Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Peace At Last (Hem)

This is a picture of me that my daughter took from the back seat of the van as we were on our way to South Carolina on the first leg of our journey - I only intended for her to capture the Santa-in-a-hammock ornament/totem that my friend Melanie gave us to take on the trip (similar to "a Buddha on the dashboard", according to her)... but I do really like the extra detail of my face in the rearview mirror... :-)

This is the third Christmas since I started my blog... and I went back to my 2008 and 2007 posts for inspiration - perspective is everything, as I read about mom's decline in health over the last few years. We knew this was going to be a hard holiday, our first without her - what we didn't know was how much, in her absence, she'd be with us in spirit...

The 12+ hour drive each way has become routine - we know about how long it will take, about where we will stop... for gas, meals, etc... and which CDs we'll be listening to on our journey (yes, holiday music prevails on the way up). I had put A Christmas Waltz by Frank Sinatra on this year's mix... and it evoked tears but also smiles each time it played - Mimi was everywhere!

Stepping stones along our path:

~ the visit with my husband's family (his sister, her husband and their two daughters) was the best it's ever been... warm, inviting and friendly - sadly, his brother and nephew couldn't make it (snowed in New Jersey and doing a tour of duty in Iraq, respectively)... but we enjoyed our time together... and look forward to a new arrival (nephew's expected little one) in June...

~ we were able to spend quality time with my husband's stepmother, taking her out to lunch at one of our favorite haunts in Batesburg, South Carolina - I had forgotten much I loved lima beans! Afterwards, we went to my husband's father's gravesite - hard to believe Bob has been gone two years...

~ arriving in Georgia to spend time with my side of the family is always a highlight, but we knew it would be bittersweet - we ended up staying at my sister's the entire time, and her hospitality is unrivaled. We had plenty of room to stretch out (she's in a new home after she and Bill divorced last spring), allowing us alone time but also bonding experiences - there was plenty of delicious food every time we turned around, meals and "nibblies" (as Mari calls them)... and I made it my goal to orchestrate kitchen clean-up, loading and unloading the dishwasher when necessary so as to save Mari that job...

~ we all went over to my brother's house for lunch one day, as we had shamefully never been there, since each year we only spend 3 days in the Atlanta area before driving home - this year, without mom in the equation, it proved do-able (another closed door/open window opportunity)...

~ my husband took the kids to a movie the day after we arrived so my sister and I could get her final shopping done - we ordered Chinese food (a tradition) and then went to her friends' party on Christmas Eve. My friends Steve and Betty came over Christmas afternoon to visit before they had to be at another friend's home - the revolving door was comfortable and never hectic...

~ I joked about this year being an Instant Gratification Christmas, as there were more than a few occasions when we gave each other our gifts ahead of time (a gorgeous purple paisley scarf from my son Eric... and Trivial Pursuit Team from my sister) - there were still plenty of surprises Christmas Day: Season 1 of Pushing Daisies from my son Rob; my favorite Origins perfume from my daughter Sarah and her boyfriend; the movie Julie & Julia, another gift from Mari; a large purple swirled mug and a box of green Chai tea from my 13-year-old niece Julia; "a sister is a forever friend" silver bracelet from my brother Brad (he gave Mari one just like it). I gave everyone calendars chosen especially for them, along with either a book, CD or DVD - we all completely pegged each others' tastes without going overboard. Yes, mimosas were served - yes, we stayed in our pajamas all day!

~ Saturday morning found us packed up and driving to Flowery Branch (mom's town), where we went by her gravesite and then visited with some of the Ya Ya's (mom's neighborhood women) - sadly... Ann, one of her best friends (who I got very close to this summer, driving back and forth to exercise class) was killed in a head-on car collision a week before Christmas, and I felt so sorry for these amazing women who had lost two dear friends in less than six months...

~ I came down with a horrendous head cold Christmas morning so my last few days were a struggle, especially on the ride home - I finally have my appetite, sense of smell and sense of humor back... so all is well... :-)

Everything we did invoked thoughts of mom, and there were a few meltdowns along the way - we also had many memory-inducing moments, and we knew we were surrounded by her love, faith and pride. She raised us well and we'll continue to carry on her legacy, as well as create one for our own children - Merry Christmas, Mom (we miss you more than words can say)...

SONG: Peace At Last by Hem

BOOK: Watch For The Light: Readings For Advent And Christmas by Philip Yancey

POEM: Going to Bed by George Bilgere

I check the locks on the front door
and the side door,
make sure the windows are closed
and the heat dialed down.
I switch off the computer,
turn off the living room lights.

I let in the cats.

Reverently, I unplug the Christmas tree,
leaving Christ and the little animals
in the dark.

The last thing I do
is step out to the back yard
for a quick look at the Milky Way.

The stars are halogen-blue.
The constellations, whose names
I have long since forgotten,
look down anonymously,
and the whole galaxy
is cartwheeling in silence through the night.

Everything seems to be ok.

QUOTE: “Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.” ~ Joseph Addison


  1. Thank you for the card and CD! I'm glad you had a safe and lovely trip, and I hope 2010 brings you peace and a full heart. Love.

  2. Hey, Amy ~

    You are so welcome, kiddo - as my friend Catherine will attest, sometimes the only way through it... is *through* it... and we managed to not only survive the holiday... but appreciate how it changed us, many times for the better. Wishing you a wonderful 2010, as well - much love always... <3