount of time alone with my own thoughts as I drove along I-80. My favorite road trips are definitely ones that include time with my grandchildren and happily our most recent trip was all about the grandkids.

Grandkid palooza started out with a visit with our youngest grandchild, Eleanor. One of the advantages of being the youngest grandchild is inheriting the toys your cousins have outgrown. She was more than happy to be the recipient of a plethora of duplos! Thanks guys.

The other big news in Eleanor’s life is there is now a piano in the home. Grandpa Bud’s piano has arrived at its new home where it will be well loved. I have a strong suspicion that Eleanor and her father will spend many happy hours here.

Then it was on to Maryland to visit our grandsons and celebrate their parents’ 14th wedding anniversary. Life has been beyond busy for all the adults involved so we decided to keep it simple and order pizza for dinner. I did want a way to involve my grandsons in the celebration of their parents anniversary so I decided to bake a cake and teach them how to make a heart shape out of a square and a circle. I arrived in Maryland with my cakes ready to roll. I asked the boys what the official symbol of love is and they replied it was a heart. Since I had baked a square and a circle ,I asked them how were we going to get a heart. They were all set to do some “cake carving” but as soon as I cut the circle in half they knew what to do to make the square into a heart. They then got busy making some banners and cards to decorate our masterpiece.

Sam in creative mode.

I was a little surprised when the nine-year old twins started talking to me about doing a crumb coat on the cake! Kids Baking Championship has given them the lingo but they may still need to fine tune their technique. Nonetheless, their parents were delighted with the heartfelt, finished project. And yes, I too believe their parents were meant for each other.

We ended the evening with a fire in the new fire pit. The night was clear and cool with the smell of wood smoke in the air. The perfect end to a fine day.

Before we knew it we were off to the land of girls. Elliot and Becky headed out for 24 hours of R&R and Mr. Smith and I settled in with Olivia, Emily and Elizabeth. First on the agenda was taking the girls to dance class. While we spent many years hauling boys to karate, taking girls to dance class is a new adventure for Mr. Smith and me. Elizabeth may not have all the moves down pat, but she’s full of enthusiasm and cute as a button.

After lunch at Pizza Hut, it was back home for an afternoon of crafting. We made cinnamon applesauce cut outs that are making the house smell cozy and festive.

Is it Emily or R2 D2???
Crafting is messy work!

While our cutouts were in the oven, the girls moved on the creating some adorable masterpieces from a Cheerful Chipmunks Kit. They’re pretty sure their parents will be impressed with their creativity.

Tomorrow Mr.Smith and I will head back to Pennsylvania and settle back into our daily routines, all the while cognizant that Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner. Wilkes Barre has already started decorating for the holidays, taking advantage of a mild day last week to put up festive wreaths. Soon the tree in the town square will be up and the holiday fairs and celebrations will be in full swing. My goal is to embrace the season and savor the moments and not get caught up in my to-do list. I will play my favorite Christmas music while I wrap gifts and bake Christmas treats. I will light candles, add some Christmas greens and sip a glass of wine. I’m 64 years old and know that “perfection” is highly overrated. What’s not overrated is holiday fun with friends and family and I plan to have some fun.

C’est la vie.

Trick or treat…

Are you ready for Halloween tomorrow? Do you have a big bowl of candy ready for all the trick or treaters who will be appearing at your door? Even though I’ve never been a huge fan of Halloween, the sight of all the little ghosts, witches, princesses and superheroes running up and down our street back in Indiana always made me smile. Except for the teenagers, I had a hard time with kids bigger than me who couldn’t be bothered to come up with a costume wanting a treat.

Since leaving Indiana, we have not had one trick-or-treater. Our building is locked, you have to be buzzed in, so it just doesn’t work. I must not be the only one missing the little ghosts and goblins. A neighbor down the hall has a festive wreath on their door and a cauldron of trick-or-treat candy out for grabs in a nod to the holiday.

Luckily I have grandchildren and parents who send me photos of them in costume.

