Posts Tagged With: loneliness

The gift of an unconventional Holiday

I knew the day was coming, and tried to keep my voice cheery as I zipped his parka, handed off his Ninja Turtle backpack, and sent my 4-year-old off with his father.  Freshly divorced, and newly navigating the every-other-holiday thing, I kissed my boy good-bye and squeezed his mittened hand one more time.  He took his cues from me, and although bio-Dad was consistently inconsistent with visitation, and I had not yet met  (or even imagined) the man-who-would-be-Hubbs, I needed to keep my act together so my little guy would be OK.

Shutting the door, I stood in the darkened entry and watched them drive away, a wave of sadness fell over me. It felt like the wettest blanket on the coldest night.  It was a rainy, dreary Wednesday afternoon in western Connecticut.  My family was a million miles away in Canada and I’d been too busy surviving working to have made plans.  At least he would only be gone for the weekend, and knowing the other one, probably coming home early.   I looked around our sparse apartment, at my pull-out sofa in the living room, his bunk beds and toys in the bedroom.  My eyes landed on our small table with two chairs, at books and Play-Doh from earlier play.

Calling Mom, we chatted for a while and caught up on the goings on there.  I heard her attempts at a cheerful voice, knowing we were so far away, and that I was by myself tonight.  When she asked what I’d be doing for the Holiday, I sputtered out something about being invited to a friend’s apartment.  “Oh, that’s good, dear.  You should go, there’s no need to be by yourself, and, well, we’d feel better if you did.”  She was right, of course, but there was about a .001% of me that wanted to go out and meet new people.   I promised her I’d think about it.

Later that night my friend Dee called.  Practically begging,  she admitted her parents were coming, too, and “you know how my Dad can be.”  Yes, I’d met them both, they were European, on-again-off-again as a couple, the Mom, quiet and nervous, the Dad, critical and imposing.  I knew she needed a buffer and, quite frankly, I suddenly had a need to get out of that apartment.   We agreed I’d be there mid morning the next day.

Upon arrival, I learned she’d also invited the “strays” ~ anyone in her building who didn’t have a place to be or family to spend the Holiday with.  Wow!

We quickly set to work peeling potatoes, setting a card table & chairs at the end of the kitchen table, scrounging around for Fast Food napkins, extra plates, plastic cutlery, tablecloths and a couple of old candles.  She turned on the radio – with a countdown of sorts, a mixture of Motown and Classic Rock, fun.  The turkey simmered in the oven, and the aroma, unmistakable.

Next she announced we had turnips to prepare ~ her crusty Dad had a thing for buttered  turnips, except she had no clue how to peel the waxy layer off of  it and neither did I.  We managed to get a steak knife stuck embedded in that thing more than once.  Laughing, we developed a rhythm, but we were more like Lucy and Ethel than Fred and Ginger. I peeled carrots and steamed them with peas, poured off the turkey drippings to make gravy, and mashed the potatoes.  She stirred corn and cream and butter together, microwaved Stove-Top Stuffing.  We ran into each other more than once.  Yep, Lucy and Ethel.

Soon guests began arriving ~ old and young, a shy woman with a bright-eyed toddler and no mention of the father, a married couple from Venezuela, she with lovely accent, his hand on the small of her back.  My friend’s son and his girlfriend, her parents and me, and Ivan, the lanky maintenance man with a heavy Russian accent, a shy smile and two bottles of vodka.  Everyone streamed in, offering what they had, ~ buttery Seafood Paela, a cheesecake, Wine, chocolates, sausage, pickles and cheese. We sent her son to 7-11 for more plates and paper products while her Dad took a seat to carve the turkey.  Her Mom, a bit tipsy from the vodka, chatted animatedly with Ivan.  We all found a seat on uneven and mismatched chairs, making small talk, clanking glasses,and savoring the moment.  I was in and out, serving, and bringing more to share.

It was there, grabbing another bowl of something in my friend’s kitchen, when I remembered that I’d forgotten about being sad. About being far from home.  I felt a tug ~ a love of cooking I’d not experienced in years.  See, since the divorce, I’d been getting by on “functional cooking” —  cooking to live, cooking to check the box.  Day-to-day. No joy, no creativity.  This was different.  This effort, stirring the gravy and mashing turnips in a new-to-me kitchen – transported me to my mother’s kitchen.  To Holiday meals and Mom’s and my Grandmother’s tables so lovingly prepared one couldn’t feel anything but gratitude at being included.  To feelings of warmth and happiness and appreciation for everything – the love and the labor, the sweat and the tears, that went into it creating so much magic for all of us.  It was in that moment, on that unorthodox Holiday, when I felt my love of cooking re-ignite. It was there, tasting the turnips, that I gave thanks.

one end of my Grandmother’s Holiday Table, an Emjayandthem (C) picture

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Flash forward to now:  After a visit with our grand-daughter at school yesterday morning, my son and I enjoyed a brief lunch together.   He’s no longer that little tow-headed boy, he towers over me by a foot, and has a family of his own.  He helps them with their mittens and coats.  Full circle.

