Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Two Days Before Thanksgiving

If counting my blessings counts as being in the Thanksgiving swing of things, I'm all set, but the thought of decorating a table and baking pies from scratch isn't delighting me this year the way it usually does.  We bought pies--BOUGHT! pies, and Maple-leaf-shaped cookies, to boot--but we have my homemade fudge and my mother-in-law's homemade sugar cookies too.  I'll get home from work around 8:00 Thanksgiving morning and will have to sleep at least a few hours while Mike begins the food.  Maybe by afternoon when I get up and smell the turkey and whatever-else-he's-started, I'll feel more jazzed-up for pretty-table-setting and cute-dessert-making, but in the meantime, it seems good enough--more than good, really, and more than enough--simply to be grateful for the meal and the time with Mike.  I spent Thanksgiving at work and then alone last year, after all.  

This past weekend, Mike rented a car to make the trip to see his family back home, where they had eighteen inches of snow, and returned yesterday before the storm hit us.  My own family, baby Bianca now included,  will gather for their dinner Thursday afternoon but all live within about twenty minutes of each other, so I don't have to worry about any of them driving or flying a long distance in the snow this week.  Ideally, Mike and I could be here, there, and everywhere for Thanksgiving, but work schedules and weather issues equal a table for two this year.  Opposite work schedules and a frugal and car-less life mean we've only ever spent one holiday with each other's family--Easter 2008 with mine--so our holidays are not quite what I wish they could be, obviously, but I have really learned to appreciate the time I do have with Mike and with my loved ones, and regardless of how or when or with whom I spend the holidays, I always know I'm blessed.  Still, my dream dining room for years has been one large enough that I can keep it set up restaurant dining room-style year-round, with a round dinner table with comfy chairs and high chairs for any babies, a long Waltons-style wooden dinner table with benches at either side, a square table with more painted chairs seats, a couple overstuffed wing chairs at a table for two, maybe a high-backed restaurant booth in a window, and a Pottery Barn Kids catalog-style kids table with sweetness and color in abundance.  I've had this vision for my future dining room for years, and someday, someday, I hope to make it happen and enjoy the sight of both our families gathered in this crazy room catching up with each other in all its mismatched chairs and over all the mismatched vintage tablecloths.  I can picture it so clearly, it's like it's already happened and is an actual memory.  It makes my heart ache, I want it so. 

We are supposed to have nine inches of snow by Thursday morning.  I walked around the neighborhood taking pictures last week before the last of this year's vibrant leaves were snowed-over and took a few more pictures this morning while Mike and I walked to the store for our Thanksgiving groceries.  I love this time of year.  One of the news shows played a recent segment from "Saturday Night Live" in wich one of the cast members ran around Manhattan screaming, "Take down the Christmas decorations!  THANKSGIVING'S FIRST!  It's not time for all that yet!  THANKSGIVING COMES FIRST!"  Mike and I laughed like loons over that and have yelled it at each other a few times since seeing it.  While walking home from work one morning last week, I noticed the city had put up its giant Christmas candle lamppost decorations along the streets overnight, and I thought of Mike and the skit and laughed again.  "THANKSGIVING COMES FIRST!"  What a beautiful time of year. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Welcome to the World, Bianca

 Beautiful and bright-eyed, she's finally here, and my baby brother's become a dad.  :)

Friday, November 15, 2013

The happiest days are when babies come. ~ Melanie to Mammy in Gone with the Wind

A text message from my younger brother woke me up this morning.  His baby is due tonight, his wife is now in labor, and my first text back was "Wow!  My baby brother!" before I gathered my wits and wrote a little more.  I've received a couple more messages from him since then, my mom's called me once, and with emails and phone calls and texts and prayers--and later, for the locals, hospital visits--we're all sending each other love and wishing my brother, his wife, and their baby a smooth night.  Surely, the baby already knows and feels she's part of this sweet family.  Surely, my grandparents are watching over us all and are here with us in their way.  I walked over to Rite Aid a few hours ago to buy this year's Christmas cards--buy one pack, get two packs free!--and started crying as I walked back, thinking about tonight and how it changes and expands and deepens all these bonds.  Ah, dear family!  So much love!
  with my younger brother in 1983 

Monday, November 11, 2013

We've Been Painted :)

