Saturday, May 23, 2020

Sheltering at Home: March and April in a Pandemic

I want to remember this strange time, and how we were during a pandemic.

Largely, we were the same.

Outside the window, the bright red male cardinal and a special guest towhee perched on the black hook of the feeder while the red-bellied woodpecker hammered at the drain pipe, all spring long, marking his territory. Squirrels clung like acrobats to the feeders, and Randy periodically yelled, "Hey, squirrel! Scram! You're a jerk!" The flowers bloomed in their usual order: daffodils, forsythia, hyacinths, tulips, daisies, roses, irises, sweet William, peonies. Spring has been exceptionally long and beautiful this year, with cool evenings and temperatures only reaching 90 once so far.




Inside the house, I read, kept all the household things moving along, taught a class from couch or table, fixed meals, played mindless games on my laptop, watched Netflix. Like everyone else everywhere. Randy worked mostly from the sunporch, teaching classes and having meetings via Zoom.  Bonus: I get to go outside, walking around in my big yard or in our neighborhood, with its wide lawns and streets. Randy and I both did lots of yardwork—he even conquered our side yard, which was an absolute jungle of weeds, ivy, and honeysuckle. What victory!

Teaching a Brave Writer class from home

Randy conquering the jungle

Duncan arrived home toward the end of March. He had been in Peru on a spring break ecology trip when the world went crazy. He was off the grid in the Amazonian rainforest and had little idea of what was happening. He got out of Peru just two hours before the country closed its borders, and they made it back to North Carolina safely. They quarantined then, having been in four major airports. We were so happy to see him when he finally got back home. He was sad, of course, to leave college with just six weeks left, but he's such a happy guy. He diligently did his online classes and connected with his friends daily. He's definitely made the best of a weird situation.

Duncan arrived home from college with an extra roll of TP


When all the climbing walls are closed....

Lots of hammocking

Watching the quiet world


Once a week or so, we ventured outside for hikes. Before the national and state parks closed, we headed there. After, we had to settle for less scenic city parks or just the neighborhood.

Stinging Creek Falls

East Lakeshore Trail

Obed Natural Area

Obed Natural Area

We celebrated birthdays, worked, chatted with family, held book club, and gathered with friends via Zoom. We talked to Randy's mom, who is quarantined at her senior care facility, via FaceTime each Tuesday.

Mom turned 93

The entire family joined her Zoom birthday celebration!

Book club!

Tuesday FaceTiming with Randy's mom. Thanks to her awesome nurse, Leslie, for setting this up each week!

Celebrating Jesse's 27th birthday!

Weekend family chat


Randy has been our ambassador to the outside world. Once every week, he puts on mask and gloves and heads out to the grocery store for us and my parents.


We visited our Knoxville kids once, bringing bread and flowers and wine. It was sooo good to see them, from a distance, of course. The streets of Knoxville were empty and quiet.



Like so many couples, one of the first questions when this began was:



They've decided to postpone their wedding until next summer because they really had their hearts set on getting married July 4. I totally understand--it's so weird to plan a wedding during this time when we all feel in limbo.

Limbo. That's how March and April felt, as if we were suspended in time. It's been a sweet time, honestly, for the most part. There is certainly an underlying, uneasy feeling of uncertainty, of course. A restlessness. And yet we have enjoyed more time together without the pressures of having to go anywhere. We are among those who have secure jobs that can be easily moved to home. We have shelter and food and reliable internet access and financial security. Our parents are safe, our children are safe, our friends are safe, and we are all healthy. As of today, our county has had 77 cases of COVID-19. We're still rising a case or two each week. Everything has opened back up now, so we are watching the numbers to see what happens next.

And that's life in the first two months of coronavirus.



Sunday, April 5, 2020

Journaling Through Coronavirus: Week 2

How did your first week go? I hope your students had a chance to share their journals! You, too!

The days seem long, don't they? I don't know about you, but often I feel lethargic, even though I have plenty of time to be DOING things. Instead, I just find myself...being. And that's okay.