I told him the story of my unorthodox Thanksgiving holiday so long ago, and how I thought we would all be well served to experience a holiday like that.  I told him that getting through that helped me appreciate where I’m from, and the traditions we enjoy today.

He gently teased me about my “holiday marathons” ~ I pointed out that when I start cooking 2-3 days ahead of the holiday, it’s because I want to.

When I prep multiple appetizers and side dishes, meats and desserts, it’s because I have people to cook for.

And when I decorate the table well before anybody steps foot through the door, I channel all of them: my Mom, My Grandmother, and the other wonderful women of my childhood who did such things for me.

  • Did you ever spend a holiday in an unconventional way? What do you remember from the experience?
  • What traditions are you carrying forward?
Categories: Attitude, Beauty, Determination, Faith, Family, Food, Growth, Holidays, Home, Joy, Life, Life Lessons, Mom, music, News, Opinion, Personal, Recipes, Seasons, Thoughts, Traditions, Wisdom, Women, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Time changes everything

We never changed our clocks where I grew up. Never.  So it was weird for me when I first lived in other places.  What is this you speak of?  Fall back? Spring what?

Now I live in the western-most part of the Eastern time zone and our summer nights seem to last forever. But once we do the “fall back” the days feel like they’re about 6 hours long.

It will be nice to wake up to sunlight tomorrow but it will be dark when I get home from work. ~sigh~

funny clock

On that note, one of the many nuggets I picked up at the conference last week was this one — A.A.R.P. is launching their own tablet geared for technology fearful seniors.  Check out the Real Pad here.

I made a note in the margin of my papers and explored the site later on. It was in watching the demo and finding myself excited by the features and the price ($189) that I realized, at 51, I’m one of the seniors they’re targeting.

Time changes. Everything.

I feel so fortunate to have seen both Johnny Cash and  Ray Charles perform their music live in my lifetime.   Johnny when I was 9 and Ray when I was 20.  Today, there’s no one touring I’d buy a ticket for.   Time changes. Everything.

source Legacy

Johnny Cash & Ray Charles; source Legacy





Categories: Attitude, Blogging, Faith, Family, Fun, Growth, halloween, Humor, Life Lessons, music, Opinion, Personal, Random, Relationships, Share, Thoughts, Vote | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

My first true love

Valentines Day was great when I was a kid.

It was a happy fun day to hurry through Math and wait for the parties to start.   Our mothers would come to school and cluck and fuss and spread heart-shaped treats and love through our classrooms.

mmm good;

mmm good;

We’d decorate shoe boxes in hopes of a Valentine overload… and sometimes those wishes came true.

You see I’d grown up loved.

I had siblings and cousins, Grandparents and Aunties, Uncles and friends and kitties and ponies, dogs and more.  I don’t remember anyone saying “I love you” as much as just knowing … that they did.

Later on, I had my share of boyfriends, some more serious than others, and yes I even grew up and got married – but to the wrong guy.  ( I did meet the right one later on — otherwise known as “Hubbs.”)

But it wasn’t until I became a Mom that I really understood what love – true love – was all about.

Real love. Deep love.  The kind of love that makes your heart-hurt-sometimes love.

It was a little green-eyed curly-haired moppet who claimed me.  Once I loved him, I didn’t know how my heart could hold any more.

He didn't like the grass on his toes. And I had short hair .. never again. An Emjayandthem (C) photo

He didn’t like the grass on his toes. And I had short hair .. never again. An Emjayandthem (C) photo

When I realized, pretty early on, that the “shine was off the penny” (the marriage was a mistake), I knew there was no way I was going anywhere without my boy.

That face!  My boy. My first true love.  An Emjayandthem (C) photo

That face! My boy. My first true love. An Emjayandthem (C) photo

In the thick of the divorce, I remember my mother-in-law calling Mom to try and talk me into staying.   Mom’s response?  “My daughter would rather live in a tent and eat dirt before she stays and you’d be wise not to get in her way.”

My Mom.  All 119 lbs of her. God, I love her.

She’s the one who taught me.  It was her their example I followed.

Mom & Dad, An Emjayandthem (C) photo

Mom & Dad, An Emjayandthem (C) photo

Not always having enough, but making whatever we did … special and joyful.

