Coffee Chat: That Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Come in, come in...
All the while I am hurrying along doing the seasonal things I am well aware that yet another natural season is ending and the year is coming to a close.  It fills me with real sadness this year.  I feel honestly as though an era of my life is closing for good and I don't have a single thing other than feeling to back this idea up.  Well it's made me teary eyed over things, sentimental and nostalgic.  I'm not dreading the next phase, nor feeling particularly upset about it coming along, but I want to dwell a bit in the moments that are remaining, and run away from the thoughts that it's going to change, all at the same time.

I am forever hearing a bit of whining about folks not liking change...and I admit readily enough that you'll hear me doing some of that whining when changes are afoot in my life that I've had no choosing in...but I am aware too that we were never created to be stagnant people.  We might well have been formed of dirt in the beginning but 75% of our body is water and water must MOVE or it dries up and becomes nothing but...well, dirt all over again.  And truth is, that time is coming soon enough at the end of our lives so why hurry it on?

Granny told me long ago that learning was something that should never stop.  She certainly never did, until she was no longer in her 'right' mind.  And then I suppose she learned some new things anyway, but whose to know?  She could no longer tell me about them.

Reading has taken forefront for me of late, and it's not one of the books I set aside to read.  I have unfinished books that are waiting for my return...but I had to pick up Elizabeth Goudge and began to read in earnest.  I took the book with me in early November when we last went to Kingsland and I quickly slipped into the first couple of chapters then laid the book aside, conscious of the need to finish others I'd started.

I so dislike leaving books unfinished!  It seems disloyal somehow to not finish up what I've started unless of course the book is very, very bad and then it's only right to put them aside and indeed to get rid of them. Life is too short to be taken up with books that don't uplift or in some way cause you to grow beyond yourself in my opinion. I did finish The Timekeeper by Mitch Albom last month, but I am still chewing on information I'd gathered from October's reading in Tamar Adler's book and not ready to finish that book up just yet.

So two weeks ago,  I went back to the Elizabeth Goudge book, Pilgrim Inn and found myself drawn into the story much as one is drawn into a conversation with a dearly loved friend and despite the time constraints and the absolute 'must do Today!' lists upon my desk each day, I found myself slipping away to 'rest' with the book and going off to bed a wee bit earlier with the book and getting up in the morning and taking time to 'wake' with the book in order to go deeper into the story.  I had to really discipline myself to get my work done, scratching off items on my list and not dwelling on perfection at all so that I could save time to read. It's been far too long since I allowed myself to escape in this way and it was lovely.

The morning before Thanksgiving Day I took my book to the front porch while the dog and cat ate their meal and listened to the wind in the last dry rattling leaves on the Faith tree, watched the hawks and buzzards glide effortlessly along on the air currents in the brilliantly blue sky and heard the distant honking of geese flying south.  Maddie nudged me for attention and I put my hand deep in the thick fur on the nape of her neck.  The whole experience fit so perfectly with the passage of book I was reading that I felt severely wrenched away from it when the cat reached out and clawed my leg for attention.  There is never so hard a bump as the one I experience when I've been lost in a book and the real world intrudes.  I felt as though I wanted to just have a good hard cry.

And that feeling of wanting to sob continued on all morning and afternoon whenever I'd have time to read. I'm always profoundly drawn in and affected by Miss Goudge's books, most especially the modern setting ones such as Pilgrim Inn, but I've never once wanted to cry as I did this time.  Perhaps it's because I've a great deal more understanding about the things she writes of than I did at 20 or 30 or even 40.  I so identify with the deep emotions the main characters are experiencing. Or perhaps it is the realization that I am myself in a state of change, of transition of some sort and that is what this book is truly about.

Despite my saying I'd not spend time this year looking back, I have.  I'm not looking back at the most recent past nor to my childhood, but somewhere in the middle.  There are places revisited that I thought I had finished with entirely and I see now that something more is demanded, some acknowledgement or letting go or understanding that hasn't been completed all these years later. I have been thinking about the person I was once upon a time and the people who came into and went out of, or were sent out of, my life during those years that have gone before.  I've no regrets about the past but I do see more clearly why some things had to be as they were. That's hindsight for you...It changes as we grow and becomes ever more clear as the distance grows greater.