Journaling can be such a healthy tool, but if this becomes onerous for your child—any part of it or all of it—be sure to take a break. Pick it back up again next week, or just do one part and not others. Be sure to offer to be your child's secretary if that's helpful to them. Sometimes, you might even just jot down things your child says or conversations you have around the dinner table. That's worth preserving!

As a reminder, each week, we will do three activities: Capture/Collage, Create, and Communicate. (Just joining us? Start here for the big picture and for links to other weeks' assignments!)

I. In your journals this week, look for ways to Capture and Collage. As you go through this week, look for things that speak to you: memes, news headlines, comic strips, a quote, song lyrics, a poem, a passage from the Bible, a paragraph from a book you are reading, photos. etc. Choose a few each week, and make a weekly collage page by printing, cutting, and pasting into your journal; writing out quotes; copying by drawing; or whatever method works for you.

Here's a quote from a poem that I really love—Mary Oliver's "Sometimes." This makes me think about all the small things that tend to go unnoticed. Maybe now, as we have so much more quiet time than usual, we can notice more things:

"Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it."
 
 Here's something that made me smile...

 And something that made me laugh because this is our family's new weekend tradition:



 I'd love to see your weekly collage, if you want to share in the comments!

 

II. Create

Do your own thing! Write a poem, make a diary entry (or one each day!), ask questions, make lists, paint a picture, draw a cartoon.

Need an idea for poetry? NPR is showcasing quarantine haiku this week. As they say there, "Poems helps us process both the world out there and the world inside ourselves, putting words to feelings that we might have suspected were ours alone to carry." Form poetry is a terrific way to enter into poetry writing. Sometimes free verse can seem too free—kids have no idea where to start! A simple haiku of three lines— 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables—is an easy pattern to follow and gives one a feeling of great satisfaction. If you and your kids write some, be sure to share on Twitter @NPRLifeKit with the hashtag #socialdistancinghaiku.

Here are some shared with that hashtag:

Friday afternoon: 
Cloudy, dreary, rainy. Three 
Sleeping animals.
(Ms. Bradford @msbradford)


Sweatpants and hoodies 
My working from home dress code 
Real pants not required 
(Alicia Claflin @clifclaf)


Give it a try, if you want!

III. Communicate


Do this however you wish—in a short freewrite, written out in dialogue, as an actual story. Think of this as stream-of-consciousness thinking. Just write what comes to mind as a response without worrying about proper grammar, sentence structure, etc. (Feel free to send me prompt ideas, especially ones related to the coronavirus that might come up at your house!) Guidelines to freewriting are found here at Brave Writer.

Here are a couple of prompts. The first one is not related to the pandemic, as some of your kids might need a break from thinking about it! (You may need to adjust them for younger kids.)
1. What traditions does your family have? List all of them or just pick one and write about it. 

2. What's going on in the image below? Freewrite about what this picture makes you think of—or write a story or a play inspired by this illustration.


 {And a reminder: This is not the time to correct grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc. Let’s let those things go, okay?}


That's it for Week 2! Remember: sharing is important! I encourage you to share some or all of your kids’ work. If they don’t want to share publicly, that’s okay! Just be sure to set aside time each week to share at home or send photos to grandparents, friends, etc. If you are a BHEA member, you can share either on the weekly Facebook thread or here on the blog, if you'd like. Others are welcome to share here in the comments or in whatever way works for you.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Journaling Through Coronavirus: Week 1



Week 1

Do you have your journals ready? Let’s start!

As a reminder, each week, we will do three activities: Capture/Collage, Create, and Communicate. (Just joining us? Start here for the big picture!)

I. In your journals this week, look for ways to Capture and Collage

Here are a few examples of things that made me giggle or maybe nod my head in agreement:

As you go through this week, look for things that speak to you: memes, news headlines, comic strips, a quote, song lyrics, a poem, a passage from the Bible, a paragraph from a book you are reading, photos. etc. Choose a few each week, and make a weekly collage page by printing, cutting, and pasting into your journal; writing out quotes; copying by drawing; or whatever method works for you. Share a photo in the comments at the end of the week!


II. Create

Do your own thing! Write a poem, make a diary entry (or one each day!), ask questions, make lists, paint a picture, draw a cartoon.

