Legos and Laughter

I am completely content and happy in this moment, playing Legos with my grandson, Jonas, and my granddaughter, Mile Mae, on the playroom floor.
I’m feeling proud of Jonas for sharing half of his Legos with me and Mile, we just aren’t allowed to have weapons or figures, only blocks. (We all have our quirks.)
Later, I am watching them play in their little pool on my porch and squirting each other with squirt guns and blowing rainbow bubbles. Their laughter is so soothing, and the sounds stop time and erase my anxiety.
We go in, and I have to rescue Mile from the pink toy bucket she gets stuck in and I’m laughing so hard, I can barely pull her up.
As the sun goes down, I am watching her hanging upside down on the lawn chair, her long brown curls flowing to the floor. She is so pleased with herself and she makes me laugh inside and out. I would give anything to live in moments like these, every minute of everyday, but they are just that, moments.
At least I know how to absorb and treasure these moments now.
The only sad part for me is packing up her toys that she is taking home and she doesn’t know it’s sad, so that’s OK.
Mile is only four, and right now, she’s simply happy all her toys are going to her house
She really doesn’t understand about Grammy selling her house and moving to a house on wheels and going to live on the road.
Rolling is what they call it. I have a new language to learn.
And she won’t understand, not until she says, “Daddy, I wanna go to Grammy’s house,” and he says, “Grammy doesn’t live in her house anymore.”
It was already a hard choice, deciding whether to stay or to move on, getting rid of furniture and stuff, so much stuff, way too much stuff. Books, clothes, boots, sheets and bedspreads. Towels, dolls and pictures. CD’s, DVD’s, TV’s and furniture.
With all these awesome grandkids, it’s a triple hard choice. And Jodie Lynne…my sunshine, my daughter, my friend, I’ll miss you most of all.
After fifteen houses and six states, I just have a strong urge to leave the clutter behind, wander on my own and to see what I see each day, and to do whatever I want to do in the moment. Stop, go, eat, write, don’t stop, inhale sunshine, go to the beach, whatever.
I also never want to pack up another house and I can’t even promise myself that I’ll stay still, so a house on wheels is my solution.
I want days without people telling me I better do this, or I should do that…weeks where I only interact with my dog, Maggie Mae and God. And rest stops and sweet nights when I can indulge my creative streak.
Maybe I’ll last a month, maybe I’ll last ten years out there on my own.
I just don’t know, but I’ll never know if I don’t try.
If I’m supposed to hold still Lord, you need to show me that because I really have the urge to move on, but I’m not always right, that’s for sure.
Lord, I know I’m stubborn and hardheaded, but show me gently please, I’m already broken.
Amen.

