Saturday, December 29, 2007


One of the reasons I started this blog was to keep a
written history for the grandkids. As my blog header implies, nothing fancy - just life in general and me in particular.

It's been an interesting ride so far, almost two years' worth of musings, sometimes intersecting my daughter's blog and sometimes not. I've been introduced to many excellent bloggers and am surprised that I've developed my own group of "regulars". I love to peek at my site meter which gives me a glimpse of the demographics. Seeing towns and locations that span the globe is unbelievable and humbling. What a gig! I'll never meet or know most of you but THANKS for stopping by and reading my words.

I'm rambling. Not good writing, folks. Bear with me and I'll try to pull this all together.

It's the holiday season and my thoughts turn to family and friends. I prop family photos up on the colorful hutch which resides in my dining room. This piece of furniture and a very unusual rocking chair belonged to my late sister-in-law, a nun who lived in North Carolina, lobbied tirelessly for the migrant poor and traveled to Iraq long before the current administration staked its claim. Linda (Sr. Evelyn) deserves a blog entry all her own and I plan to do that soon. She died four years ago, much too young, still so much to do. In the meantime, I'm keeping the hutch and the rocking chair for Jenn since there's no room in her house to store all of her aunt's stuff. Because my sister-in-law was so spiritual and reflective, I consider her hutch an altar, a sacred space to honor past and present. For the holidays, it's a fitting place to put my photos.

As I look at and reminisce about the pictures, an idea takes shape. I grab my camera and take some snapshots.

New photos of old photos - photos which are worn and grainy, depositories of secrets and family history. Why am I so attached to these things?

This is a picture of my mom, dad, and his mother, Aniela. She died three years before I was born. My dad, it seems, was often protective of her after she was widowed years earlier. This photo could allude to a mother-in-law coming between a son and his wife. However, from my mom's and my aunts' stories, I think not. There was a special bond between Aniela and her daughter-in-law. During the Depression and WWII, mom and dad would take my babci to the movies. How she loved the picture shows! Even though she had raised eight feisty kids, lost at least two more in childbirth, and had a stern, controlling husband, Aniela seemed to have a sweet, good-hearted nature and was a closet romantic. Mom said that she would reach over and squeeze her hand excitedly whenever the actors on the screen were hugging or kissing. I wish I could have known Aniela. I have the feeling that she is still very much around, a kindred spirit, checking in on the grandchildren she never got to hold - grandchildren who are now grandparents of their own.

And this is where the future starts to nudge its way into my past and present ...

Here I am on my mother's lap, nine-months old, first Christmas. Dad, tired and somber, sits behind us. His face tells the story of a difficult year, a bittersweet Christmas. He's forty-years old, a first-time father. He and mom had tried to have children, unsuccessfully, for fifteen years. Her beaming face shows the joy at my late arrival; his serious face reflects sadness at the death of his nephew, Johnny, who was killed by a Nazi sniper in France shortly after I was born. Yes, the war years were turbulent but I love this picture of our little family unit. I could imagine dad's worry at providing for a child during these lean years too. He was that kind of guy. To his credit, he grew into the role of father and never let me or mom down. His joy returned later and I remember his booming laugh and funny jokes.

Here's a photo of my youngest grandchild, Iris. My son's daughter - a bouncy dark-haired, dark-eyed child who may, or may not, grow up to look like our side of the family. I try hard to catch a resemblance to the WWII baby sitting on her mom's lap. Am I trying too hard? The mind sees what the heart is seeking.

Now, here's another favorite photo. My mom and I were shopping in downtown Philadelphia. A photographer approached mom and asked to take our picture. I see some of me in Hannah when I look at this. What do you think?

Maybe this is part of the gift of being a grandparent - to live long enough to earn the right to try and connect the dots. To watch babies having babies of their own and to trace childhood looks and personalities back a couple generations - sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. The good news is that these grandbabies will grow far beyond us and family legacies.

There is something organic and rich about knowing how and to whom we're connected.

So I play and look and wonder at the mystery of it all.

