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I’ve drifted away from this blog and have been spending more time on Gossip and Solitude, a blog about reading and writing. I began Mom’s Musings years ago as a forum to post thoughts about any and everything from family to work and religion to politics. I’m a grandmother now, not a “mom” with dependent children. Does Mom’s Musings still fit? Maybe. Like a friend told me last week, “You’ll always be a mom.”

So here goes.

Note to self: No more whining about anything. I’ve got more good stuff going on than the law allows.

Of all the memorable  things I saw, heard, and experienced this past weekend,the prize goes to a sweet image I’ll carry in my heart for the rest of my days.

I went to church in Myrtle Beach yesterday morning, and as I was chatting with a friend before Sunday school began, my attention was drawn to a sweet scene that involved two tiny people, my granddaughter Amelia and her cousin Fern. The tots were leaving the chapel hand-in-hand on their way to the nursery, and I knew that within their little psyches, they felt the power of love and unity. I could see only the backs of their heads, one blond and the other chestnut, but I didn’t have to see their beautiful faces to know they were smiling.

Backtracking a bit, we dined with Amelia and her siblings and parents Friday evening, and although it might have seemed ordinary to many, to me it was anything but. However, if I hadn’t been deliberately observant, I might have missed, or at least not savored, a few of the shining moments.

  • Ethan, my grandson rode with Elizabeth and me to California Pizza, and on the way, he spotted a huge navel orange in the back seat and claimed it as his own. His aunt Elizabeth told him she had brought it for Grandma Jayne, but that was his orange and no one was wresting it away from him. For dinner, he nibbled on pizza but ate the orange in its entirety.
  • Olivia, the first grader, began coloring and playing tic-tac-toe on her paper placemat right away. Always able to entertain herself, she “worked” and chatted until her mac ‘n’ cheese arrived.
  • Amelia Grace ate her pizza and some of her sister’s chips. Generous, she handed several chip pieces across the table to me. Paying no attention to my no thanks, she kept her little arm extended until I took one or two or three.
  • When we left California Pizza, it was pouring down rain, and Ethan sheltered beneath the umbrella with Elizabeth as we hustled towards the car. The other two children were with their parents, and I’m glad I got a glance of the four of them huddled together as they hurriedly splashed down the sidewalk.

Last Sunday, I attended church in Rincon, GA with my daughter Carrie and her five children. I usually leave after Sacrament service, but that day I stayed for all three meetings. My oldest granddaughter, Brooke, was giving her last talk in Primary that day because the following Sunday (yesterday) she was being promoted to Young Women’s. Lovely and serene, she gave her talk like the champ she is, and witnessing the moment was worth the two-hour delay of leaving.

Shining moments don’t have to involve children or grandchildren. One afternoon last week a friend and I were captivated by a small flock of starlings circling and swooping over downtown Camden. Glad I noticed.

What about you? What’s something that’s made you smile lately?

Why the edginess? This was Carrie’s sixth child, and it had been nearly a decade since her stillborn baby boy had briefly entered our lives. Between then and now, there had been four live births, perfect babies. Still, there it was, a feeling I couldn’t shake.

“The doctor’s probably going to do a C-section,” Carrie had said a few days earlier. I sensed the apprehension in her voice and assured her that I would be there, not just for the delivery but also to help out with the other children afterwards.

As my daughter Elizabeth and I sped down I-95 that July morning, it was already muggy outside. Another scorcher! Neither of us knew what to expect or even how to think about the upcoming birth, so we mostly rode in silence.

“Want to stop at Cracker Barrel?” I asked.

“Not really,” she said.

“Me either. Let’s just get there.

“K.”

Arriving in Savannah a couple of hours later, we squeezed into a skinny parking spot in the hospital’s parking garage, and darted over to the hospital. After getting our stickers allowing entrance to the maternity ward, we hustled down the hall looking for Carrie. But where was she? By now, she should be getting prepped for surgery, but where?

We soon found our way to her room, and there she sat looking a little anxious and preoccupied, almost fragile.

“Whew. Glad we got here before they took you to the OR. I’d have been upset if I’d missed you,” I said, giving her a fierce hug.

