Burying those ‘Bah Humbugs’

I was having one of those ‘Bah Humbug’ moments.

I’d just lost a mitten while shopping for my kitten.

I had been busily stocking up on emergency supplies at the store up the hill as a winter storm was coming.

Buying replacement mittens definitely was not on my shopping list.

But kitty litter, bread, milk, and lots of chocolate were. And all were fortunately within easy reach of the Santa cookie tins and one available smiling clerk humming “Let It Snow.”

I’m thinking their placement was geared towards keeping my spirits bright.

However, it didn’t.

I soon caught myself uttering another “Bah Humbug.”

Christmas fell off the top of my favorite holiday list way back when I was six.

That was the year the new doll smell and curly blonde hair of a baby doll delivered by Santa attracted the attention of our young beagle. Our dog thought she made the perfect chew toy.

The doll and my Norman Rockwell holiday were never quite the same.

It seems the annual arrival of frigid sub-zero weather with the holidays hasn’t helped my attitude either or all that crazy commercialism and greed.

Even family celebrations have grown a bit more bittersweet year by year.

It’s hard to forget the Christmas Eve when my late dementia stricken mother stared at her grandchildren across the dinner table and blurted out, “So who are you?”

Or the memories of sharing hospital meals of wilted salads and frosted Christmas cookies with my husband while he was in hospice three years ago.

But things really are beginning to look up.

Even in a year when peace and joy seem a bit hard to find.

Luckily, I just found that favorite mitten.

And I’m playing Santa for a few seniors, an animal rescue group, and the young children I work with.

I’m also hoping to share many more last minute smiles before the big day.

You see I once saw a flying Santa in the skies do the same.

It happened a few years ago.

I’d awakened at 6:00 a.m. to hysterical laughter on a holiday flight returning from Amsterdam.

The plane was packed full of travelers of all colors and nationalities. Many didn’t speak English.

It didn’t matter.

Everyone was looking up at the same movie screen smiling, sharing just a few brief moments of comfort and joy.

As well as those chuckles.

This time of year, no matter your beliefs, perhaps that’s what matters most.

Reinvention and resilence

“Get your ducks in a row,” the polished silver haired woman seated before me advised.

A few months after my husband Richard passed away from dementia, and a year after my Mom did the same, I thought I better see a grief counselor.

“Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do?” I’d asked myself one night in the mirror.

Previously I’d attended a group session for family members of those who’d passed while in hospice, but I left feeling worse then when I went in.

I no longer needed to share my tears and grief over Mom and Richard, but instead wanted to move on with my life. After a decade of caregiving responsibilities related to memory loss for both of my parents and my spouse, I was ready.

Yet I was still mourning what I saw as the loss of ten years of my life.

I felt I’d gone from middle aged to old with the snap of an arthritic finger.

So as I sat with this wise woman before me for my two sessions, I took her advice to heart.

I knew I wasn’t getting any younger, but getting my affairs in order so I could fully enjoy the rest of my days made good sense.

As I sat down by the lake this morning watching sailboats and the family of happy ducks before me, I reflected on the changes I’ve made in the last eight months.

I’ve swapped both houses and communities.

I retired early from my corporate career, and I’m now working in the non profit sector with children.

And I believe I am at peace.

Sharing a muffin with the ducks, I thought too of a former co-worker from my corporate days who experienced rough patches in her own life. She is now an accomplished and very talented poet.

I believe she’s very content and proud of a new book she just published that I finished earlier this morning.

She should be.

And I thought again of contentment as I greeted another former co-employee later at the farmers’ market, a few blocks up from the the lake.

This bright fellow’s become a farmer.

It was an unplanned lifestyle change, starkly different from his corporate life in the city, but it seems to agree with him.

Buying a bunch of red radishes from my friend, my eye caught a basket of colorful notecards with photos he’d taken on his beautiful farm.

An expression of pride immediately spread across his face as I selected the shot of a cheerful and smiling pig to send to an ailing friend.

“You know, these aren’t at all easy to capture on a pig’s face,” he told me, smiling wide as well.

After I left I was thinking how different ships come in during the course of our lives as we venture to different ports of call.

And we always encounter storms along the way.

But in the end, perhaps what provides us peaceful passage may just be those very smiles we give and receive.

From Blue to Pink

I’ve been missing my Mom.

Every tax season brings gentle reminders of Aprils past when I’d take time off work to call banks and insurance companies to reissue Mom’s tax forms.

In her final years, Mom would often lose, toss, or neatly fold her 1099s into empty containers of Pringles chips.

Dementia was eating away at her brain.

Still we’d persevere.

I’d put Mom on the desk phone in the family room next to her brightly colored Swedish horse collection.

And I’d be on the kitchen wall phone with an extra long cord, so I could prompt Mom as the phone reps for the firms would answer.

But she was much quicker on the draw.

And sweeter.

She’d be peppering them with questions from the first hello.

“Now, where do you live, and how’s your weather out there today?”

“That’s nice, say, what’s your name again?”

“Oh my, so you’re Swedish then. I bet I know your cousin! ”

It didn’t matter if the phone rep was Irish, Israeli, or Indian.

Everybody was Swedish in her new world of memory loss.

After each prolonged phone call, we’d celebrate with a toast to strong coffee and Swedish Ginger cookies.

These chilly April days I’m making phone calls for my own missing tax forms.

Did I lose or toss them like Mom used to do?

Or could the issue relate to a recent move?

Glancing at Mom’s Swedish horses this morning living now in my family room, I craved a ginger cookie.

And a chance to see Mom’s smile again.

I decided to take a break and drive to a hot new restaurant nearby. It’s a bit pricey at night, but I was hoping a ten and the change in my pocket would more than cover breakfast.

The cuisine is Scandinavian, but as I walked in the new age Swedish music and contemporary design said “this is not your Mother’s Sweden”.

I grabbed a table anyway, as filtered sun through the front window warmed me from the cold and damp beyond.

Then I peeked at the menu and grinned.

I heard Mom in the printed words before me: herring, lingonberries, pickled beets.

Though I opted for Swedish pancakes.

I was in heaven with the first bite tasting the warm juniper, honey, and oranges inside.

As I poured myself more coffee from the shiny glass decanter, something caught my eye outside the window.

I looked up to see iridescent bubbles of blue, pink, and gold catching a breeze and rising higher and higher.

Finally, melting into the clouds.

It appeared the source was a bubble machine nestled behind an oversized teddy bear in front of the toy store across the street.

I lingered longer at the sight, watching the bubbles dance away.

And so did the children and their mothers strolling by.

Mom, too, would have loved the display I thought to myself.

As would my grandsons.

After paying the bill, I crossed the street to buy some of the colored magic potion.

“Oh, we only use the clear bubbles here in our machine,” I was confidently told by the clerk.

Baffled, I walked out of the store.

I looked up at the sky one more time.

“The clerk is right, the bubbles are clear,” I mumbled softly.

Still, I was sure they weren’t when I looked out of the restaurant window.

I smiled as I slowly walked back to my car to continue working on my taxes.

And just for a moment I felt someone watching, and smiling over me.