Since Mike and I skipped all the hoopla of a wedding to marry more simply--a ceremony at the courthouse in the town where we had met in the 1990s, a decision to save money now and vacation later, a dress that was actually a vintage nightgown and vintage jacket combo, a storebought cake for us and homemade cookies to share with the courthouse and hotel staff, a handmade bouquet--this painting is my one wedding-related splurge, and I finally treated myself to it this fall.  In August, I contacted folk artist Heather Sleightholm to ask if she had the time to complete a wedding portrait for me and Mike.  I love Heather's work, and as soon as I discovered her, I knew I wanted her to capture our simple wedding day for us.  We emailed back and forth in August and September to ensure she had enough photos and details to go by--the spring green outfit, my braided hair, our simple silver wedding bands, the wintry rainy April 2011 weather that had broken into sun just for our day and then turned into cold rain again that night, the trees that were still bare-branched, Mike's tie that matched my outfit, our courthouse in the background somewhere, and "Heather, would it be possible to add Stuffed to our painting?  :)  Maybe at our feet or in a tree, but just somewhere?"  Our portrait arrived on Halloween, and as you can see, Heather captured it all perfectly.  This is one of my if-the-apartment-were-on-fire-and-I-had-time-to-save-a-few-material-posessions items.  I love it. 
I had made my bridal bouquet of Daffodils, Pussy Willows, and Cattails.  Heather incorporated them not only into my bouquet, but also into masses of blooms on the ground around us, along with patches of half-melted snow. 
My sweet Mike, or "my big bearded friend," as I call him, with our courthouse behind him.  The courthouse is the most beautiful building in our former college town.  I used to live a block behind it when I went to school there. 
My bouquet and my beloved cream tights and T-strap shoes.  Heather even included the embroidered details on my jacket's collar. 
Mike's ring in the painting is even the simple silver band it is in real life.  Heather's attention to detail and the care she took with this just make my heart happy.  And below is our Stuffed watching over us from a tree-top.  Dear face. 
We are now blessed enough to have both the wedding pictures we had taken (with the cameras on our phones and on a disposeable camera I'd bought at Target the day before [blissfully simple, as I'd said!]) and this lovely painting too.  And where else to display it but on the mantel Dad made for our first anniversary.  It is a treasure. 
  "An April Wedding" by Heather Sleightholm  ♥

Friday, November 8, 2013

If you just watch things, just sit still and let the world exist in front of you - sometimes I swear that just for a second time freezes and the world pauses in its tilt. Just for a second. And if you somehow found a way to live in that second, then you would live forever. ~ Lauren Oliver

My younger brother's first baby is due any day now, and the rest of the family daily guesses names and marvels at the idea that there will be a whole new person with us very soon.  The day my nephew was born, I wondered aloud to my mom how strange it was that I had just met him and already loved him so much.  "I'd never even laid eyes on him until today, and now it's hard to remember the family without him."  My mom replied with something along the lines of "Well, of course," but it was stunning to me how the heart instantly expands.  It's a girl, my brother and his wife have already announced, and I'm eager to feel, for the third time now, that rush of auntly love and surely-you've-somehow-been-here-with-us-all-along when I hold my new niece the first time.  
"Thirty-six," largely due to my younger brother's news, has been a year of nostalgia so far for me.  Each year now seems to fly by faster than the one before, and maybe because 2013 has had me looking both forward and backward even more than usual, I feel like I've lost track of this one somewhere along the way.  While I was home for my birthday in May, my sister-in-law announced her pregnancy.  When I went home in September, it was for the autumn-themed baby shower.  And next month's visit will find my younger brother now a parent.  I remember riding the hopital elevator up to the maternity unit the day he was born in 1982.  The next time I was visiting my hometown hospital's maternity unit, it was 2004 and my older brother had just become a dad.  And didn't all these things happen just yesterday?  No, really.  I don't understand anymore how time passes.  Lately the scene in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little Town on the Prairie keeps coming to mind in which Mrs. Bradley makes everyone in attendance cry on musical literary night by singing "Backward, turn backward, Oh Time in thy flight.  Make me a child again, just for tonight."  Picture me here pulling out my handkerchief along with Laura and Ma.  My younger brother is days away from being a dad.  Those who served as my former elementary school's principal, custodian, and secretary while I was a student there have all died this past year.  And all of this while I continue write, little by little, a memoir of my 1980s childhood.  "Those were nice years," my dad said of that time while I was home in September.  "You kids were all still pretty young, and Papa and Grandma were still alive. . . ."  My heart was almost too full to respond to him then, and it feels full-to-bursting now as I picture my once-Pound-Puppies-and-Connect-Four-loving brother with his wife and baby beside him this Thanksgiving.  "They were such good years," was all I managed to get out to Dad, and I want to pause here tonight and just sit quietly and look at my favorite pictures from this fall before any more of it passes passes and say "Thank You."  Because these are good years too.