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Another Christmas for Grace

My dad was an alcoholic and Christmas was his favorite time of the year to tear up the house, a futile attempt to destroy my mother’s Christmas spirit.
He never succeeded with her, but he made me dread Christmas.
When I was a young mother, I didn’t really celebrate Christmas, not until the kids were toddlers and even then, I just went through the motions for them.
When I was twenty-seven, I got remarried to a man who made a big deal of Christmas.
Until our first Christmas together, I had never put up more than a 2′ ceramic tree, and only because my mom had special ordered it for me.
Our first year together, we put up a 6′ tree with all the trimmings and we surrounded it with presents.
The kids were so excited on Christmas morning and it was contagious.
From that point on, I grew to love Christmas and all that it meant to the kids.
My mom was so proud of me for overcoming my childhood Christmas phobias and soon, I had enough homemade decorations from my mother to cover an entire tree.
I used to love to send her pictures of the tree decorated with her ornaments.
I put up big trees until my youngest moved out, and then I still put up trees, just not as large.
As my kids had kids of their own, I split Mom’s decorations between them and I bought new decorations for me.
Every year, I would do a different theme, bouncing between girly and guy.
All miniature dolls and fairies one year and all Harley-Davidson decorations another year. Pink trees, white trees, purple trees, gold and green. Even a Palm tree one year.
Then, my mom, Grace, died in 2009.
I had a hard time again, but my sister, Cherie, talked me into putting up a tree just for my mom and she sent me butterflies and fairies to decorate it.
That was my first Christmas for Grace.
The next year, it. became a tradition, one tree for Mom, one for me.
Three years ago, my husband and I split up and although I put up a small tree for Mom, I didn’t really celebrate Christmas.
We got back together after seven months and we had two more nice Christmases together, but we separated again this fall, and now here I am, my second Christmas without him in thirty-eight years.
I really didn’t know how I was going to get through it.
I decided the first thing I needed to do was to buy a Christmas tree in a color I had never had before.
I resisted the urge to buy blue for a Blue Christmas, and before I could change my mind, I ordered a turquoise colored Christmas tree. That was in October.
It sat in the box for about a month, while I thought about it.
What would I put on it?
That’s when my sweet friend, Michelle Marie, came to the rescue. She called and offered me enough decorations to do my whole tree. When she brought them to me on Thanksgiving weekend, I was thrilled. They were so beautiful and unlike anything I had ever used before.
My kids came with their kids for Thanksgiving weekend and I asked the three youngest ones to decorate the tree.
Four-year old Mile Mae, got on her daddy’s shoulders to put the star on, and while the entire tree leans, including the star, it’s perfectly imperfect. It’s rather Grinch like, and that was my mom’s favorite movie.
After they were all gone, I brought out some of my little fairies, my mom’s butterflies and a few special ornaments. I added them to the tree. The tree lights are pink and at night, it changes the tree’s color and the walls around it glow.
So, although it is a sad Christmas for me in many ways, I have kept my Christmas spirit going, partly in honor of my mother who refused to let an insane alcoholic destroy her Christmas spirit and partly in honor of myself, because I deserve a happy and blessed Christmas, and yes, I am blessed.
I have fifteen grandkids and five great-grandchildren, a beautiful, warm home, food and everything I need.
I firmly believe Jesus is the reason for the season, but when your grandkids are small, it’s also about glitz and glitter and shiny presents and stockings filled to the brim, hugs and love, Oreo’s and milk, all waiting for them at Grammy’s house.
So this tree is for them, and for my mom, the woman who taught me that your Christmas will become whatever you choose to make it, and for my sister, who wouldn’t let me quit Christmas after my mom died.
Special thanks to Michelle Marie for the perfectly timed decorations and thank you Jesus, for another Christmas and another chance to make memories with my family and friends.

 

 

Memory Clutter

I was finally in the mood to start some spring cleaning and I decided to begin with my office.
As  I cleaned, I realized why I held on to so many mementos and gifts from the people I love.
It wasn’t the actual notes or the drawings, it wasn’t the colorful gift bags with ribbons and bows that captivated me.
No, what I was struggling to fit into this small room, aside from computers, printers, writing, books, CDs, tapes and boxes of pictures were the moments when the gifts had been created and given.
I wanted back the happiness and the love in each child’s face when they had handed the gifts to me.
The pride in my mother’s eyes when she handed me her handmade crafts and the warmth of my sister’s hugs, the memories remained in the gifts.
After so many years, these items still triggered every emotion imaginable.
The metal sculpture my twenty-five year-old grandson welded for me when he was twelve, a green pipe with a bowl.
It had made my teenage son laugh so hard because he said it looked like a bong.
“Bong?” I’d asked. He’d laughed some more.
The toys from McDonald’s that my grandson loved to give me for presents. The man who spun like a top but could never stand up, the mermaid that he took for me when he could have had a GI Joe, into the Goodwill bag they went, but my hand hovered over a miniature Blue Fairy.
I remembered watching Artificial Intelligence over and over with my grandson and he was so proud when he found me the Blue Fairy.
The movie was about a little robot boy who wanted to be a real boy and he searched for the Blue Fairy to help him.
I couldn’t drop the Blue Fairy in the bag. Four out of five is pretty good, right?
The huge finger paintings with crackling paint. My once tiny granddaughter’s handprints with mine certainly had to stay.
The plastic sunflower my toddler grandson had presented to me…running up to me with his little fist closed tight around a treasure, he had opened his little fingers to present the treasure. “Flower,” he’d said, full of pride. When I saw it was plastic, I knew I’d keep it forever.
The poster created by pain and love that my baby sister presented to me the day after my suicide attempt twenty-eight years ago, that did go into the trash.
I pulled off the pictures, but the memory of that day and how much I’d hurt my family still burned.
Huge envelopes and boxes for each of my four kids and boxes for half of my fifteen grandkids.
What should stay, what should go?
Would they remember the objects and would the objects mean to them what they meant to me?
Would my son and daughter clean out all this junk after I was gone, moaning at my eccentric, hoarding habits? I didn’t know.
I set the bag of donations aside so I could repack it. Another box to be saved.
I just couldn’t part with any of it right now, but I could clean another room tonight.
Who knew spring cleaning could be so emotional?