Need an idea? Here’s one of my favorite poem projects I use in my classes. The results are always distinctive, offering a window into each writer’s own, unique perspective. This is also super fun to do as a character poem, so instead of your child being the “I,” they choose a character from a book. For example, perhaps Harry Potter is the “I.” Remember, there are no right or wrong answers in writing poetry! As always, parents, please transcribe for your student of any age if he or she prefers to dictate to you while you get the words on paper for them.

I Am

I am (two characteristics)

I wonder (something you are actually curious about)

I hear (a real or imaginary sound)

I see (a real or imaginary sight)

I want (an actual desire)

I am (the first line of the poem repeated)



I pretend (something you pretend to do)

I feel (a feeling about something real or imaginary)

I touch (a real or imaginary touch)

I worry (something that really bothers you)

I cry (something that makes you sad)

I am (the first line of the poem repeated)



I understand (something you know is true)

I say (something you believe in)

I dream (something you actually dream about)

I try (something you make an effort to do)

I hope (something you actually hope for)

I am (the first line of the poem repeated)


Example:

I Am

I am hungry and restless

I wonder what’s in the refrigerator

I hear a train whistle

I see a woodpecker.

I want to go hiking.

I am hungry and restless.



I pretend I’m in the mountains.

I feel the wind gently blowing.

I touch tree bark.

I worry about my friends.

I cry when I get a splinter.

I am hungry and restless.



I understand being home is the best place to be.

I say this will pass soon.

I dream about face masks.

I try to stay optimistic.

I hope we all stay healthy.

I am hungry and restless.

That’s just an idea! Students may prefer to draw or press flowers or make a list of all the shows they have watched on TV or all the books they’ve ever read. Remember, parents: you do this, too! 


III. Communicate


Do this however you wish—in a short freewrite, written out in dialogue, as an actual story. Think of this as stream-of-consciousness thinking. Just write what comes to mind as a response without worrying about proper grammar, sentence structure, etc. (Feel free to send me prompt ideas, especially ones related to the coronavirus that might come up at your house!) Guidelines to freewriting are found here at Brave Writer.

Here are a couple of prompts. The first one is not related to the pandemic, as some of your kids might need a break from thinking about it! (You may need to adjust them for younger kids.)

Option 1: “I stepped outside, the whole world smelled like…" Start with that line—and keep writing!

Option 2: Airports, museums, malls, sports arenas, libraries, Disneyland, Times Square: in the past month or so, the world’s busiest places have become empty. If this weren’t such a strange concept, it could be an absolute dream come true! Imagine that you were free to spend a day or more in a place that is usually crowded. Where would you go, and what would you do? Would you visit a theme park without having to wait in lines? Would you go to a movie theatre and binge on blockbuster films and buttered popcorn all day, or stroll through the Louvre with a magnifying glass, examining masterpieces? Close your eyes and imagine yourself—solo or with your family—then freewrite about your day!



{One reminder, one more time: This is not the time to correct grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc. Let’s let those things go, okay?}


That's it for Week 1! Remember: sharing is important! I encourage you to share some or all of your kids’ work. If they don’t want to share publicly, that’s okay! Just be sure to set aside time each week to share at home or send photos to grandparents, friends, etc. If you are a BHEA member, you can share either on the weekly Facebook thread or here on the blog, if you'd like. Others are welcome to share here in the comments or in whatever way works for you.


GO TO WEEK 2 JOURNAL PROMPTS


Friday, March 27, 2020

Journaling Through the Time of Coronavirus


Who wants to journal together? Let’s do it!

Journaling is incredibly beneficial to all ages. It helps us process and make sense of the world. And--you’ll be happy to have a written record of this strange time in the years to come, I assure you!
Here’s what we’ll do. And when I say “we”—well, you decide who “we” is to you. Maybe you will do one journal as a family, or maybe you will each have your own journal. This should work for any age level, child to adult. I strongly encourage you, the parent, to participate too!