How was your Thanksgiving?  Mine was quieter and calmer than I'd thought it might be and for that I was grateful.  It was just me, my mom, and brother.  I helped Mama put away the leftovers and when I left there I went out into the windy cold air and decided what I wanted most of all was to revisit another bit of my past.  I went to the old church where I grew up and spent a happy half hour wandering about among the old cedars and the graves, reading headstones, saying a quiet hello to those names I'd come to recognize from my family history.  I felt great peace and sadness all mixed up together.

The incredible smallness of that old church surprised me...I realized that while I'd always looked at it and thought it was the same size it had always been, it had in fact had a room the size of the original building added on!  It was twice it's size and I'd never noticed it had grown because it seemed the right size.  The old oak trees that seemed so far from the building were not at all far away but rather close.  True the trees had grown but not to such a great extent that the building would be that much nearer.

Oh the curious tugging sadness that burned in me as I looked at that lovely old place and the church yard where I'd played many a Sunday as I waited for the adults to say their goodbyes.  Coming home I was thinking of how much I enjoyed being there, how wonderful it was to be able to go there and recapture that small portion of my life...and then I was sadder because I thought of all the places I cannot go to walk in the footsteps of memory at all.  That sad didn't last long however because I came home and that's when I saw the photo of the youngest grandson with his dinner.

I noted that Sam and Bess had not left home when I was ready to leave for Mama's but supposed they were going to a later dinner with family.  When I came back home I discovered photos of their own little dinner at home posted on Facebook.  I thought perhaps they'd not been invited anywhere and felt badly for them, but when I talked to Sam he told me they'd had it all planned. They were both a little unwell and both had to work the day after Thanksgiving and simply felt they were too tired to travel hither and yon.  They each made dishes for the meal and they were just that proud of all they'd done. For me the added sweetness was that they have started an early tradition of their own, which I think is lovely.

One of their photos shows the baby sitting in his boppy with a jar of...get this...turkey vegetable  baby food so he could have Thanksgiving dinner, too!  Isn't that sweet?  And hilarious?  It made me laugh all evening long.  Just look...I think he's looking a bit anxious about his meal, don't you?   There's something anticipatory about that photo of him.

Katie was off to her in-laws home.  JD and Lori apparently had their day at home.  He called me later in the afternoon to have the children say Happy Thanksgiving.  Loved!

I wasn't sure what Amie had done but she's had a tough go of it lately, with a baby, a sick partner to attend to, children coming home from school sick. She tends to be reclusive when times are tough going. She'd had to give up her position in management because she couldn't keep up with work hours and home necessities.  Amie never complains about her money woes to me but I knew things must be terribly tight.  She called Mama and talked with her and said that someone brought them a basket of Thanksgiving foodstuffs.  I recalled that when she was little, we often made up such a basket at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.  It was always Amie who thought of those little extras.  "You've forgotten cranberry sauce Mama and perhaps they'd like some coffee and tea.  Maybe you should give them a jar of instant coffee.  They might not have a coffee pot..."  I hope that the person who made up the basket for her family was as thoughtful as she was all those years ago.

Kindnesses can be very uplifting and Amie was uplifted.  She went home and made dinner for her family. They pulled out the Christmas tree and decorated it.  She made hot cocoa.  She said that her faith had been restored in a Facebook post and I can see that it must have been.  She said she'd been feeling very blah and hopeless but she's glad it happened as it did because it gave her family an opportunity to celebrate something they'd meant to do without.  It's hard to be the main support of a family emotionally and financially and cough up enough stamina to keep going when things are tough.  I am deeply grateful to her unknown benefactor for giving my girl what she'd never have told us she needed.

John and I had a small Thanksgiving meal together on the Friday after the holiday.  There were enough leftovers of our small turkey breast for an entree to go into the freezer, dinner on Saturday and sandwiches twice.  It was just the right amount of turkey all around.  I put the carcass in the freezer and will boil it up later for broth.