When I touch my grandchild, I am touching not only the present and the future ... I am touching the past.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Tapestry

It was a laid-back Christmas. The girls were sick with colds and ear infections so spent the day in their jammies.

Sophie, teetering on the brink of Santa as myth or reality, seemed to appreciate his reply to her note but wished he had not written in cursive because "it's harder to read". She carefully examined the bites his reindeer took out of the carrots and even found a special present under the tree from Mrs. Claus.

Yes, Sophia, there is a Santa Claus.

At least for another year.

Hannah, on the other hand, just smiled through the day and seemed totally enthralled.

Angels on high ...

Carrots consumed by Santa's reindeer ...

Presents under the tree ...


And delight ...

Opening the gifts ...

And to all a good night!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Silent Night

It's Christmas eve. The wind whips my scarf as I walk up the hill to the kids' house to watch Sophie and Hannah decorate their tree.

I try to picture another town, another age, a couple millennia ago. Did candles burn brightly on that night, that silent night? Did someone walking up a hill see tiny lights flickering below as I do now? Was it cold? Was it lonely?

I look for that one elusive star which is the focus of this night. Sadly, the cloud cover doesn't reveal any stellar wonders. So I turn, instead, to the Hubble telescope and post this favorite shot which reveals the beauty and mystery of it all ...

We travel in the dark but if we look closely enough we can find multiple points of light to give us hope. Sometimes they are as near as the eyes of a child hanging an ornament on a Christmas tree. Other times, they are more elusive and require patience and perseverance. And belief. How good are we at kindling a flame in others? In ourselves?

Thomas Merton envisioned all humanity as tiny points of light - little pilot lights, human sparks.

Have a peaceful and gentle holiday. Keep shining.

Thanks for reading my blog.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas Cornucopia

There is something sweet about coming home and finding gifts laid at your doorstep - the realization that someone, somewhere, has taken the time to think about you and act on it.

I certainly wasn't expecting the windfall I got. I felt like a kid on Christmas morning, excitedly cutting through the outside packing tape of each box and package, wondering just what could be inside.

My largesse consisted of: a beautiful white snowflake sweater which matched the snowflakes falling outside my window, perfect timing from one of my oldest and dearest. Then there were a Monet calendar and Chico's gift card from a grade-school friend. We have known each other since we were Sophie's age. In fact, we are planning a 50th reunion of our eighth-grade class for next June! How's that for staying in touch? Polish bosom buddies.

For a moment, I am still and see both these dear, golden friends in my mind's eye. I see my snowflake-sweater friend falling asleep in the back seat of a '57 Chevy on the night of our senior prom; I see the Chico-classy lady of my childhood years dancing on the sidewalk in front of my house for my 13th birthday party. The wistful images vanish as quickly as they come, as ephemeral as snowflakes.

There are more surprises from new friends made online; we have yet to meet in person but have shared much about ourselves via email and fan forums. I get a lovely thank-you note for past kindnesses along with Christmas music and chocolate kisses in a little Penguin box from a gal in Tennessee. The penguin motif is an inside joke and relates to our common belief that a certain TV couple should be "shipped", matched romantically. I open two boxes of chocolate-covered shortbread from another cyber-friend in Hawaii who proof reads my science-fiction writing. Will I ever meet these women? Will our silver friendships last long enough to become gold?

I don't have answers for the meaning of why some people come into my life and stay, while others drift in and out like the blowing snow. As the poet Rilke advises, I am content to live the questions.

Today, I came home and found gifts at my door.

I am blessed indeed.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Laugh and dig, laugh and dig

This is a funny lady ... after a week of wild and wooly weather, I needed a good laugh.

I went into cooking mode on the weekend considering all the dire weather forecasts. Ham and cabbage in a crockpot, salisbury steak with buttered noodles - I haven't cooked like this in quite a while. It felt good. The girls came for dinner - walked down with their daddy and then climbed the mountain of snow the plow left behind in my parking lot. I could hear their giggles of delight from my upstairs window. By the time they got to my doorstep, they were soaked. I used my hair dryer to get boots, socks and snowpants as dry as I could before they headed back out. When I peeked out the window, though, both were back on top of Snow Mountain. I imagine that, by time David walked them home, everything was wet again.