First, of course, you’ll need a journal. Normally I would recommend buying a new writing journal for each person and making this an exciting event; however, in the spirit of sheltering-at-home, I encourage you to scrounge around in your supplies and find some kind of notebook —and then let your kids make them their own. One easy way to personalize a journal is to decorate the front and back with scrapbooking paper, photos, magazine cut-outs, etc. You can use Modge Podge or just a gluestick. Take some time and thought in doing this—make it an event! Don't forget to make yourself a journal, too!

Each week, we will do three activities: Capture/Collage, Create, and Communicate.
  • Capture/Collage: Capture things that speak to you during this strange time. For example: memes, news headlines, comic strips, a quote, song lyrics, a poem, a passage from the Bible, a paragraph from a book you are reading, photos. Choose a few each week, and make a weekly collage page by printing, cutting, and pasting into your journal; writing out quotes; copying by drawing; or whatever method works for you.
  • Create: Do your own thing. Write a poem, make a diary entry, paint a picture. I’ll post weekly poetry ideas that may spark ideas.
  • Communicate: I’’ll provide a couple of prompts each week for you to respond to. Do this however you wish—in a short freewrite, written out in dialogue, whatever. Think of this as stream-of-consciousness thinking. Just write what comes to mind as a response without worrying about proper grammar, sentence structure, etc. (Feel free to send me prompt ideas, especially ones related to the coronavirus that might come up at your house!) Guidelines to freewriting are found here at Brave Writer.

{One note: Please do the handwriting for your children if this is laborious for them! We want to tap into their thoughts and ideas here, so feel free to remove the handwriting obstacle. And…this is not the time to correct grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc. Let’s let those things go, okay?}

Okay, here’s one more thing: sharing is important! I’ll provide a place each week for sharing photos of your journals or snippets from them if that works better. Maybe your kids will want to share each page, or maybe just one. If they don’t want to share publicly, that’s okay! Just be sure to set aside time each week to share at home or send photos to grandparents, friends, etc. If you are a BHEA member, you can share either on the weekly Facebook thread or here on the blog, if you'd like. Others are welcome to share here in the comments or in whatever way works for you.

First assignment: get your journals ready! Start whenever you want! See prompt links below.

Week 1 Journal Prompts
Week 2 Journal Prompts


Thursday, March 26, 2020

January-March Books Read



Top of the List

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson: Stevenson's story of starting out as a young lawyer defending impoverished, innocent people who were unjustly convicted of crimes and sentenced to death row or to serve life sentences, including women and children. Stevenson is the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, and every single story he tells is heartbreaking—but lots of redemptive stories, too. Everyone should read this!

Becoming by Michelle Obama. Michelle Obama for President. Please, oh please! My admiration for her quadrupled after reading this memoir.

Matchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson. Total surprise! This is a book I "found" on my Kindle that I must have downloaded as part of Amazon Prime's free monthly book program. I loved this sweet, charming, and fast read! This is absolutely perfect as a lighthearted, happy ending but totally engaging book. In brief, Blix has the gift of matchmaking—of seeing people who would be perfect matches. When she meets Marnie, her nephew's fiancee, she realizes  two things: Marnie and Noah are not meant for each other, and Marnie has the same matchmaking gift. Super sweet book.

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen. Bruce for Michelle Obama's running mate! I've loved Bruce nearly my entire life. I love him even more now. Utterly open, honest, engaging....and I watched a whole lot of Springsteen videos while reading this book. I love him. The only thing that would have made this book better is if I had listened to Bruce Springsteen  actually read it in his gloriously gravelly voice on Audible; but alas, I didn’t know this was a thing until too late. Sorta side note: Bruce Springsteen was THE BEST CONCERT ever.

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel. Parenting is hard. Being a boy named Claude is hard. Being a girl named Poppy is mostly wonderful. Claude or Poppy? This is a novel that tackles a tough subject with love and candor and puts us right in the midst of a wonderfully complicated family.

Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce. I adored this debut novel, set in London amidst the bombings during WWII. Emmaline Lake accidentally finds herself working for the intimidating and terribly proper Mrs. Bird as an advice columnist for a sinking women's magazine. Emmy is gutsy and sweet and this novel just made me warm and happy, in spite of its moments of tragedy.