“No danger of that,” she replied with a wry smile.

“Why? Are they backed up in the operating room?”

“No, nothing like that. The doctor came in, and since he was able to turn the baby, he thinks I should try a vaginal birth.”

“So that’s good, isn’t it?”

“Well, yeah…unless Seth decides to move again before we can get the ball rolling.”

“We’ll just have to trust the doctor, Sweetie.”

“I know, I know. I just wish someone would come and start the Pitocin.”

Carrie had barely spoken when someone came in and whisked her away to another room. Small, the room had a huge window on the far side and a bed square in the middle of the tiled floor. For hours, we took turns waltzing in and out of Carrie’s room, chatting and waiting, waiting, waiting.

Finally, the moment of birth approached, and the doctor shooed everyone out of the room except for Seth’s parents and a nurse.

“Gee, I hate to leave. I’ve never really seen a live birth,” I said for the third or fourth time that day.

No invitation was forthcoming so I joined Seth’s granddaddy and aunt right outside of the room. The granddaddy chuckled and said, “Did you really think that hint was going to help?”

“I was hoping,” I said.

Just then, the door cracked open and Rich said, “Hey Jayne, Want to come inside?”

“You mean it?”

“Sure. Come on in.”

The atmosphere in the room was electric, tense, serious. The nurse counted, and the doctor said, “Push.” Many times.

“I see the head! One more push ought to do it,” the doctor said.

I took a peek and nearly gasped. I could see Seth’s head, but something was wrong. His head was blue. His little blue, limp body followed moments later.

The doctor called for the NICU nurses, and within seconds there were two or three extra nurses in the room with us. Two or three? I truly can’t recall. The atmosphere was charged with tension as the capable nurses worked with the baby and the machines.

I leaned over the tiny, still body on the table and began whispering to him as one of the nurses worked with him.

In the most calm, gentle voice I could muster, I said something like, “Hello Sweet Boy. I’m so glad to see you. I already love you so much. We’ve been waiting for you a long time and came all the way down here this morning just to see you. Wake up, now. I want you to look at me when I tell you how precious you are, how lucky you are to be born to parents who love you so much.”

From the bed, “Mama, what’s wrong? Why isn’t he crying? Is everything okay?”

“Everything’s fine,” I said. “He’s just being a lazy little guy.”

“When can I see him?”

“In just a minute. I have to talk to him some more first.”

As I continued to speak to Seth in the soothing tones used by women in all corners of the world when comforting a child, his skin gradually became rosy. My throat tightened. I gulped before speaking again.

“Come on, Buddy. I want to see your pretty eyes.”

I was down on his level, inches from his small pink face.

Seth opened his eyes and stared straight into mine. We held the mutual gaze for several moments, and I heard the nurse tell the doctor that all was well. Amazingly, his APGAR score at birth had been 2 on a scale of 1-10.

I laughed and cried with joy. Seth was alive and well, and I was the first human he had seen on this earth.

When I told a friend of mine about the experience later, she looked into my eyes and said, “You communicated spirit to spirit. He knew who you were.”

That was three years ago. This amazing, precocious, adorable little boy doesn’t remember his grandmother coaxing him into life. But she does. It’s something she’ll never forget.

 

Nothing big or major here. Just a few observations on life.

I’m at the beach for a few days and have relished every moment of my time here thus far. Despite being overly fatigued, my daughters and grandchildren have added much joy to my life. Here are some thoughts, not too deep but worth considering.

On the way to the coast, I stopped in Conway to visit with an old and dear friend. One of the many things I’ve always loved about her is her ability to hear about a situation and assess it “spot on” without all of the emotional fringe stuff.  Then too there’s the fact that she’s wise, spiritual, philosophical, and practical. If that sounds like an interesting combination, well yes, that’s what makes her so special.

Before we had our conversation, I turned the corner (more like a soft curve) and spotted two women walking down the middle of the tree-lined street, and I recognized them as my friend and her expectant daughter. Immediately I recalled a moment that happened 35 (?) years ago when I saw her cross Main Street from Ninth Avenue cradling this same daughter in her arms. Catherine was a baby, and her mom was taking her to daycare before work. Those were the days—the crazy days of childcare and working that somehow we managed to get through.

