2020s, cooking, family

Merry Christmas, 2020

This year is a quiet holiday season. The grandchildren in my life are elsewhere and no one is visiting due to Covid. I made pecan sweet rolls and wonder who will eat them all?

Blogging buddy John inspired me with his recent post showing off his meat pies. I have never tried to make them and was up for the challenge. I made steak and mushroom pie for Christmas Eve dinner. While the filling was delicious, the crimping was non-existent. No worries. The crust was flaky and puffy. I’ll keep practicing making it look as good as it tasted.

Last week I was in the hospital. After receiving transfusions, I’m starting to feel a bit stronger. Taking advantage of the peace and quiet, I heal. Here is a toast to you! I pray your holiday is bright.

Love & Friendship,

Cindy

culture, In My Opinion, inspiration, love, movies, philosophy

Martha’s Gift

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Last year, Martha was giddy to see us. We stopped in her room and gave her a present, a fuzzy cardigan, size small. Kathy, the activities director at the Haven Nursing Home, had organized the resident wish list, and my high school students who are club members of Interact Club (an affiliate of the Rotary) each year buys gifts for the long-term residents, and we delivered them today. Armand the 99 year-old French American wanted to kiss everyone. Fred ate his chocolate bar and clutched his new collared shirt. Joe thanked us for his ball cap and started crying. Mae the nun and former school teacher clapped and said, “I’m so surprised. None of my students ever went this far to give me a present!”  Vindication! As a teacher, I frequently hear how today’s youth are self-absorbed and passive. It’s not what I see.

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The first year I visited Martha in her room, Kathy warned me that Martha was a chatterbox. She was sharp and expressive. When I asked her what was her favorite experience, she confided that at fourteen, she was waiting tables at a diner out at the end of the valley close to where they were filming a John Wayne picture. Mr. Wayne sauntered in and filled up the place with his stature and reputation. Martha was his waitress. Young and pretty, he asked if she wanted to be an extra on the set. “Of course I said yes. Who would refuse?” Her eyes moistened at the memory and her smile was delicate. What fun she had had in the dust and sunshine as one of the townsfolk on the set. She couldn’t remember the name of the film, but that was irrelevant. She made certain I knew that Mr. Wayne was a gentleman and that day’s adventure was a highlight of her life.

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The second year I visited Martha, she was at her walker, her eyes bright with anticipation of bending my ear. She had never married or had children. I asked her what she had done to earn a living, and she told me she spent her career as a WAVE.  I’m a Navy Veteran, so we hugged each other as if we had been stationed together.

Today I visited Martha. She was lying in bed gazing at the walls of her room. Kathy leaned down to her ear and asked her if she was feeling okay. She murmured she was fine, but her sadness was palpable, and I had a hard time keeping a smile on my face. Our group gave her the fuzzy cardigan and she thanked us, hoarse.

I know next year when we visit her room, it will be empty. Of course this makes me sad, but I can’t help but feel I had been given a gift — she was the fuzzy cardigan. She had inspired me. Martha’s younger self is in my current novel about a girl who gets to play an extra on the set of a movie picture. She will become a WWII heroine in the third manuscript, if I get the chance to write it.  I can’t wait to research the WACs and WAVES.

Who’d of thought this little old lady had such adventures. She didn’t tell me how trying her life had been or expounded upon her pain or failures. She remembered John Wayne and her atypical career which gave her joy and satisfaction. I willed myself to stop crying, for it hurt to see her physical and mental decay. She learned to live life without her fears stopping her. How cool is that?

family, love, movies

Cindy’s Christmas Carol

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I do not think it’s a foreign concept that the purpose of the holiday season is to give your heart, your efforts, and your gifts to those in need and to those you love. As a Christian, I’m aware of the reason for the season. We all know it’s not about how many presents are under the tree, and I know that gifts are not a measurement tool to gauge my love for someone. It’s the gesture that counts, etcetera-etcetera. Yet, year after year, I read and hear people are overwhelmed with the pressures of creating the best Christmas. Sometimes I have fallen into that category and felt hollow inside. No doubt that was why How the Grinch Stole Christmas, A Christmas Carol, and It’s a Wonderful Life were my favorite Christmas stories. As a kid I loved Christmas time. I have fond memories stringing popcorn on thread, making sugar cookies, watching Christmas shows, reading stories, and guessing what my presents under the tree were. What happened?

The culprit behind the transformation into a scrooge is that as an adult, you are in charge of Christmas. You have to manage Christmas. Financing, acquiring, inventorying, wrapping, distributing, sorting, chronicling, prepping, cooking, cleaning, transporting, parking, refereeing —why? Because you are in charge of creating memories. Putting on a holiday season is a grand production requiring skills equivalent to a stage manager of a NYC musical. These tasks are done in the name of love. It is satisfying to give your energy and effort toward creating beautiful memories. If you don’t try to make events special for your loved ones, then who will? But if you aren’t careful, the tasks of love become a chore and the gift of love alters into something less than holy. Before you know it, you’re wishing for the curtain call instead of reveling in the performance.

My daughter is in her 20s and expecting her first child. She is staying with me until Amelia arrives and her husband returns from his Navy deployment at sea. Soon she will be moving back to the Seattle area taking my granddaughter with her. This makes her time with me precious, for what is the likelihood we will be paired up for the holiday season again? Without saying it, both of us know this is one unique Christmas. Simultaneously, we add gesture after gesture to our days in December while both of us are on our best behavior. We celebrates us, mother and daughter. She looks at me and sees herself in her future with Amelia. She is about to say goodbye to her mother and become one.
Amelia in the oven

Only a few more weeks left to be her mother. I make my daughter dinner and we eat together. I make up her bed with clean sheets. We thumb through cookbooks and I try to impart how to cook cheaply and easily for her new family.  We try out recipes. She wants to go to mass with me. We try the Saturday vigil instead of the Sunday morning ceremony where our attendance has been sketchy. The mass in the evening is more intimate and glowing. We like it; we give thanks and pray, and it feels good. At home in the evenings, we compromise on the music and I play Jazz Christmas tunes while we wrap presents. We rehang the balls that fell off the tree because the dog whipped his tail and sent them across the room. We’ve been revisiting Christmas movies.

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We both love the romantic comedy, Love Actually. It stars many of my favorite British actors, and they are hilarious. Watch this one if you need a diversion from the cutesy and corny. It’s Rated R and for adult viewing. The best part of the movie is the ending song and the shots of ordinary people timed to the repetition of one repeating verse from the Beach Boys, “God only knows what I’d be without you.”

Today, my daughter made sugar cookies while I was at work. She filled up twelve bags and tagged along with our high school group, Interact Club, a community service, Rotary affiliated club for which I am the teacher sponsor. We took our presents and headed to the nursing home and honored the veterans. They all knew we were coming. They had on their veteran hats and smiled when we arrived. As we handed them a gift and card, you should have seen the proud WWII vet who had survived the Normandy invasion. His lips trembled and he kept reading his card, looking at the signatures. I enjoyed the sprightly 91 year old Navy nurse who shared her experiences during WWII. “It was a great time for me. I’m glad I did it.” They became for me the twelve disciples. They were happy just because we touched their shoulders and shook their hands and thanked them for their service.

My Christmas angel carries my granddaughter and a bag of sugar cookies.