Sunday, October 23, 2016

Moments of Grace

We needed to run some errands today, so we did something we almost never do and went to multiple non-grocery stores.

At Lowe's, the Christmas stuff is already out.  I used to be one of those Christmas-season-doesn't-start-til-the-weekend-after-Thanksgiving people.  As years with my small children fly by, I've come to realize that stretching out the season that "engages the whole world in a conspiracy of kindness" is something I quite like. Christmas carols are totally an option by November first. We've never done big Christmases, toy and present wise, but we've alway decorated as much as our meager budget would allow, and spent a lot of time making little crafts and decorations, and doing seasonal activities together. As they've grown, I've just realized that the years with my little ones go by so fast, and there are so few of them, that I don't mind at all stretching that special time into two months instead of one.  So, even though the Christmas stuff showing up immediately after back to school sales makes me a bit crazy (craven commercialism much?), by late October it just starts to light me up inside.

The kids were excited when they saw all the Christmas stuff, and spent more than half an hour exploring it. I came across a 2ft tall resin Santa, and was instantly, painfully, dreadfully homesick. Though it really looked nothing like hers, my grandma used to have an old Santa like that that she would sit on a table next to her front door inside her porch, so that he greeted all her Christmas time visitors.  Michael and I helped grandma decorate her house for Christmas every year of our childhood, and when we were little, she had to haul that heavy statue in because we weren't strong enough. By the time we hit middle school, the roles had reversed, and one of us had to carry it in for her.  We spent nearly as much of our lives with her as we did at home, and decorating for Christmas was our job.  She didn't put up a tree or a decoration until we came up to do so with her.  I know a lot of people who think the Elf on a Shelf thing is stupid (which I totally get, and respect), but those two little elves floating around my house make missing her a little less painful at Christmas time. She had a whole collection of elves of various sizes and appearances that she had had since some of her children were at home, and we'd pin them up on the drapes all around her living room.  So I sent a pic of the statue to my brother and told him I was tempted to drop $80 on this stupid Santa to put by my front door, just because I knew I'd think of Grandma and smile every time I saw him.  Christmas is always magical, but there is nothing that will ever compare to childhood Christmases with Grandma.  Until I got married and had kids, I didn't believe I'd ever love anyone as much and I loved Mom, Grandma, and Michael, and, though I adore my entire family, many of my happiest memories are just Michael and I and Grandma, at Christmas time, in her cozy little trailer.

As I stood there, feeling terribly stupid that I was almost in tears over a 2 ft Santa statue, I realized that that is probably how my kids, and all my nieces and nephews, feel about my mom and her house.  My mom is so good to her grandkids, and I honestly don't know another grandparent that invests that much time in that many different grandchildren.  And as I stood there missing my grandma with a horrible ache that waxes and wanes but never quite goes away, I realized that, despite the fact that in a few weeks she will have been gone for 12 years, she is still very present in all our thoughts.  Our children know her.  And she is very much alive in my mother, in her affection and attention to her children and grandchildren.

And I was reminded again (as I have been, often, in the last few years), that I am incredibly fortunate to have been raised by strong women who always put their families first.  I am so grateful to my mom and my grandmas for nurturing me when I was a child, and through my young adulthood.  I am continually grateful for the way they have taught me to be a mom, and the wonderful examples they've set for one day being a grandma.  I am so grateful for the presence they have in my children's lives, my grandmothers indirectly, and my mom directly.

The last few years have been challenging.  There's been more than enough heartbreak and hurt to go around.  I have, at times, given into to pessimism or frustration.  But that flood of warm, quiet memories burst open a piece of my heart in the middle of a hardware store, and reminded me that things can work out.  It reminded me of the examples that have been modeled to me throughout my life of how I can love the people in my life a little better.

A weary world rejoices.  Sometimes, the spark of hope for a weary soul comes in unexpected moments and places.  For that, I am tremendously thankful to the Lord, and to the people he has bound me to. 

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