I set a pretty table for us, but John chuckled over my dismay that my pretty plates didn't show at all once the food was put upon them.  They are old plates and smaller than modern pieces, so you can imagine that no pattern at all was visible when piled with our Thanksgiving meal.

All in all it was an easy relaxed holiday and I am deeply grateful.  I am glad the angst and agonies were over and done with by the time we settled in to having our meals and I'm grateful that all in my family seemingly enjoyed themselves.

Misu was Katie's cat from the moment they locked eyes in the pet store.  All these years since Katie moved out she has been Katie's cat.  Until this summer when Katie married.  For some reason when that happened Misu suddenly began to seek me out for attention each morning after she'd eaten and any other time I ventured outdoors.  I was just a means to an end, which was cat food in the bowl on a regular basis, before that.  I still referred to her as Katie's cat but I knew the relationship between us had changed.  The cat had finally bonded herself to me.  I guess I just hadn't bonded myself fully to her.

So we were sitting here in the living room last Monday two weeks ago,  getting ourselves geared up to leave home to get John's check and I hear this sudden piercing me-yowl, repeated at intervals.  You cat owners know just what I mean.  I heard it and I looked at John and said 'Is that MY cat?  What on earth is wrong?" John got up and went to the door.  He stepped out on the porch and called me to the door.  "YOUR cat brought you something...You gotta come see this!"

She'd brought me a snake.

Now let me say several things.  Number one it had been quite cold here but this particular afternoon it had warmed up considerably to mid 80's which is the way the freaky weather in Georgia works.  Number two: I was not pleased.  I forced myself to say 'Good kitty.' and having said that Misu jumped up off the snake and came up on the porch as though she'd had about enough of the whole gift giving thing and was disgusted by the necessity of it.  The snake decided to wriggle away while the getting was good but he was on the patio and apparently was headed to a big pile of leaves on the patio.  Number three, my husband was not amused.  And he actually thought I should go after the snake.  ha.

Well it wasn't a poisonous snake nor a big one, just a young black snake and no doubt was minding his own business when Misu grabbed him up.  John realized what a foolish thought he'd had thinking I'd go after the snake.  He grabbed the rake and  raked the snake off into the yard where it wasted no time at all slithering away.  For the record, I have never seen a snake move so fast...I took up the rake and raked all the leaves off the patio.  Next warm day that comes along I do not want to discover any snakes at the bottom of a pile of leaves on the patio.

And later it occurred to me that I'd somehow allowed my acceptance of the cat to  turn into real affection. She was, per my own mouth, MY cat...When Katie came home this weekend, Misu didn't go seek Katie out.  Katie had to go find Misu and while she enjoyed seeing Katie she was her most affectionate self to me the next morning as per usual.  I think we are bonded at last.  And by the way, I did tell her I would appreciate it if her gifts were more along the lines of dead mice, moles and squirrels in the future.  I think she agreed with me.

John went to work last Monday and Mama and I were out shopping.  We went by the Dollar Tree for a change.  True confession, there's one within easy driving distance but I have never taken the time to go in. Friends and fellow bloggers are always singing the praises of Dollar Tree.  I was pleased with the few purchases I made (mostly Christmas decorating items).  I priced a few items and they are definitely good...but I don't think they are low enough to warrant driving over there routinely to shop, since it's not in my usual shopping area.

I had my work plans all set on Monday when I got up and I knew just how my week was going to go.  Yes, of course things changed.  They changed while I was shopping at Dollar Tree when John called to tell me he had extra time to use up before the end of the year and he was taking an extra day off right away and one later in the month...I'd normally welcome news of that sort but I really really really needed my week to go as planned.  I did some quick thinking, rearranged a few tasks/errands and felt I'd come up with a perfectly workable plan.  No.  My plans didn't include my husband.  Major planning mistake.  I assumed he'd know how important my week's plans were with a family party coming up on Sunday and family coming in to spend the weekend as well but he assumed that everything would just fall into place.  How do I know this?  Because when I made out a double columned list on paper for myself to complete on Friday morning and asked him to take care of the jobs on a short list, he complained that I was making a big fuss over a little party...sigh. Not that he was upset about his small list.  No indeed, he was upset about the size of my much longer list!