Decades later there were two blond, beautiful women ambling down a Conway street, one expecting a baby in less than two weeks. So in a sense, I was walking behind three generations although I couldn’t see the tiny one’s face or form – yet. Plus, they were in Conway. Conway. A city with a lot of history for these two and many, many others. You could almost sense the spirits of their ancestors hovering about.

Early the next morning my daughters and grandchildren were up and about making preparations for a couple of hours on the strand. I was in beach attire, and Colton, the little five-year-old kept playing (best word here) with my upper arms. “Why does your skin shake like this, Grandmama?” he asked as he flicked it back and forth.

“Leave Grandmama’s arms alone,” his mother instructed. “Do you think she’s enjoying that?”

Ah, the challenges of getting older. It’s neither fun nor attractive to have flabby arms, but what are my choices? Some people have surgery, but then there are scars to deal with. Plus, there may be more limited use of movement and strength. My intention right now is to keep them covered and focus on the wonderful things my arms have allowed (still allow). For starters, hugging people. I love that. Also driving my car, picking up things, and chalk painting furniture. I started to say “typing,” but I know there are people out there who might remind me of stronger souls than I who have learned to type holding a pencil in their mouths.

That same day I went for a walk on the beach, and four older ladies (75?) stopped me and asked me to take their picture. Happily, I complied. I snapped about four pictures, and hopefully one will be flattering of all four. When I handed the camera back, one of the foursome asked, “Can you even see her face?” She was referring to one of the group who did not want to have her picture made.

“Yes, she’s trying to hide, but she’s there.”

“Hey, it’s a memory,” I said. “Y’all are gonna love looking at it later and remembering this beautiful day when you were together and happy,”

“Yeah, listen to her. She understands,” one of the women said as I turned away to continue my walk.

That little five-year-old is now on the patio with me—no more writing for hours—maybe days. But life is good. I have great friends, arms to embrace this little fellow, and some good beach memories.

Doing my best to “seize the shining moments.” What about you?

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No heavy duty thoughts tonight. Just a few insights and feelings that I had while working like a maniac in the kitchen Friday.

We were snowbound for a couple of days here in the sunny South this week, and at some point I started paying attention to recipes. A one-layer chocolate cake recipe grabbed my attention, and when I clicked the link, I saw the magic words “unsweetened cocoa.” How can a person go wrong with the real stuff in a recipe? I’ve made my share of chocolate cakes and have doctored them up to make them a little more delectable, but I knew that nothing short of bona fide cocoa could provide the rich chocolate flavor I craved. With the thought of my grandchildren arriving later in the day, I got out the big mixing bowl.

Lining up the baking soda, baking powder, vanilla, eggs, and other ingredients required more work than opening a box of Duncan Hines mix and adding eggs, water, and oil. And yet, I found that I got into the task (?) right away. I listened to my iPod and started measuring the all-purpose flour.

As I added the baking soda, I recalled the words of my mother. “Always break the lumps up. If you don’t, someone might bite down into a bitter clump in the cake.” I heard her voice again as I began applying butter to the pan. Years and years ago, I couldn’t figure out how to grease a pan with Crisco without getting greasy hands, and again my mother came to my rescue. “Just use a paper towel to rub it on,” she said.

I doubled the recipe because of the number of people who would be sharing the cake, and when plundering through the pots and pans to find a second one, I found a pink heart-shaped dish that my daughter Elizabeth had given me. “Perfect!” I thought. It will be Valentine’s day in a couple of weeks, and we can start celebrating LOVE MONTH this weekend. Then I thought about Lizbeth and how much she has taught me about placing culinary creations on pretty plates and platters. “It’s all about the presentation, Mom.”

Cakes in the oven, I took a look around the kitchen and felt a little heartsick. The counters were covered with cocoa and flour, cracked egg shells were resting in the sink, and the boxes and bottles of ingredients were scattered everywhere. And the mixer and beaters…what a mess. How in the world did so much batter get on the mixer???

