Friday, November 25, 2011
Thanksgiving Remembrances - 2011
We had a really great Thanksgiving day. It was just my mom and dad, Jeff and I, and the six youngest kids. We spent the day at the farm. I don't think we saw another vehicle all day - it's just that quiet and isolated. Our oldest three children drove themselves up to Minnesota to visit Jeff's side of the family for the week. The boys had a college break.
My parent's place sits inside the rim of an ancient and extinct volcano. We literally go over a river (Wabash) and thru the woods (Shawnee National Forest) and then drive the rim of an old volcano to reach Grandmother's house. The irony does not escape us, and someone usually sings this song as we approach their place.
The day was cloudy and the air filled with mist, but rather than dreary it felt almost magical. The kids alternated between running up and down (and sometimes rolling) down the pasture and racing in to fling their boots in the corner by Grandma's cookstove in order to warm their hands on the woodstove.
We carried wood to keep them warm until Christmas, and hung their string of old-fashioned (with the large, bright bulbs) Christmas lights, put up the tree and did the last of the yard work until spring.
Mom baked the turkey and made the rolls, and I brought the pumpkin pies (from our own pumpkins) and stuffing. After dinner we picked the turkey clean together and set the bones to simmer into broth on the woodstove. We never lived close before this, so it has taken awhile - but mom and I have finally found an easy peace in our relationship. We respect each other; I think she likes me (which is different than loves me) and finally *might* trust me to raise her grandchildren properly. Julia played aggravation with Grandpa. He forgot his hearing aid, so the conversation died out after awhile.
When it was time for the baby to take his nap, I stood swaying with him in the cabin's "pink room." (Mom always calls specific rooms by the color of their carpet and bedspread.) Gabe tucked his head on my shoulder, into my neck - just so - same as every time. He cuddled in and draped his arms around my arms; he patted me as I sang to him while the misty grey from the window invaded the room.
I am struck by the thought that although this is so familiar, and I do this every day, he is already 13 months old and very soon I won't be able to stand and hold him and rock him this same exact way.
I look around me, and see the pictures of other little boys who once slept in this room. On the headboard, there's an 8x10 of a little boy who became a daddy a few months ago - I held his beautiful baby in my arms. Right beside that, is the picture of another baby boy. He's a Marine now, just arrived home from Afghanistan yesterday, in fact.
Daddy and Mama's little cabin, old, in need of updating. Nothing special, really, but packed overflowing with memories. Dad and I gutted this room and redid it, back when I was 12 or so. I know every layer.
On the shelves, on the walls, everywhere, remembrances. Here, thru my ugly cattail oil painting, I am still alive as a seventh grader. I keep telling mom to throw it out, she grins and refuses. Dad's great-granddad lives on thru the steamer trunk that sits at the foot of the bed. My brothers and sisters grin out their grade-school selves from tiny metal frames, Dad's black-and white teenaged years sit casually on an end-table in a straining, decrepit photo album. A perpetual calendar from 1983 graces the wall. (Two types of calendars never get taken down at my parents' places: Those too pretty to take down and those featuring Ronald Reagan.)
I first slept side by side with my husband here in this room. Two college students, too poor for any other honeymoon, this was our fine hotel. (Well, he was a college student. I had graduated two weeks before. We dined on fried catfish and frog legs the next day on a bluff overlooking the Ohio River.)
We brought our babies here. All nine of our babies have been patted to sleep in the "pink room." Our homes have changed, many times. This room has not. Some of those babies of mine are very near flying this nest.
I cried while holding Gabe close. Nephews, nieces, sons and daughters - growing up, building their own lives, sometimes falling down, losing their way, then finding their way again, having their own babies and hopefully remembering the foundations that are always here for them.
And my parents, doing so well, but definitely growing older. I wonder how long we will have them, and feel again the privilege of loving and caring for people - even when the days are long and the responsibilities hard and there seems to be more than can ever be accomplished.
And I turn it over to Jesus, crying into Him, because He's the only one who has seen it all, knows it all, understands it all. He's seen every struggle, been a part of every joy. He's known my parents from their childhoods; known me, Jeff, all of my siblings, all of these kids - from start to finish. He knows our best selves and He knows our mess - and right there in the "pink room" I take a few minutes to turn us all over to Him. Only He can take these lives, these years, and redeem them - turn them to good and life and glory.
God's love endures, it always stands, it always builds. Love remembers, loves marks time, love sets a marker for memories.
Tonight, once we were home and the kids were all asleep, I sent my father an email. I asked him if we should think about planting some new shade trees in the yard - Maples or Tulips or Oaks. I reminded him that this generation of children will grow up, and they wll need shade and limbs for their own children to climb and swing from.
Love always hopes, love looks to the future.