Saturday, December 29, 2007

Year in Review

This year has been a particularly stressful one for me. I have not been myself for some time. In March, I found myself without my best friend. Loss it seems was to be the theme of the year, from those I care about, and who were, and still are, a big part of my life.

With the friend and I separated by circumstances, I took to looking for and keeping myself busy and my mind preoccupied. I don’t always make the best choices under these conditions. Add to this, that I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve, messes with my emotional state.

Just when I thought I would be OK emotionally with one loss, the company closed the development lab where I work. We were more than employees all under one roof. To me, we were like family. The months that followed found me living and seeing the world as if I were under water. Change is difficult for most, and I am no exception.

To help me cope, Andy took me away every weekend. We would get on the motorcycles and go. I never asked where, but got behind him and followed. I just needed to be moving, going somewhere. During the long week-days, I occupied the same building, doing the companies work, with the ghosts of my colleagues taping me on the shoulder at unexpected times. I would see a shadow, look up, and like a flash, a bit of memory would strike me, and once again, I felt despair. Then more loss was in store for the family. My husband lost two of his brothers just a month apart from each other.

During the long lonely days, I looked around for a new place of my own. My endeavors to this end have been unsuccessful as of yet. The irons are in the fire, and patience and faith are now my daily companions. My new state of mind is now that of surrender. Surrender to the will of He who knows what is best for me and having the faith to wait it out.

It has not been all bad. I was able to spend time with my granddaughter while she experienced her first week of life early this year. She is a beautiful child with a happy spirit and curiosity for the world seen only in the very young. Her will to reach for, and attain each new milestone fills me with awe at the human spirit.

In trying to manage my stresses and strains of life, my fingers found the keyboard. The words race across the pages chasing the devil out of me and helping me find my way back to the Pat I miss. I found my short story about a spring motorcycle ride published in a rider magazine. I joined a writing group in the area and have a new set of people with which to share my passion. December found us reading a selection from our writings. I have gained new respect for others who put their thoughts on paper, and an appreciation for those who listen respectfully to mine. My self esteem is returning and a joy for life as well.

To those of you who felt my sting this year, I ask forgiveness. To those of you who continue to buoy me up when I am down, my heartfelt thanks. And to you my good friend, who through the miles, reaches out regularly to tap me on the shoulder and tell me that we matter, you are true blue.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Big Blue

There haven’t been any children living here for a few years now. That doesn’t mean I’m not still tripping over stuff that belongs to them. For every home improvement project, or re-arranging of furniture, there are a whole set of problems associated with the endeavor. “I still want that, don’t throw it out.” I will hear. Or “Yes, I still want Puppy!” This last statement is in reference to a stuffed blue dog that stands three feet tall. OK, I have to admit, Blue Puppy is special.

My youngest daughter was a great lover of Clifford, the Big Red Dog when she was a child. We even met Clifford once at a bookstore in town when he was there for a book signing. She won a drawing that day and came home with a video and new book. So it wasn’t any big surprise when on the day she took Pepere’s hand, walked to the neighborhood yard sale, she came home with Big Blue.

Pepere splurged all of two dollars for Big Blue Puppy. Two dollars very well spent. That night, as I checked on the girls before I retired for bed, there was Big Blue tucked in bed with my daughter. He took up more space in the bed than she did. I recorded the moment on film for my Father who was delighted at the enjoyment two dollars can generate.

Big Blue has had many secrets whispered beneath his big floppy ears over the years. I’ve witnessed a small child’s arm around his neck, while his matted coat was lovingly groomed with my hairbrush. He stood sentinel in the girl’s room, enduring all with a patient look upon his face. Popular toys came and went, but Puppy has withstood the test to time. His head slumps a bit these days, but he still possesses a sturdiness unseen in similar stuffed animals of his breed.

As the years went by, and one by one, the children left home, the living animals in the house looked lost and forlorn. In time, the pets would reconnect with a new best friend in the house. When I looked at Puppy the other day, after my daughter’s proclamation, I realized Puppy had the same forlorn look on his face. Compassion for Puppy swelled within me.