Youngest boy now has that guitar; an Emjayandthem (C) photo

A simple Tuesday night made fun; an Emjayandthem (C) photo

And so, I remember with great joy, my little guy’s first Valentine’s party in pre-school. I got the afternoon off work, and arrived in time to cluck and fuss and spread heart-shaped treats and love throughout his classroom.

His 5th birthday; I met Mr. Hubbs a month later. Our fates were forever changed.  And Emjayandthem (C) photo

His 5th birthday; I met Mr. Hubbs a month later and our fates were forever changed. An Emjayandthem (C) photo

She’d done it for me and it was in doing for him that I realized we’d be OK.

Why?  Because when you’ve been loved … you can love.

My Boo and that Broad-shouldered Michigan man .. shortly before our wedding.  And Emjayandthem (C) photo

My Boo and that Broad-shouldered Michigan man .. shortly before our wedding. And Emjayandthem (C) photo

Last night, on a spur of the moment, I met that boy for supper.  Hubbs had a work engagement and youngest boy was working so it was just the four of us.

Him and I and the two little chirpy ones had a great visit, some yummy food, and moments of hilarity around the table.  When my grandson corrected my granddaughter, my boy looked at me and smiled as if to say “you know what this is all about don’t you.”  A single Dad with two wee ones in his care, one a “step,” although he doesn’t call him that. Others do.  He just says “this is my son.”

Adult life hasn’t been easy for him and I know the walk he’s walking and the trials he faces.  We do our best to help him know that the light at the end of the tunnel doesn’t have to always be an oncoming train.

Someday, I hope he will see that he’s been loved, and because of that, he can love, too.  I hope he meets someone wonderful who will love him for him and accept them for them and who might just go out of her way to make a Tuesday night something special.

Boo & his boy, A.B.  An Emjayandthem (C) photo

Boo & his boy, A.B. An Emjayandthem (C) photo

smiling wee ones tonight, an Emjayandthem (C) photo

smiling wee ones last night, an Emjayandthem (C) photo

So, as Valentines Day nears, it’s not the flowers or the candy or the parties that I think of, although they’re sweet childhood memories.  Who comes to mind on Valentines is my first true love.

My Boo Bear. All 6’2″ of him.

Categories: Beauty, Determination, Faith, Family, Growth, Holidays, Home, Joy, Life, Men, Mom, Opinion, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 35 Comments

Lunch on impulse

So there I was yesterday, driving to points north for a meeting with another team.  Recent changes in our company have created opportunities for many, including me. But with those opportunities come changes and with those changes come new responsibilities and with those new responsibilities come questions and concerns.  I think most just want to get it right, but we’re moving so fast right now that many are afraid to ask for help.

That’s where this meeting came in.  Talking with another Manager, she referenced the changes to her team and how a responsibility our departments share has raised a lot of questions.

“Is there any way you’d be available to walk us through this sometime?”

“Sure, how about Thursday.”

This is a role that I enjoy most:  mastering a task and helping others master it, too.  It’s not new, I’ve done it my entire career, but sometimes the ability to share like this gets replaced by other tasks at hand.

Windows down, sunshine in my face, I drove past a “Big Boy” restaurant and I felt it. A pinch. I thought of him: Grandpa to the boys, Step-Dad to the hubbs. Father-in-law to me.  Elderly. Widowed.  Alone.

I called and, of course, got his answering machine. No surprise for he’s never answered numbers he doesn’t recognize.  Listening to his stern message scolding solicitors and anyone daring  prey on this ex Military policeman, I chuckled.  I identified myself, told him where I was off to, and that I’d be back in about 2 hours .. just in time for lunch at Big Boy, if he was free, that is.

About 40 minutes later, my phone rang. The tutorial was already underway but I excused myself to take the call, something told me I knew who it was.

“Hi, this is John.  I’m up for lunch – what time?”

Military man – man of few words — direct and to the point. I like that. We worked out the details with me promising to call when I was on my way back.  Arriving at the restaurant first, I couldn’t help but notice all of the other elderly gentlemen dining …. alone.

slim jim

The Big Boy Slim Jim – yum!

In he came, grinning, and big hugs were exchanged.  We laughed a lot, ordered our lunch, and chatted some more.  He told me how they liked to stop here after her Wednesday hair appointments.   He ordered the “Slim Jim” with the comment “it was her favorite.” We talked about the passing of George Jones and how she’d be tapping her toe in Heaven, now that George and Tammy were reunited again.

We talked of my Mom and sister’s upcoming visit and plans for barbeques he’s invited to and, before long, it was time to go. More hugs, more smiles, and I think I heard a whistle as he walked to his truck.

* “Near You” was played at her funeral

A lonely day is God’s way of saying that he wants to spend some quality time with you.” – Criss Jami

Categories: Attitude, Faith, Family, Food, Home, Joy, Life, Love, Men, Personal, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

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