Mary Beth Writes

We spent a lot of money on our kids this past year and they spent a lot of their own money arranging and getting to all the stuff this family did. (Wedding events and more….). It was my opinion we didn’t need to spend more cash on each other. When I mentioned this to my daughters and sister-in-law, they agreed - so we decided to just do food gifts. Baked stuff, cooked stuff, tasty treats from delis, bottles of wine, etc.

This is what Christmas without major presents-shopping and buying has felt like:

Very. Very. Good.  

Len and I talked (this conversation was not very intense, maybe 10 minutes while we sitting in our office) about what we would like to do in December as well as what we would like to not do. We wanted to hear music, hike in a beautiful place, cook and eat good food, spend time with friends, get to know our neighbors a little more, not gain weight, live at a normal rate of speed, plus make our food-related gifts for our kids together.

I obtained tickets to the Christmas concert at Carrol University, which is walking distance from here. I may have cried a tiny bit when the choir that I thought was up in the balcony (they were at first) processed down the side aisles in the dark sanctuary, carrying candles while singing “O Come All Ye Faithful”. Why are humans so moved by yearning music and flickering candlelight?

Our granddaughter’s first birthday party was the next day, in Chicago. Off to a good month!

We had people over for several lunches and dinners; old friends and new neighbors. This can be a lot of work – and was. Challenging, funny, tasty (200 cinnamon rolls!) and rich. I don’t want to host weekly get-togethers every month of the year; but it was a jazzy adventure. Fourteen neighbors squished around a table designed for 10, speaking English AND Spanish – that was intimidating until it was opulent.  

(And because Len made his amazing chicken/ham/Andouille sausage gumbo and they didn’t eat it all, we now have in our freezer eight winter suppers for the two of us.)

We scheduled into our calendar the projects that we wanted to do. That way when things popped up we remembered to say no because we needed time to work.  The two sessions in the kitchen became fun; not just tedious tasks squeezed into over-busy weekends.

I have only done the normal amount of grocery and Goodwill shopping this month. No malls, no scrolling through Amazon on-line, no scouring little shops looking for “just the right thing”.

Our kids will all drive here Christmas morning and then they will  be here several hours until they drive away again.  I’m curious to see if it will feel disappointing because we do not have wrapped gifts to open.  

I suspect it will be just fine.

Like most of us: I loved Christmas when the kids were little and the pile of presents under the tree was magical. I loved the little play kitchen, the trikes and bikes, the Legos. There was the year of the American girl doll; Len built a 4-poster bed for Kirsten and I made bed-curtains and quilts. I will never forget my daughter, in her white and red nightgown, seeing that beautiful bed with her new doll in it, her hands to her face as if joy would carry her away.  There was the year one of the kids rode their tiny bike back and forth in the dining room. The Teddy bears and games, books and brightly colored sweaters. There were so many, many lovely, wacky, treasured presents over the years.

But the point of having and raising kids was always that mystery of human life – we need to give in order to receive; we need to join in the confusion in order to become clear-eyed about the privilege and craziness of being people. And that will change just as we do.

They love us, but they are building their own lives so we have to keep on doing that, too. I don’t want Christmas or any other holiday to be homage to what’s past. It seems to me that one of the best things we can give our kids is a path into older adulthood, and hints of the richness of the way it can be now. The magic isn’t in boxes wrapped with ribbons, but in a wintery season of music, candlelight, face-time phone calls with the baby who waves at us. In friendships and lovely meals eaten together and other meals skipped for a beer and a bowl of popcorn, because the book we are reading is just that good.

Life moves on.

To be really real here: In and among the hikes in the woods and concerts and amazing dinners and gorgeous friends – we have had three colds, my favorite pants broke, our car broke so bad the mechanic is suggesting a shot in the paw. Len has been working mammoth days for his contract job, Trump is still president, the Vichy Republicans passed their tax bill, and the cat just threw up in the hallway.

Comments

I still don't believe that's my new name...We are not doing real box and wrapping paper stuff either. Instead I've been going to Christmas concerts ( my brothers son is a music major at Parkside and is in several bands) Dinner and drinks with dear friends and just bringing food to people has filled the month of December with more joy and happiness then anything in a box ever could.

Made me smile. Merry Christmas, Gf!

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Happy Birthday to Len

11/30/2022 

Today is Len’s birthday. I told him this morning I might write about him but I would let him read whatever I said first. He said not to run it past him, he’d like the surprise of reading it when you all do. Let’s see what I come up with.

1. This is cute. Len was born in Chicago’s Passavant Memorial Hospital which was the grandparent hospital to Northwestern’s Prentice Women’s Hospital - where two of our grandkids were born.

Stories, Q Club, Us

The photo is not by Len or me, its from I Love Canada on FB. I've seen a sky like that just once. 

11/21/2022

Last week I read two books about young people who left their homes. They experienced some good and too many rough experiences and they couldn’t go back until they figured out how to not be who they used to be. Both novels knocked my socks off.

The People You Keep by Allison Larkin

Covid Diary #979 - Still Paying Attention?

11/17/2022

Yes, it’s been 979 days since Friday the 13th, March 2020, when everything changed.

Last Saturday one of our kids visited for several hours with their kids. It was fun though our kid looked tired. They said they’d taken a Covid test that morning and it was negative. They figured it was the wine and rich foods they’d shared the evening before with friends at the end of a very busy week.

Next Day - What Are You Seeing?

11/9/2022

It was a late night last night, wasn’t it? Len worked at a polling place 6:30 AM until 10:30 PM. He said the actual experience is a lot like working retail (which he has not done since he was 22). Stand up most of the time, pleasantly say the same thing over and over. Wonder if lunch is soon.  

Professional reporters and pundits are talking a lot about “what just happened”, but heck, we are noticing interesting things, too.  Let’s talk about what We The People saw and heard and are watching now.

Here are some things catching my attention.

Election Day

11/8/2022 

So many times I’ve thought things were going to be okay, and then they weren’t. My dad had that heart attack and the kid who was MB back then told herself to not overthink the drama because things always turn out more or less okay. Then the next day he died.

We lost a pregnancy far enough along that we had a name picked out and a crib in which to put that child. For a week I had all the misery and cramps that go with miscarrying and I still thought somehow it was going to work out okay.

That Beep-Beep-Beeping Moment.

In spring Len got a $100 traffic ticket when he turned right at a corner we’ve been turning right at for seven years. However, construction had started and there were orange barrels and cones everywhere – plus a small sign NOT facing the street Len was on, telling drivers to not turn there.

Len went back later that day and took photos. Len called the city to mention that if they posted a sign that actually faced the traffic, the city could save the cost of the cop parked there ticketing drivers.

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