Immediately I thought of my Grandmother Padgett, a superb cook but a messy one. Standing there looking at my counters, I could visualize MaMa Padgett whizzing around her small kitchen. From the sink to the counter to the stove and back to the sink she’d go, leaving a trail of flour with every move she made. I can still taste her “angel biscuits” and pound cake, the latter often chock full of walnuts.

But back to Jayne’s kitchen. After the cake cooled, I used a chocolate glaze purchased right off of the Wal-Mart shelf. It didn’t feel like cheating since I’d cooked the rest of the cake without a mix or short cut. Was it a success? Let’s just say that the last image I had of my grandson Braden before he and his family left my house yesterday was of him chowing down on the two pieces of cake I had put aside for our dessert last night. Did I stop him? No way! I looked at him and thought of what my mother would had done if she’d seen a grandchild enjoying that last little treat. I just smiled and tousled his hair.

If you’d seen me in my kitchen Friday, you’d have thought I was alone. But I wasn’t. I had three of my favorite relatives with me the whole time, and I couldn’t stop thinking about the dozens of lessons I’ve learned in the kitchen, some about food preparation and some about life.

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We were sitting in the Trestle enjoying lunch when my husband called. Although I rarely take calls while in the company of others, especially during a meal, I decided to answer this one. I figured it must have been important since I’d already talked to him once that day.

He has the  “find my phone” app and knows where I am 24/7.

“Hey! I see you’re already on the way home.”

“No, I’m in Conway having lunch with Carrie and the California crowd,” I said as I smiled at Emma who was devouring her chicken strips with great gusto.

“Oh.” And then after a pause, “Well, are you leaving from there?”

“No, I actually have to go back to the beach before I leave.”

“That’s crazy! Why are you doing that?”

“Because there are 11 of us, and we couldn’t all fit in one car.  I’m a driver today and have been pointing out some of the sights of the area to Rich’s mom and sisters.”

“Well, when are you leaving Conway? Right after lunch?”

I was beginning to get un poco annoyed. It was hard to explain the desire/need  to spend every possible moment with the people around the table to someone who lives within a 30 mile radius of everyone he loves.  “Uh, well, we’re doing the whole River Walk thing first.”

Silence. Then, “Let me know when you leave.”

I promised to be home by dark and hung up the phone just as Brook asked if I’d share my sour dough bread with her. The Trestle in Conway has the best sour dough bread in SC, and Brooke, my 8-year-old granddaughter, apparently felt the same way.

We laughed and talked and had several photo ops. I bought a huge piece of chocolate pound cake to share with everyone, but my plans came to naught since 4-year-old Colton apparently thought I had bought it especially for him. After getting impatient with sharing the fork, he dug into it with his tiny fingers and pushed a savory bite into his mouth.

When we got down to the last bite, I offered to split it and share it with him. Keep in mind that I had only enjoyed two measly bites.

“Okay,” he said. “But how about I get the big bite?”

Bills paid and tips left, we took off for a stroll along the River Walk, and what a great time was had by all.  With temperatures in the low 70’s and the sun shining down through the majestic trees, the weather was beautiful. Old Man River just kept on gliding along, and we felt ourselves relaxing to its rhythms. Boats and at least one kayak slid by on the calm surface of the Waccamaw, and dozens of people sat on benches or sauntered along taking in the beauty of the scene. It didn’t take much imagination to think that this could have been an October afternoon in 1713 instead of 2013.

While the need to head for home and responsibilities nagged at my consciousness, I refused to succumb to “duty demands” and was determined to relish every moment of the afternoon. The children picked flowers for Aunt Heidi’s hair, and she was a good sport about it. Later I noticed three of the little ones surrounding Heather on a bench overlooking the Waccamaw. They were caught up in conversation with her, and I loved seeing the interaction between them. Glancing at the scene, I noticed for the first time just how much Brooke looked like her aunts, her father’s twin sisters.

There are many scenes tucked away in my memory bank from that special afternoon, too many to recount. Still, I’m listing one from each of the people I shared the hours with.