I hope you have a wickedly fun Halloween. And watch out for black cats…

C’est la vie.

Ready, set, Christmas…

With my sister visiting, we’ve been in a few stores this week and it’s obvious the holidays are coming.  While not yet in its usual overwhelming presence, evidence is popping up everywhere. Thanksgiving turkeys are sharing display space with elaborate Christmas ornaments, dishes and linens, holiday cards and wrappings, and my mailbox is overrun with holiday catalogs trying to entice me to choose their wares.

Thanksgiving is unusually late this year as the fourth Thursday falls on the 28th, making Christmas three and a half weeks later.  As someone who particularly likes the holiday of Thanksgiving, I don’t want it to get lost in the Christmas frenzy.  My plan to save Thanksgiving is to be organized with regard to Christmas. 

  1.  Before November 1, I will make a list of lucky people who are on my gift list, as well as ideas for presents.  I will not get caught up in the material trappings and will keep to my budget. I WILL WRAP EACH GIFT AS IT IS PURCHASED.
  2. I will purchase and address my holidays cards early.  Although it seems we receive less and less cards each year, I still love finding those greetings in my mailbox and will continue to send them as long as I can.
  3. In early November, I will pull out my Christmas trimmings and check for anything that needs attention. Even though I do less holiday decorating these days, I still enjoy creating a festive atmosphere. My turkeys will make an appearance in early November and the Santas will come out the day after Thanksgiving.
  4. The first week in November, I will start planning our holiday menus and organizing the recipes.  I will shop ahead for the staples, simplifying my time in the grocery starting Thanksgiving week through the New Year.
  5. I will put aside my obsessive nature, not worry about perfection and practice enjoying every fun, noisy, delicious and messy moment of time with friends and family.
And to all a good night…

C’est la vie. 

Will you still need me, will you still feed me…

Yesterday was my 64thbirthday.  While that may not be old, it’s hardly young.  The thing is, I still feel like a work in progress and while it’s a bit of a cliché, I really don’t feel 64.

Many years ago, I came across a newspaper column a wife had written about her spouse.  Her physician husband had retired and one of the parting gifts he received was a gift certificate to a fortune teller.  A couple weeks later when he called to make an appointment for his reading, his wife was baffled telling him, “you don’t even believe in that stuff.”  But off he went.  He returned from his encounter in a pensive mood.  This man went on to achieve the greatest accomplishments of his life during his “retirement”.   He established a neighborhood health clinic for low income patients, including mental health care, a service often denied people without good insurance or the means to pay themselves.  And he reveled in every moment of it.  It turns out, the fortune teller told him he was too young to rest on his laurels and had much more to accomplish in his lifetime.  So, did the fortune teller truly see this, or is it simply common sense that we are only limited by our own myopic view of ourselves.

A few minutes of research reveals some of the many people who have achieved momentous success in their 60s and beyond. Laura Ingalls Wilder was 65 when “Little House in the Big Woods” was published. Dame Judy Dench starred in her first film after 60.  And Grandma Moses didn’t start painting until the age of 76 when she gave up embroidery because she could no longer hold her embroidery needle due to her arthritis.  The examples go on and on and leave me pondering but also eagerly anticipating what is next for me!

As an adult I haven’t fully embraced my birthday.  While I always have fun at my children’s and other people’s birthday celebrations, I’d rather celebrate others than be the focus of attention.  But his year I decided to make a change.  It was time to start celebrating myself and all that I have achieved throughout this hectic year. While I am glad to receive birthday greetings via Facebook (and appreciate that Facebook keeps me apprised of other’s birthdates!), there’s nothing quite like receiving a paper card in the mail.  This year I saved up all the greetings that arrived during the week and on the morning of my birthday Mr. Smith made me a mimosa and I had a lovely time opening my messages of birthday love.

I’m not sure where my next trip around the sun is going to take me, but it’s been a pretty fine ride so far. This year I’m going to try and step out of my comfort zone and open up to all this magnificent universe has to offer.  I think a fortune teller would tell me to do the same.

C’est la vie.