Can I just share this with you?  A long time ago, when I was a child, I heard the story of Mary and Martha.  Martha complained that Mary wasn't helping but sitting at the feet of Jesus.  Jesus said that Mary had chosen the better part. (Luke 10:38-42).  All of my life I've heard it preached that Mary was the wisest and that Martha was a complainer.  I felt Martha was getting a bum rap back then and I haven't changed my mind all these years later when I've heard teachings about Mary and Martha.  I don't think Martha was jealous or complaining by nature.  I think Martha just knew what needed to be done and how very much there was to do.

Yes, it's true if my home wasn't decorated that no one would have had a less fun time...but the tasks left to do on Friday pertained to food and cleaning, things that were absolutely necessary.  I'd done my best all week to clean as I worked and decorated.  I'd let go of a lot of lovely ideas that were just timely and costly to accomplish.  I'd essentially turned over my time to my husband in his extra time off and worked with every schedule change thrown my way.  And here he was reading me a riot act!  Well I'm sorry to say I burst into tears.  Yes, I did see his concern was for me, but I just felt more frustrated than ever.

I calmed myself and explained to him that it was all well and good to say that this and that didn't need to be done, but he was most welcome to go over my list and tell me which items were 'extra'.  I explained how lovely I thought it would be to be one of those who just assumed everything would fall into place but I'd experienced my own fate at the hands of those who drifted through things and I'd been hungry and cold and mighty unhappy when visiting those folks and I never wanted guests in my home to feel the same way.

Well in the end he just went grimly to work on his list and I did several jobs on my own list then went back over to determine which could wait until Saturday or Sunday.  I wrapped the last gift about 3pm and we had a lovely hour and a half to sit and rest before Shabat began.  I had a plan for Shabat dinner and supper and breakfast Sunday morning and I'd given into his whims and left Sunday supper up in the air.  Mistake.  Not disastrous but it was an added stress at the end of a busy hectic day when I was already tired and weary and I was the only one who had a clue about what we might have just as I'd pointed out.  No one offered to run over to the next town to pick up pizza or indeed even suggested I do so.  No, it was expected that I would come up with something...and I did.  But it wasn't easy and I had two viable ideas shot down right away.  If we should ever do this sort of thing again, I will have a meal ready to serve and to heck with those bright ideas of letting things work themselves out!

Saturday I was pretty much just happy not to move far from my chair.  The guest room looked lovely and I was anticipating how pretty it would look to my daughter in law (I didn't figure my son would care much one way or the other).  The meats were put out to thaw for the next day.  All that was really left for party work was the making of a salad, a dessert, baking potatoes and putting the baked beans in the crock pot.  Just small details over all.  I enjoyed the rest and was appreciative for it because frankly the week that preceded our Shabat was very busy and I was very tired.  Our oldest son and his family came in Saturday afternoon and I put together a meal of waffles that everyone seemed to enjoy.  That worked out beautifully.

John and I were both up extra early on Saturday morning.  After I showered, I crawled back into bed with him and we lay there and snuggled for a few minutes, quietly talking over our impressions from the night before and our hopes for the day.  When he showered we quickly did the last tasks of washing and wrapping potatoes to bake, preparing salad ingredients, putting baked beans and a peach cobbler to bake.

What I'd counted on, but no one else had seemingly anticipated, was how very busy I'd be with grandchildren.  I was looking for a second wind by the time our  guests arrived Sunday.  The party itself ended being a blur. I have highlights here and there.  Katie and her baby bump, and a funny little incident where her husband called for her and said in that husbandly way "You're supposed to be helping me!" which made all the women in the house laugh and exclaim, "Oh you're married now!"  Josh with his attention fixed hard upon the football game and refusing to acknowledge anyone until the commercials.  I've never known a five month old to be so absorbed by football, but that boy is!  Hailey dancing for me in her pretty dress, pointing her toes and smiling sweetly as she did so and dear Zach getting the shock of his young life when he saw his Mama holding Josh, then his Daddy and then his Grampa at which point he began to wail, "But I'm the baby..."  Oh how we laughed.