  • Carrie snapping pictures right and left. At one point, Colton jumped on her as she squatted down to capture just the perfect picture of Seth. Seth decided to get in on the fun, and it was fun to see her immobilized by the two tiny people.
  • Emma picking up acorns and placing them in strategic places for the squirrels to find.
  • Colton picking up what he perceived to be a unique rock and asking me to hold it for him. (I still have it)
  • Braden gleefully fun photo bombing his aunts’ pictures.
  • Seth sleeping peacefully throughout the hustle and bustle around him throughout lunch.
  • The interaction between my grandchildren and their California grandmother and aunts. Love abounded, and it touched my heart.

It was an awesome afternoon with lots of laughter and special moments. Maybe someone else who was there beside the Waccamaw that day will chime in with a memory. Or maybe someone out there in Cyberspace will share a memory of a time when he or she snatched a few hours from the daily round to make some memories.

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How you feel about love these days? That’s my writing prompt for today, and it’s just what I needed to get my muse mojo going. After the sights and sounds of love that I experienced this week, the prompt is perfect. Every day for the past several days, I’ve been privileged to look into the faces of people dear to me and to hold my grandchildren close to my heart. I’m fascinated with Ethan’s blond hair and Olivia’s steadily increasing vocabulary. And the Maseda grands who live near Savannah? Each one is remarkable and well-loved.

It’s easy to love my grandchildren and their parents. In fact, I love all of my family, including the extended ones and the ones I don’t get to see often. My friends are dear to my heart too. I’ve studied several theories of friendship over the years, and I must admit that they all apply to my friendly relations. Some of us have been friends since we were preschoolers while others arrived more recently on the scene. Still, I love them all.

But what about those “other people,” the ones who are “different” from you and me? Aren’t we supposed to love them too? I’ve been thinking about that quite a bit lately too, largely because of Independence Day and the huge variety of people I’ve seen. Honestly, at the Myrtle Beach State Park this week, I’ve seen just about every shape, size, race, ethnicity, and race that there is. I’ve heard several different languages and sniffed numerous aromas emanating from the picnic tables and grills at the state park.

And how do I feel about it? I LOVE it! I love the diversity of people, customs, language, and traditions, and I love the USA. It’s a land choice above all other lands, and thankfully at some time in the past some of my ancestors made the decision to immigrate here. So did yours, unless you’re a Native American.

Back to love. Love is the most important emotion and force in the universe. It motivates us to action, soothes our wounds, binds us together, helps us grow, and sometimes breaks our hearts. Love is much more important than all the silver and gold in the world although everything, including love, goes a little more smoothly with money. I’d like a little silver and gold too. It’s just that for the essence of life, nothing can beat love.

There are several definitions of love, but the one I’m thinking of this morning has to do with what Christ said when delivering the second greatest commandment. In case you’re like me and need a little reminder of what that is and where to find it, look in Matthew 22:39: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” He didn’t say, “Try to love this person if you can.” He essentially commanded us to do it.

He didn’t say love the people of your tribe, family, race, social class, or political party ONLY.  It’s funny how things you learn as a child stick with you, and yesterday as I walked along the beach, I saw such a diversity of people that I kept hearing the refrain of “Red and yellow black and white, all are precious in His sight.” It’s hard to do sometimes. Those people talking with the funny accents as I waited for them to finish rinsing their feet and chairs and buckets weren’t feeling too much love from a sandy-coated, hot me.

What I’m getting at is that it’s easier to love people that you’re related or who are in your friendship circle. It’s harder to love those who speak a different language, worship a different god, or have a different complexion. At the same time, is it okay to pick and choose the commandments we follow?

Tell me what you think, my fellow Americans. I keep thinking of examples of love I’ve seen this week, enough for another blog post. Stay tuned. I’ll write that one tomorrow.

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Olivia and Ethan have been dancing together. Carrie’s kids have been hiding toys in the freezer, and the older ones have been experimenting with cooking. I miss them so much and have been counting the days until I see them again next week. All seven of them will be in Myrtle Beach at the same time for a few short days, and for the first time in months, they’ll all be at the same church together.

So what’s the problem? Anyone who’s read very much of this blog knows how I feel about the sweetness of being in church with one’s family. And to hear Brooke sing? Well, that’s just the icing on the cake. She pours her heart into it, and her enthusiasm in “making a joyful noise” gives the people around her the courage to sing a little louder.

