Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I Am Celebrating Christmas Right This Very Minute

I finally finished Will's Harry Potter sweater! Yay! The sleeves are way, way too long, but, oh well.

Every year I think I'm going to spend the week before Christmas reading some sort of wonderful, Christmas-y books, and I never do. You know why? Because the week before Christmas, I am far too insane to read. I pull out A Christmas Carol or Ferrol Sam's wonderful Christmas Gift!, and I try to read, but I can't.

Last night my eye fell upon Little Women, one of my favorite books of all time. It's another one of those books I think it might be nice to read around Christmas and then never do. Of course, I've read it so many times I could probably recite it, but that's neither here nor there. So last night I pulled it off the shelf, started reading, and thought "Merry Christmas!"

Oh, my dears, it was a stroke of genius! Why haven't I thought of this before? To have the Christmas I really want, I need to have it the third week of November. I need to get out my Advent books and Philip Yancey's marvelous The Jesus I Never Knew and start reading them NOW.

And every year I think that the week before Christmas I'm going to give out Christmas cookies and dollar bills to the homeless guys who beg at the intersections of Garrett and 15-501, and of course I never do, because I'm far too insane to be charitable the week before Christmas. So I'm doing it next week, before I go insane. I am brilliant.

Travis and the laundry basket and Will's sweater

Have you read Little Women recently? Oh, it's fabulous! Santa Claus gave it to me in 1974 (I know this because, bless my little heart, I wrote my name and "Christmas of 1974" 0n the flyleaf), when I was in fourth grade. I knew little about the Civil War, and a bunch of stuff made no sense to me whatsoever, but I loved it then as I love it now. Reading it makes me want to re-read Geraldine Brooke's book March, which is Mr. March's story as he's off caring for the sick and wounded while his little women are having adventures back home. Good stuff!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. We are staying home, because we're all sick. Actually, the boys are better, but the Man and I still feel out of it. We're sad about missing the family gathering, but feeling okay about not having to drive ten hours to Kentucky. More time to lounge about and read and have Christmas in our hearts before it's driven out by the terrible, horrible Holiday Season.

Friday, November 16, 2012

I read the obituary page almost every morning. It's not that I'm maudlin, I just find people's lives interesting. Now, not all obituaries are created equal. There are the "just the facts" obits, and then there are the "He was a titan of industry and won lots of awards and served on lots of boards and committees" obits, lengthy to be sure, but not actually revealing.

This morning I read of the best obituaries I've ever come across, and I wanted to share part of it with you:

Born on a farm in Lincoln, AL, one of nine children, she picked cotton, pulled fodder & stripped sorghum. Being chosen as housekeeper & nanny for an Aunt in town afforded her the ability to leave the country, finish school and meet the love of her life, JB. He was the local iceman and Uncle Richie let the ice melt so "Fan" could see JB more often. They married in '38 and moved to Florida in '41, where JB's entrepreneurial spirit blossomed… she worked beside him in all of his endeavors from a small gas station, an orange grove, installing jalousie windows and finally, becoming one of the first licensed swimming pool builders in Florida. She was proud to have been born during the Great Depression and learned not to waste anything. From an early age she would pull threads from flour sacks and use those to sew little doll clothes. Her husband's success was not wasted on her as she appreciated every different color and type of fabric she was able to buy… She used all that creativity to make a good home and raise her children… one in each of 3 different decades. Sewing formal dresses and skating skirts in the 50's, making waterski long johns and cooking burgers in the 60's and then rows of ruffles which turned into mod bell bottom pants for her last little "surprise". This is the way she showed her love, by making and doing things for others, from clothes she made for the Russell home, the thousands of "bone" shaped pillows and knitted preemie hats during her volunteer days at Florida Hospital, and the countless quilts and crafts and collectibles she shared.

There are so many details here I love. She pulled fodder and stripped sorghum, she pulled threads from flour sacks to sew doll clothes. An aunt "chose" her to work as her housekeeper and nanny in town. There's a novel in that line alone! Maybe Fan was the poor relation, and her aunt deigned to give her work. Maybe she slept in the corner of the kitchen and was up before dawn stoking the woodstove. Did she miss her eight brothers and sisters? Or was she happy to be done with picking cotton?

Bone-shape pillows! Sorghum! Jalousie windows! Formal dresses and skating skirts! This obituary should be used to teach writing everywhere. It's all in the details, people. I read this obit and had a sense of who "Fan" was and how she lived. By the end I felt like I knew her.

Now I'm wondering who wrote this obituary. Was it one of Fan's children? Or was it Fan herself? I'd vote for one of her children, because there's appreciation in every line. Which leads me to wonder ... what will my children remember about me? I hope it's not the mess or the crankiness, but rather banana pudding and trips to the beach, the handknit socks and the quilts and the time I grew wheat in the backyard.

I hope this isn't too morbid. I think a good obituary makes you appreciate a life well-lived, and I was glad that this morning I got to know Fan just a little bit. May she rest in peace.

Read more here:

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


 Will, the Halloween Birthday Boy!

Have I mentioned I'm a room parent for Will's class this year? It's a nice gig, because everyone's insanely grateful to you for doing it (so they don't have to), and after the beginning of the year it's not all that much work.

My fellow room parent is a truly lovely woman, but I must say I think she picked the wrong year to RP, as not only is she working fulltime, she's also doing coursework in her field. So she's sending out reminder messages with the wrong date, and then sending out corrected reminder messages, only this time with the wrong time. Oops! So then I have to send out a correction to correct the correction.

The thing that gets me is that when I send out the correction to the correction, there's always one parent who emails me, not having actually read the correction to the correction, and tells me that the information I've sent out is incorrect. So then I have to gently correct him (and yes, it's a him, and yes I'm beginning to understand the source of his child's myriad social problems), which usually ends the cycle ... until the next time. And there's always a next time.

Last week, I volunteered at the class Halloween party. I do this every year, because Halloween is Will's birthday (Will is ten! Yikes!). We finished all the planned activities with twenty minutes left in the period, so we sat in a circle and told ghost stories. If you want to have fun, ask a group of kids to tell you ghost stories. They tell the exact same stories you heard and told as a kid! I'd love to find out where they got their stories from. I'd bet older siblings and cousins. I don't remember my parents ever telling me ghost stories, and I've never told any--at least any of the old standbys--to Will or Jack.

Here's a funny thing: Today I was a driver for a class field trip (I know, I know--I'm a saint), and I was telling one of the moms about what a great job her daughter did telling ghost stories at the party last week. "She knows a bunch!" I said, and the mom looked at me wide-eyed, like, really? She said she had no idea her daughter knew any ghost stories and furthermore, Mia was a real scaredy-cat. I thought that was so interesting. Was Mia trying to be brave by telling the stories? Was there something cathartic for her about telling them? Or does she have her mom totally fooled?

So anyway, do you remember the scary stories you and your friends told each other when you were kids? The one that I found deliciously terrifying was about the babysitter who gets a call from someone who's threatening bloody murder when suddenly the police break through on the line and say, "Get out now! The call is coming from inside the house!"

Not a ghost story per se, but boy did it send tingles up and down my spine!