It’s evident that Puppy will be around for a few more years. Considering my grandson is all about doggies these days, (or “goggie” as he says) it’s time for a new generation to love Puppy. A doggie bed and rawhide chew toy are in order, and maybe even holiday themed ribbons for his neck as he stands sentinel for the next child’s visit.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ghosts of Christmas Past

I pick up the receiver and speak politely to the caller with my “work voice” (as my husband calls it). “How may I direct your call?” I ask. “Graham Berkeley please” says the caller. I stop short, not knowing how to reply. Then, I simply tell the caller that Graham is no longer with the company. Everything in my day is now colored by this one phone call. Graham is indeed no longer with the company, because he lost his life on a plane that made its fiery contact with the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

That day and those that followed closely are unfolding in my memory. In the six years since, not much helps to soften the vivid images or the recollection of chaos that followed. At this time of year in particular, when family ties are so important, it’s difficult to think of families like Graham's, whose holidays are forever changed.

I often let the holiday season overwhelm me. I spend my time in worry of the right gift, the bank account, or getting it all done in time. I have a number of Christmases past that do not have the sweet memories written about in poems. The phone call has me thinking things over. I pray that all of Graham’s past Christmases with family were memorable. In this way, they will miss him, yes, but remember fondly the gatherings they once shared.

I think of my own Mother’s last Christmas. She lay in a hospital bed, sick with cancer and debilitated by stroke. I bought her a new nightgown that year. It was pink with a flowery print, silky on the outside, but fuzzy against the skin. By Easter, she had no more need of this nightgown. It came back to me, and each winter I wrap myself in it and think of Mom. It’s one thing to loose your mother, another to loose your child. Oddly enough, the name of Graham’s mother is the same as my mother. I wonder if Pauline Berkeley has something of her son to comfort her nights as I do.

I’m done with “baa humbug”. This year, I’m going to sit back, watch my grown children interact with each other. I’ll chase Aiden around the house and tickle his little tummy. I’ll top off my day by sweeping little Paulina into my arms and smothering her with Memere kisses. Before the year is out, I’ll say all the good things that need saying and hug those that need hugging. For this will soon be Christmas Past and memories often live longer than we do.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Plymouth Holiday House Tour

Sunday found me in historic Plymouth Massachusetts with my daughter and granddaughter for the Second Annual Holiday House Tour. This is the one time a year (for a small fee) you get to nose around some of the more historic buildings in town. Events like this are not unique to Plymouth. I have had the opportunity to tour homes in my own town in the past, and found it an enjoyable day out. Plymouth, however, by its very nature as being an historical focal point in our early American history, brings a charm and curiosity all its own.

I love historic buildings. The architecture, style, attention to detail in fine old homes is unlike anything you can find in today’s modern construction. If there were any disappointments at hand, it was that we did not find all the homes as elaborately decorated for the holiday season as we had anticipated. I did have my favorites in spite of this. The Bayberry Inn, Twelve Tribes at 35 Warren Ave, The White Swan Bed and Breakfast and Martha’s Stone Soup at the Tavern. The last on my list is not a home at all, but a restaurant in one of the town’s most historic buildings.

Martha’s Stone Soup at the Tavern was built in 1797 and was once known as the Wright Tavern. Originally, it was a stagecoach stop along the road between Plymouth and Sandwich. There are some modern renovations of course, that make it possible to run as a restaurant, like handicap accessible restrooms. Nevertheless, the early American charm is not lost among the wide pine floorboards or the two original fireplaces, one prominently located in the dining area. I want to come back here for their afternoon tea (or “high tea” as it is sometimes known.)

The most elegantly decorated for the season were the Bayberry Inn, and The White Swan Bed and Breakfast, with the White Swan by far the best. Baby had many brightly colored decorations to attract her attention and gave us an excuse to linger in each of the rooms. Baby was equally as popular as the houses themselves among the guests. Mirrors are popular with babies and I took advantage of every one I found so to linger longer, enjoy the home and the baby.

Lunch at the White Cliffs Country Club was one of the stops on the tour. The view of Plymouth Harbor is just beyond our table and we eat daintily, pretending we are members in our designer label clothing. Baby catches the eye of the chef and he flirts with her shamelessly. All the while, she smiles and coos in response, encouraging even more interaction with the guests.

With the last house, we enjoy yet more hot cider and sugar cookies, and then we are off to the real world again. It has been an enjoyable day filled with sights, sounds and smells of the season. While old homes may stand for decades, babies are babies so briefly. Baby’s presence brings to mind all the families that have lived inside these walls and of all the first Christmases enjoyed once again through the eyes of their youngest, as we did today.