The problem is that I’m having one of those approach-approach conflicts, the kind in which the person is trying to make a decision between two equally desirable and attractive options. It’s sort of like a no lose situation, and yet in this situation, if I opt to do one thing, then I’ll miss out on some holy experiences in the other.

On that same day, June 30th, the women’s organization, Relief Society, in my home ward is having a two-hour conference. It’s going to be a spectacular event, and the women who have been planning it have many uplifting, inspiring, and faith building experiences in store for us. It’s so important that both the Sunday school and Primary organizations are going to be led by the men that day so that all the women will be free to attend. We/I have been looking forward to this for several weeks.

What to do? What to do? I love my sistas, and I love learning and being inspired, but I love Brooke’s singing more. When talking to one of my sisters-in-law about it, she reminded me that there are some experiences you just can’t get back if you miss them. “Thanks,” I told her. “You’ve reminded me of what’s more important.”

“Yes,” she said. “You can see your grandchildren anytime, but it sounds like this is a once-in-a-lifetime conference.”

“Oh my gosh,” I said, laughing a little. “I thought you were saying to stay in Conway with the fam.”

“Not really. You can see them later that day and the next one too.”

She’s right. And yet, I can’t see them in church with each other, their parents, and their aunts and uncles. And then there’s the luncheon we’re planning at Elizabeth’s afterward. Breaking bread with loved ones is a peak experience too, made even more special by its rarity in this case.

I’ve made up my mind. Can you guess where I’ll be on the 30th?

Sunday was an awesome day from dawn to dusk and then some. I never need a reminder of how special my mother was, and yet since it was Mother’s Day, the day was filled with memories of her words, actions, looks, advice, laughter, personality…and well, you get the picture. I had to give a talk in church, and the topic was how a mother can influence her children to live the teachings of the gospel. While the talk including some Biblical women whose lives demonstrated faith, love, courage, kindness, and hard work. I just had to let everyone know that my mother had all those sterling qualities in one 115 pound package.

Here’s the quote: “Like Rachel, she was beautiful, and like Leah, she was hardworking, dependable, and faithful. Like Hannah, she was grateful for all of her blessings, and like Mary and Martha, she kept a good balance between her spiritual and her work-a-day life. And then, like Dorcas, my mother was mourned by her friends after her death.”

By the way, I lifted that right out of my new book, Eve’s Sisters. I’d like to think that my mother would have been pleased to hear such sincere praise, but then again, she might have been embarrassed at the extra attention.

Later in the day, I headed to the coast and stopped in Conway for a visit with my daughter Elizabeth. She’s the only one of my three children I got to lay eyes on (in person) that day. I had some face time on my iPhone with the other two AND with my seven grandchildren. (The fact that I had to use my iPhone instead of my computer was the first indication that I was going to have connectivity issues.)

Elizabeth treated me to a delicious Mexican dinner and presented me with some lovely treasures, including a bag with the peace symbol on the front. Then we communicated with Paul and Amanda and their two precious children using my phone and their iPad. Olivia spent much of our time “together” spinning around in circles. Then she proceeded to be Mama’s little helper by feeding her baby brother a little bit of milk. Amanda describes Ethan as a “chill baby,” and he certainly demonstrated that trait last night! Although he couldn’t have been getting much nourishment, he patiently endured his sister’s efforts without a whimper.

Ah then, we repeated the same communication via phones and iPads with my daughter Carrie and her five children in Rincon,GA. It was thrilling to see Braden looking so tall and acting so grown up. He’ll be 9 in two weeks. The girls told me all about their muffin and doughnut sale of the day before. Brooke raised $52 from the customers, and then Emma gave her $7 of her hard earned money for her old bike so now they both have wheels. Colton told me that his favorite muffins tasted blue, and Seth just stared at the screen looking like an angel baby.