There was more but as I said it's just highlights.  It all went by in a blur, a lovely laughing blur and it saddened me to see everyone go home except for the young Cheney family who were staying through Monday morning.  I felt I'd only just hugged them hello and then goodbye and there was no time at all in between. Now we know how the Sunday supper thing went...I pulled together a decent enough meal, giving the children peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and fruit which they ate right up without a bit of fuss or bother.  I scratched hard for the adults to have a meal but managed.

After that I sat down in my chair and Daniel and I did activities in his coloring book.  Lori had planned to do some home school work with him over the weekend but time flew. I think the work we did that evening in the coloring/activity book should have counted.  He wrote his name, wrote his numbers up through 14 by himself and worked through several mazes and colored by number.  Yep, I'd say that was homework for a 5 year old, wouldn't you?  Zach was so wearied by the party and the burden of discovering there was a real baby in the house that he climbed up in his Daddy's lap and slept.  Hailey occupied herself as she has since she could sit alone:  she put a book on her lap and looked at it.  She 'read' to herself, murmuring the words of the story she remembered from her Daddy reading to her.  The tree was lit, the evergreen Scentsy burning...It felt like Christmas at home with my family and I soaked it right up.

The family packed up and went home on Monday.  The guest room vanity went with them.  Lori and I had discussed what work they will do on it for Hailey and I think it will be pretty.  Now I'm going to have fun looking for a new one.  I went into the Barber Shop John likes and discovered that each work station was a beautiful antique vanity.  I asked the girl cutting my hair where they'd gotten them and she told me they were all bought locally. I was stunned. Well!  I shall  most certainly keep my eyes open as these were beyond lovely.  I know that a vanity belongs in that room for sure and I am determined to put one back into it.

The rest of the week has been fairly unremarkable.  Getting the house back into shape, having a Harvest Day and mailing Christmas cards, shopping for groceries and trying to stay warm now that the cold weather has returned.  And it's been remarkable too as it's contained shared laughter with my husband and some beautiful sunsets, and the fun of a new Louisa May Alcott book found at a thrift store, a Christmas book which is especially lovely to read this time of year.

And that's it.  I've been far far too long at this particular chat, let me tell you.  I know we're all busy and a nice little sit down spell is awfully nice, but it's time to get up and get busy once more.  I doubt I get to another one of these visits before Christmas so we'll plan to meet up afterwards.  Happy Holiday Homemaking!


doe853 said...

Hi Terri,
I wanted to say how much I appreciate your chats with the honesty of your feelings. I,too have a difficult time coping with change. This Thursday I retire from a 43 year career in health care and while I am so looking forward to it, I am also quite terrified. I am in a similar situation as you in that my husband will continue working for at least 5 more years and he works 3 nights a week in health care.
I will be alone a lot and don't want to be lonely, but that does happen in life. I have been reading your blog for a long time and always love your planning for getting things done and keeping busy. I know that odd feeling of feeling like a good cry for no reason. I think it is just a woman thing. I wish I could spend time with my mom, but I lost her 11 years ago and it is still a hole I cannot fill. You are so lucky to still have yours.
Well enough rambling on, just wanted to let you know that I appreciate your company. Dale

Anonymous said...

I think I see more Mary in Terri than you might think. Time spent with John,time enjoying the grandchildren, even time to enjoy beautiful Misu. I think this is what Jesus wanted Martha to see. Time spent with people you care about and time alone to enjoy our creater and the beautiful gifts he has given us. Time spent in quiet contemplation on your porch. Yep, I see a Mary sometimes posing as a Martha but who knows what is important in life. I once read a letter to Dear Abby from a woman complaining that she would allow no one to help her in the kitchen and how at a family gathering she had done the dishes, put everything away and mopped the kitchen floor and by the time she was done everyone was leaving and she could not believe how rude that was of them. Now that Martha I don't really care to know. Gramma D

Julie Baker said...

Hi Terri, Wanted to tell you how much I appreciate all that you share with your blog readers. I look forward to new entries as somehow their content seems to coincide to some degree with things happening in my own life or a common feeling. It is nice to have your perspective on a topic to contemplate.Your blog invokes a feeling that I think of when reading Proverbs 27:17 "Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his
friend." -Julie

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