First snow, big snow and adults see all the work involved in digging out. Kids only see the wonder of it all. I have a new camera and will try to capture some of our second snowy week for the blog. The piles of plowed snow in the town shopping lots are already about ten feet high and this is just December. Brrr ... Jenn and family couldn't have settled in Florida, eh?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

He's not Clifford but ...

Sophie's raffle puppy showed up after all, actually, his karmic brother.

Church lady called me at the beginning of the week and told me that they "found the missing doggie" and I could pick him up at a local rectory. Luckily, the errand was on my way to work and, indeed, a little red puppy with a matching hand-stitched blanket was waiting for me. I knew Sophie would be thrilled. I remember seeing this little red puppy on the table at the Christmas Fair. However, I had a hunch that he wasn't the original doggie we had won. I checked the raffle ticket which was still clipped to his ear and, sure enough, the number wasn't ours.

Red puppy was never claimed. He was left alone after all the prize winners had traipsed in and picked up their bounty. Poor guy, nobody came for him. The church lady must have decided that, since someone else had picked up our prize, she'd assign him to Sophie.

He once was lost, but now was found. Heck, it was a church raffle. Maybe an unclaimed puppy needs redemption as much as a lost sheep.

Sophie was home with a cold this week; I stopped in and told her the good news.

"Sophie, you won a prize at the church fair - a little puppy!" Her eyes widened and she waited by the window as I brought Little Red up from the car.

Two small arms reached out to hug the puppy that nobody wanted.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Happy Birthday, Charlie Brown

Well, not really. Thirty-five years ago I was busy giving birth to a 9 lb. 1 oz. baby boy.

Today, he was busy chopping down a Christmas tree for his little family in the Pacific Northwest.

You rock, Joe!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Where oh where has my little dog gone?

I took Sophie to a Christmas Fair at a local church over the weekend. She had slept over and helped me get out my Christmas decorations and then we decided it would be fun to see what surprises were at the fair.

The church was in the next town; Sophie was deep in thought and quite excited as we drove there. However, she was a bit intimidated when we walked into a crowded hall filled with tables of the all-too-common baked goods, crocheted hats and mittens, handmade wreaths, et cetera. I was disappointed too as we made our way around the aisles, nothing new under the sun.

Finally, her little face lit up as we came upon a very large display of stuffed animals, toys, Disney princesses and children's games. This was the Children's Raffle table. I quickly plunked down $3 for a book of tickets which we then placed into little tin containers at whatever item seemed to catch her fancy. The whole selection process took around 15 minutes; Sophie is a discerning shopper. I loved watching her read some of the descriptions of the prizes and then making her choices. It was fun for both of us and we left with high hopes that just maybe Sophie would be lucky and win one of the kiddie prizes. She reminded me that she had never "won" anything and did I think it could happen? I assured her that we had a fairly good chance with the many tickets we had dropped into the cans.

As I was tucking her in that night, Sophie asked again if I thought she might win a prize. I told her we would know the next morning. However, when I got home later that night, I found a voice mail on my cell phone. Sure enough! Church lady telling me that Sophie had won "a doggie".

It was past midnight and too late to tell Sophie the good news. Instead, I drove back to the church the next morning to collect the prize and then surprise her. I wanted to see her face when I walked in with her stuffed doggie.

I'm so glad that I didn't tell her ahead of time.

I arrived at the church, stood in line with other prize winners, handed the winning ticket in, and lady went to find the toy. She looked and looked but couldn't find the doggie I was told to claim. I then rounded that table of prizes, searching in vain for the winning number. Finally, we saw that this doggie had a twin and there were two winners. The other winner had probably picked up both mutts by mistake. Or not. Maybe she just decided to be greedy.

A 12-mile round trip and I came up with nothing. Nada. Woman said she'd call the other winner later that day to track the missing pooch. Don't think it happened; I never got a phone call one way or another.

Sophie almost knew the joy of winning. Almost. I didn't have the heart to tell her. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.

Her little doggie is out there somewhere. Hope he found a good home.

I just wish he had been waiting for me.