Time to bring this to a close. I’m sitting in an internet café because I can’t get connection with my tiny MiFi or the hotspot feature on my iPhone. Doesn’t that seem a little weird? Why am I paying so much money every month for a service that I can’t use??? It’d be easy to get angry, and yet I find myself remembering a song that Brooke sang to me Sunday evening, the same one that I heard the Primary children sing earlier that day. I didn’t memorize it, but it goes soemthing like, “I love to look for rainbows whenever there is rain.” I have lots of rainbows in my life and am focusing on them. Thanks for the reminder, Miss Brookie!

I have little Brooke on my mind this morning. It’s amazing what you can learn from a 6-year-old.

In need of a grandchildren “fix,” I recently drove to Rincon, GA to see one of my daughters and her family. Since their parents couldn’t seem to get much house and yard work done with the four older children around, I volunteered to take them to Dairy Queen for lunch and to the local park for fun. Energetically, they ran from one end of the park to the other and from one piece of equipment to the next before congregating around the monkey bars.

Brooke stood on the platform, poised and ready to reach out for the monkey bars. Her little face was a portrait of concentration. Twice already, she had attempted to cross over from the small platform to the one on the other side, and twice she had struggled right in the middle.

Then a little girl, a stranger, came along. Without appearing to even think about it, Vanessa reached out her right arm, grabbed the first bar, and continued all the way across until she landed safely on the other side. Brooke and I both watched her and noticed that she had a certain swing in her maneuvers. Rather than just reaching for one bar and then the next, Vanessa turned her little body from side to side, motions that seemed to propel her forward. She made it appear effortless.

Soon tiring of the monkey bars, Vanessa scampered away to find other equipment to play on, and Brooke once again ascended to the platform.  Standing at the ready, she said, “I can do this.” I couldn’t help but smile, loving her determination and confidence. Again, “I can do this,” this time a little more assured. “That’s my girl,” I said. “You can do it.”

After reciting “I can do this, “ once more, Brooke grabbed the first bar, and imitating Vanessa’s swing approach, she quickly reached the other side. Almost giddy with the sense of accomplishment, she tried it again. After watching her older sister have several successful attempts, Emma clamored up on the platform. I got a little tickled as I heard her say, “I can do this.” Her face scrunched up with determination, she repeated the phrase another two times just like her older sister had done. Since Emma is  younger, shorter, and not quite as coordinated as Brooke, I wasn’t quite as certain of her success. Truthfully, her little arms couldn’t even reach the first bar. She was so resolute, however, that I knew I had to help her to succeed.

“Want me to hold you up?” I asked.

“No. Just put me close enough to the first one so I can grab it,” she said. “But don’t hold on to me.”

“Want me to stay close?” I asked, knowing that if I weren’t right there, she’d likely fall to the ground below.

“Uh-huh. And put your hands beside me, but not on me until I tell you to,” she demanded.

I followed Emma’s instructions, and although I pretty much participated 50/50 in the short distance between the two platforms, she did it!

Hands down, my favorite psychological term is elf-efficacy, the belief a person has in her ability to accomplish something. This belief is reportedly more important than a person’s actual ability. If Brooke had had low perceived self-efficacy, she wouldn’t have made it across from one platform to the next despite her physical ability. While I’m on the subject of lessons, Brooke also demonstrated the power of a good example. Because of her determination and success, little Emma gave it a shot. Hmmm. And Emma taught a lesson too: people need support. People need others close enough to catch them if they fall but not too close.

 The more I think about that afternoon in the park, a half a dozen situations and their inherent lessons spring to mind. I’ll save them for another day, however. Today, thanks to my granddaughters, I’m working on my self-efficacy.

 

The house is quiet tonight, almost too quiet. All of the Christmas company has gone home, the tree has been taken down, and the fireworks commemorating the new year are going off all around my house. As I reflect on yet another holiday season coming to a close, I’m reminded of another lesson I learned from my mother. Christmas isn’t just one day. Well, it is and it isn’t. What she meant is that Christmas is a season and a feeling and that it doesn’t have to be confined to one 24-hour period. When we spend so much time, money, energy, and thought into making the day one of unimaginable splendor and beauty, we sometimes miss the meaning and the magic.