 

Thoughts on the Others

Such a Fun Age and If Only I Could Tell You: Both were engaging and definitely had good moments, but something about each one fell apart for me. Too much tragedy in the latter, and the ending was off in the former.

Snow: I really wanted to love this book but it was too dense. I don't know enough about Turkish history to truly appreciate it. Beautifully written though—and I felt triumphant and enlightened upon finishing it.

Mrs. Everything I didn't hate this book, but it super annoyed me. It felt extremely forced. Practically every Big Issue between 1950-2016 is covered in the lives of Jo and Bethie, from sexual abuse to Civil Rights to interracial marriages, the Vietnam War, women's rights, sexual identity, drugs, sex, rock and roll, rape, cancer, abortion, on and on and on. I don't mean to be flippant about ANY of these issues, and she isn't flippant about any of them, either. But tackling them all in one book? To one family? Too much happens. Way too much. I stuck with the book because the characters interested me enough to keep going.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Books Read in 2019


I read 54 books in 2019. My goal was 52, so I am definitely pleased with myself. I was on what amounted to bed rest for six weeks this summer, so I no doubt got more reading done than I would have otherwise. We'll see if I can meet that same goal this year, without being sick!

Here are all the books and my brief remarks about some of them.


Thoughts on this set:
• I loved Valencia and Valentine but I don't remember anything about it.
The Known World took me a looong time to get through. It was a book club book, but I didn't make it to that particular book club.
• I absolutely LOVED Kristin Hannah's The Great Alone. I was hesitant to read her again because I was so disappointed with subsequent books after reading the incredible The Nightingale. But this one was one of my favorites of the year.
The Music Shop was definitely worth reading.
Pachinko, Fred Rogers, The Tattooist of Auschwitz, and Girls Like Us were all for book clubs. 1) Pachinko was AMAZING but took me weeks to get through. It followed several generations of a Korean family, and I learned so much about the relationships between Japanese and Koreans, as well as cultural information, throughout the book. 2) I wasn't crazy about the Fred Rogers book. It was poorly written and rather boring. 3) Tattooist was amazing. It's hard to imagine a happy story about Aushwitz, but in many ways, it was. 4) Girls Like Us is an incredibly important book, detailing the lives of girls in the commercial sex industry.
The Quintland Sisters was fascinating. I've always been a little obsessed with the Dionne Quintuplets, as they were contemporaries of my mother's. She had the Yvonne doll when she was a little girl, and I still have a pin with the name "Yvonne" inscribed on it from that doll. Really interesting story.
• Mary Oliver. Enough said.



Thoughts on this set. Ooooh, these are some of my favorites of the year.
• I don't remember a lot about The Wedding Date, The Woman in the Window, and Sometimes I Lie, but I know I really liked them.
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane was absolutely stunning. The story follows one mountain girl from her impoverished childhood through her adulthood as a tea seller, and it was all fascinating and beautifully written.
The 57 Bus— WOW. This is the true story of two teenagers in San Francisco who inhabited totally different worlds: one white one who attended a private school, one black one who lived in a neighborhood with high crime. A single, impulsive event changed both their lives forever. This was an eye-opening book for me. Powerful.
An American Marriage was one of my favorite fiction books of the year. A beautifully told but heartbreaking story of race, love, and how quickly a life can be derailed.
Walking to Listen was our first book club book of the year. It was a wonderful and fascinating story of a young man who walked across the country just to hear people's stories and, of course, find himself.
Nine Perfect Strangers started wonderfully and ended horrendously. My least favorite Moriarty book.




When I look at this set, I go from one extreme to the other. There are some that were absolutely wonderful:
Evicted: nonfiction account of eight families in Milwaukee as they try to avoid eviction. Provides an incredible perspective on poverty and just how hard it is to keep from being on the streets.
Once Upon a River
Eleanor Oliphant: can't wait for the movie!
Americanah: I never wanted this one to end
Born a Crime: Trevor Noah's memoir of growing up a child of mixed parentage during apartheid in South Africa

And some that make me feel tired and frustrated:
Maid: felt inauthentic. Too many things unsaid.
The Dollmaker of Krakow: weird
Bridge of Clay: too obtuse

All the others in this set were enjoyable but not quite up to the level of stunning.

