Sunday, December 26, 2010
I remember Christmas as a small girl in a remote Montana outpost that Christmas meant my mother creating magic in one room of the oilfield bungalow that replaced the gracious Victorian ranch house no longer ours. For that moment our parents stepped out the glorious past into a trip to the Sweet Grass Hills. The fragrant tree was decorated with spun glass fruits collected by our mother in San Francisco. Under it four gifts, purchased from Sears' catalog, beckoned to my brothers and me. I received a doll, but I secretly coveted the wooden barn and farm animals given to my brother Pat.
Today I am glad it is the day after Christmas. The highlights were sending and receiving cards and letters to far away friends and family during the Advent Season. I love decorating though this year fewer of the heirlooms traveled from the guest house basement to the adobe house and the white Christmas tree with its silver and white ornaments.
I did not bake countless little loaves of bread and fruit cakes soaked in brandy.. I did prepare gingerbread dough for grandchildren, Sophie, Lauren, Joseph and Bobby to roll into gingerbread people.
I once had creches displayed on every fireplace, and table top. This year there was one on the altar for photographs of our lost loved ones, beginning with Dennis, my beloved son who died almost twelve years ago.
My manuscript on aging advanced with a couple of long writing sessions and then all the fun of family arriving, and celebrating Christmas Eve with a festive dinner, and Christmas day with a lot of relaxation, walks with the dogs, and preparing beef stroganoff with Shauna for dinner. The kids had a great time with the Christmas crackers.
It is interesting to me that our spiritual beliefs may evolve, but our devotions to old traditions may not. And so we are allowed to return to the magic of childhood if only for a holiday moment.
Monday, December 6, 2010
In my seventies, I think of what a good parent I could be today now that I am too old for the job. I also remember blaming my mother for almost everything that ever went wrong in her life. I denounced her values. I was impatient with her tentativeness. I never accepted her as a good role model, and only now do I realize how much I have become like her.
You will know when you have actually become a mature adult because you will be able to see your parents as the two people they are separate from their parent roles. It is amazing to begin to understand why they parented the way they did. It is also comforting to know that the things you disliked the most in them are what you avoided most in your own relationship with your children. Examples would be physical punishment or shaming as a form of discipline.
We never cease having a child within, and that child never ceases looking for someone to soothe his pain, to love him when he least deserves it. That person may be a parent of choice rather than an actual parent, but they are out there, and you will be aware of them as they come in to your life at different times. Meanwhile trying to appreciate what your parents went through is helpful.
For me, parenting was the toughest job I ever did. I never felt up to the task but did the best I could at the time. I would like to do it over again now that I have gained a higher degree of wisdom to do so.