So that’s got me thinking of when I first realized, “Oh, it’s here again!” Was it when I first saw the Salvation Army people collecting money at Wal-Mart? Or was it when I turned in the last grade for the semester? No, maybe it was the day after that when I attended a luncheon at our local CCTC satellite campus. Or no, I think it was actually when I arrived in NYC with three like-minded gals for a day of sightseeing and shopping in the Big Apple. If there’s anyone on earth who can see the Macy’s store windows and the huge “Believe” sign on the front of the block-sized department store and not feel the spirit, that person has some psychological issues.

I did a lot of fun things this season (including the above mentioned trip to Manhattan!), but when it comes right down to it, my most precious recollections have to do with people, the people I love…and some who are strangers too. In no particular order, here are a few sweet memories.

  • Seeing the Salvation Army men dancing dancing dancing in NYC. In front of Macy’s and at Rockefeller Center, these spirited men were entertaining the crowds and raising money for a good cause.
  • Seeing Santa sitting on a bench near Rockefeller Center. Jolly old Saint Nick happily posed for a picture with Kayla, the youngest of our group.
  • My husband’s children and their partners and children joining us on the afternoon of the 17th for food and fellowship. We were especially happy that Kacey could join us this year. And all of remarked on how much difference a year could make. Baby Charlie was walking all over the place, and last year he couldn’t even crawl yet.
  • Earlier that day, we had a Christmas get-together with all of my husband’s siblings and their families. When he and I first got married, these events were held in a home, but now that the family has grown so much, we’ve moved the party to a local church. Santa came. He was jolly and patient, but he couldn’t fool Whitney. “He’s not the real Santa,” she confided in me. “I could see the strap holding his beard.”
  • The night of the 22nd when I saw three of my grandchildren’s faces pressed up against window of the breezeway door. I flung open the door, hugged them tight, and then saw another sight for sore eyes: their other two siblings and their parents.
  • That same night around 11:15 when I heard a tentative “Mom?” It was my son Paul who had stopped over to spend the night on his way to Myrtle Beach where his wife and daughter were waiting.
  • Later that night seeing Paul and Carrie’s heads together as they discussed the merits of various laptops.
  • Watching and listening as the kids opened their gifts on the night of the 23rd. Need I say more about this? Everyone who’s been a child or been around a child can imagine this scenario.
  • The Christmas Eve brunch. I loved having my sibs(two of them) and their families, my Aunt Polly, my cousin Sue & her family, and of course my children here for a fun gathering. Thanks to help from my beautiful daughter Elizabeth, everything came together. We even played Christmas bingo…loved watching Brooke help her father play the game.
  • Following through with a Christmas Eve tradition of seeing a movie; this year it was Sherlock Holmes.
  • Sitting between Otis and Elizabeth in church on Christmas morning as we listened to the messages and the soul-stirring music.
  • Christmas day lunch at my mother-in-law’s house. After all of the feasting we’d been experiencing, we decided on a light menu, subs and cake. Loved that!
  • Monday brunch at Elizabeth’s home in Conway. More yummy food!
  • Having Olivia, Amanda, Paul, and Elizabeth come for a visit in Myrtle Beach and watching Olivia push her new pink grocery cart all over the house. She was wearing her black boots and chatting away. Later we went to Nacho Hippo for a farewell dinner.
  • Shopping for after Christmas deals with Elizabeth the next day. We love Target!
  • Naturally, I couldn’t include everything in the above. Who would want to read all of it anyway?

For some brief, shining moments, we were all together enjoying one another’s presence and remembering Christmases past. On Christmas Eve, I shared a toast with all who were present, and although you weren’t there, you’d like the toast. It was based on the end of a movie, Places in the Heart. My friend Martha had declared its ending to be the best of all movie endings so I had to rent it.

The scene takes inside of a church, and all the pews are populated not only by people who live in the small town but also by those who have “moved on,” either by death or change of location. They’re all partaking of the Lord’s Supper, and although there has been a lot of heartache and pain in the movie, in that final scene, everyone is there…everyone.

What I took from the church scene is that love is the most important and powerful force in the universe and that people who’ve once been a part of your life will always be there with you. You might not be able to see them, but they’re there. Oh and P.S., my mother was right. Christmas is more than a day.