Monday, October 25, 2010

on generosity, sort of

My darling granddaughter, Megan, ten, is endlessly passionate. Here is my recent phone conversation with her.

Megan: Mimi! Our family has the BEST plan for Christmas. We are going to draw names to give each other a small gift and then each of us is going to choose something from World Vision and give an animal to the people who are poor. I saw the information and it made me SO sad ... I am so glad to give to them and not spend it on ourselves.

Me: Oh, that is so great. I love it! Fabulous idea. So... how are your violin lessons coming?

Megan: Oh, I am playing really good. But my violin fund is not very good. I only have $30.00 in it. (Note: $25 of that is from me.)

Me: Well, you don't have to worry about that. Christmas is coming. ... Oh, we aren't doing that for Christmas.



Me: Well, we aren't giving big gifts, we are giving to World Vision.

Megan: MIMI!! That is JUST OUR IMMEDIATE FAMILY. You are not in our immediate family.

Laughing... right. Got it. Message is clear.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

just this side of hope...

I receive Cook's Magazine and pour over the best way to roast vegy's and how to properly glaze a turkey. The best part of the magazine is the editorial by Christopher Kimball. Always rural, always reflective, Kimball's short essay is worth the subscription cost.

Today he reflects on a box of old snapshots he is riffling through. The pics of his kids are particularly nostalgic to him. Then he says, "My guess is that whatever we think we've lost we never had, that waiting to find it again is as stupid as expecting trout to rise to the same dry fly two days in a row, and that life is best lived between the lost and the found, just this side of hope and on the other side of nostalgia ... to my way of thinking, nothing is ever really lost, even an old cemetery. We just have to learn to stop looking for it."

I have a friend who feels she has lost who she was, by way of life's harshness. She desperately wants what she was, to be that again. Life can do damage - in fact life DOES do damage - and we all suffer our unique blows. But what we had is always ours. And though we cannot go back, there is a lot in front of us. Life is unbelievably interesting, full of possibilities, and always unfolding into newness.

I held a lovely baby boy today. I remembered my sons, my babies. I love that my arms have been full of baby. That their eyes shone. I will always have them that way. And I also have them, boisterous and hungry in my kitchen. Steve sometimes longs for the prairies, for his western country and homeland. I remind him that he always has Alberta. It is in him. He doesn't have to search for it. My mom is buried in an unpretentious graveyard near Toronto. But she lives in me, and gazes back at me through the mirror now and then.

The years have taught me to hold on, but loosely. And to carry photographs in my purse just in case I need them.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Canadian Thanksgiving

Today is the start of Canadian Thanksgiving which lasts for three days. We don't have a specific day to eat our turkey - it can happen anytime over this weekend. I remember when Ben was about 15 that he and his friend decided to see how many turkey dinners they could get invited to. If my recollection is correct, they ate - and more remarkably, enjoyed! - 7 dinners, including ours.

I have these questions in my mind:

Why do turkeys have to suffer in a continent wide blitzkrieg (does that mean slaughter? It sounds like it does...)?
Why do Americans add macaroni and cheese to an otherwise lovely dinner?
Why is Thanksgiving dinner so beige? Did you notice that even the vegys - carrots, turnips, squash - are beige? The entire meal would lack beauty if not for the lowly cranberry.
Why does a pumpkin pie taste almost the same as carrot pie? True fact.
What did my gramma Iva put in her dressing that made it look green?

There is so much to ponder on this Thanksgiving.

Like why do I have so much blessing?
And why do I sometimes feel ungrateful?

As usual we won't have a 'family thanksgiving.' We rarely have family here on special occasions. There is always as sense of loss, but it doesn't last long when it isn't brooded on. It's lovely today to think of my fair country and my many friends with their many roasting turkeys, kids bursting in doors and loud laughing, jello salads and home made buns. Blessings sometimes come in bunches, like on a day of Thanksgiving.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Rules for Parents

My grown son sat on the couch yesterday afternoon riffling through his grade-school box of art, writing, pictures and report cards. One piece from grade 1 was particularly amusing.

The task was to write three rules for parents. Vince wrote these three:

1. Do not merder your child.
2. Do not beat your child up.

and ...

3. Do not be late for wurk.

What would a psycho-therapist make of this? I choose to believe that this is a kid who did not even know the low level violence of angry parents. Our home was pretty happy and creative when he was a kid.

In the box were other treasures. Stories about a monster and his pet turtle. Lots of brightly colored drawings of our green house with a Canadian flag flying on a pole in front.

And tales of hamster funerals. We had more than our share. Perhaps one of his rules should be, "Parents should not murder hamsters." It was always an accident of course. But none of our hamsters died of old age. I would take them out for a walk - since I can't stand to see animals in cages - and then things would happen. I could write a book series on the adventures of hamsters.

One journal entry from grade 2 made me laugh. Vince was hoping to win the 'neat nut.' I had to think a while to remember what the neat nut was. Okay - see who can remember this. The neat nut was a Gospel Walnut! You pull a little hook and out come the five or six colors that are supposed to reveal the gospel story: black, red, green, white, yellow... I was personally appalled at the whole cheesy idea of a gospel walnut, so I dubbed it the neat nut, prize for the tidiest room each day. Apparently it worked - Vince was motivated to win it.

Memories matter. But they are slippery. Most of what we discovered in this box I had forgotten. The work of remembering is spiritual work. And it is profoundly human work. I remembered who I am, listening to Vincent talk about his childhood views of our life together. And I loved him freshly.

p.s Our son Ben recieved his first note written by his son Blaise - emergent literacy! It said this, "I Um gowy tw cut YoR Hud off. Fum BLaise" to which I can only reply, "ARGH Matey!"