And finally...



Snowflower and the Secret Fan was a re-read for book club. I loved it the first time AND the second time. Sworn to Silence was also a book club read, and that was chilling but satisfying! I loved The Homecoming of Samuel Lake, and all the pscyhological thrillers are fun. But my favorite out of all these is Where'd You Go, Bernadette? What a weird and wonderful novel, much like Eleanor Oliphant. I love quirky characters like Bernadette and Bee, Eleanor, and  The Rosie Project's Don Tillman.

I wanted to love City of Girls and Searching for Sylvia Lee, but meh.

Top Ten Books of the Year:

1. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
2 The 57 Bus: A True Story of Teenagers and a Crime That Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater
3. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
4. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
5. Americanah by Chimamandah Ngozi Adichie
6. Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
7. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
8. The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See
9. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
10. Walking to Listen: 4,000 Miles Across America, One Story at a Time by Andrew Forsthoefel

What about you?

(Visit me at SmallWorld Reads for occasional reviews throughout the year!)


Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019: It was a doozy

I came across last year’s Christmas letter, and I had to laugh at this line: "I think 2018 was a year for us to breathe a little, because 2019 is going to be a doozy. “

I had no idea just what a doozy 2019 would be. So many changes, both expected and unexpected. Amazing, joyous celebrations and not-so-fun health issues. We had lots of endings and some amazing new beginnings—an unusual number of milestones in 12 short months. And so, here we go:


1. Randy and I celebrated 30 YEARS of marriage. 
THIRTY! All I can say is: I do, I do, I do.


2. The end of homeschooling. 
For 19 years we’ve been doing this. A whole career! These pictures still get me weepy: Duncan during his last week of school, curled up on the couch, reading, like hundreds of other days; Duncan and me on his last official day; and all three kids on our very last, last-day-of-school celebration. I could write pages and pages and pages about these nearly 2 decades of homeschooling, but I’ll save that for a blog series…one of these days.



3. Two graduations:  
Duncan from high school (our last high school graduate!) and Laurel from Lipscomb University with her BA in psychology (summa cum laude).



 

4. Wedding!
Our daughter, a beautiful bride…and our new son-in-law. This was the most perfect wedding, the most glorious, joy-filled day. What a celebration! I’ll never get tired of looking at these photos and remembering this day.



5. S I C K. 
I spent a few days in the hospital and then the entire summer recovering from pericarditis. It was a long, slow recovery that basically required me to do absolutely nothing but read and watch Netflix for six weeks. Trust me: that sounds a lot more fun than it actually is. 

 6. New floors! 
While I was recovering, Randy was renovating. Not only did he rip up the carpet and refinish the hardwood floors we found beneath, but he painted the whole living room and gave us a gorgeous new space to create our new life of empty nesting.




7. School, school, and more school. 
August brought new adventures for all our kids. Duncan started college; Laurel and Hunter both started graduate school; and Jesse started law school. So proud of all of them!



8. Engaged! 
We recovered from Laurel and Hunter’s wedding just in time to start planning Jesse and Summer’s, coming on July 4, 2020!



 9. Fix ‘em up! 
Our precious parents: broken arm, broken ribs, broken-ish toe. We’ve become well-acquainted with doctors’ offices, home health care, and rehab facilities this year. Mom’s all healed now; Dad and Pat (Randy’s mom) are works in progress. We love them all so dearly.


 10. Empty nest.  
I could share of photo of Randy and me sitting on the couch, watching reruns of ER every night, to illustrate our empty nest; but I’ll go with this. For the first time in over 20 years, I’m no longer driving a minivan. And I have to say: I don’t miss the van one bit!


So there we go. What a year! 


Can’t wait to see what 2020 brings…I think!

Friday, November 29, 2019

Thanksgiving, All Grown Up








 No melted crayon leaves shining in the windows. No "I'm thankful for..." tree decorated with orange, yellow, and brown leaves that say MOM, DAD, CANDY, and PLAYSTATION. No storybooks or history lessons or discussion about the real meaning of Thanksgiving. 

There's no "Pick up your Legos" or "Do NOT make a mess in the living room! I just cleaned!"

None of that.

We're all grown up around here.

***

The day before Thanksgiving, I bawled my eyes out. I mean, I sobbed and sobbed. It's because of music. I had the grand idea to listen to CDs while I baked. And then a whole album made me think of when were first married, and all our college friends and how much fun that was. I didn't cry then. Not even close. Thinking of college friends comes with pangs of anxiety and betrayal, almost always. Not that day—I just had a happy feeling.

But then I put in another CD--a compilation—and suddenly I was hit with such a longing that I just sobbed. Because this is the first year that my daughter wasn't home, and I miss her. I miss how pretty she'd make things, and I miss asking her opinion and, sure, I miss her help. I love when she would be dusting in the living room while watching Netflix, how she'd make things just so.

But we're all grown up around here, and she's in Nashville with her husband and his family this year. She's making her own pies and figuring out how to roast a turkey and cleaning her own house. She's making her own traditions.

***
I stopped listening to music and watched New Girl instead while I baked a cherry/cranberry pie. And I thought about my father, as I always do when I make pies, and how every holiday feels like it could be the last one with him. And how will I cope... how will I... how? 

And back to New Girl, which is silly and sweet and utterly not sob-inducing.

***

Thanksgiving day started quietly. No Macy's Day parade, no dog show. Those were things the kids became enamored with just the past several years, so without them here, we left the TV off. Duncan went to his girlfriend's house early. Randy prepared the food; I prepared the house.

I drove across town to pick his mom up. This past month, she's fallen deeper and faster into dementia. Alzheimer's most likely, like her own mother. She was "so surprised" to see me; she had "no idea" we were coming for her. We tried and failed to find her purse, her keys, and her phone (she's taken to wrapping things up and putting them in suitcases), but we successfully found the cat. 

All grown up now, parents to our parents. 



 One by one the cars pulled in: Jesse and his fiancée, one family, another family, Duncan and his girlfriend, my parents. Champagne punch all around, and the house if full to bursting. Dad turns off his hearing aids; it's all just mumbling noise to him. Mom, the original party girl, is thrilled. 
"How many people are here?" she asks over and over.
"Fifteen," we remind her.
"Fifteen! I beat our neighbor. He was having 11 people over. I can brag to him!"
"You can!" we encourage her. A few minutes later she asks it all again. 


 We pray, we feast, we exclaim over each and every dish. It's glorious, this mix of family and friends who are family. 





I don't let myself think too often of our girl. I don't let myself think that this may be the last year my parents, now 92 and 94, are with us, or how far gone Randy's mom might be by this time next year. I look at my handsome boys and listen to stories. We laugh a lot.

Dad's usual after-dinner nap

   ***

 
It's not so bad being all grown up; in fact, it's lovely for friends to stay late and play board games. The punch bowl gets refilled again and again. We nibble at the turkey again, have more pie and whipped cream, break out the cheese board and homemade Chex mix. The teenagers go out Black Friday shopping but return within an hour or two. "It was boring," they report. "No fights. No lines. No crowds."

 

Before I go to bed, I text my girl. She's had a wonderful day, she says. She's sent photos throughout the day, so I've seen her turkey and pies and, most of all, her beautiful smile. 

I was dreading it just a tiny bit, this first Thanksgiving all grown up, but it was actually one of my favorites ever. I am deeply blessed by this life, by the sight of my parents across the table from me still, by my children love to come home and be with us, by friends who make themselves at home and linger well into the evening. 

Grateful, as always, to the giver of all good gifts.


The Gift

Be still, my soul, and steadfast.
Earth and heaven both are still watching
though time is draining from the clock
and your walk, that was confident and quick,
has become slow.

So, be slow if you must, but let
the heart still play its true part.
Love still as once you loved, deeply
and without patience. Let God and the world
know you are grateful. That the gift has been given.
{Mary Oliver}