Tradition

“’What is your favorite Christmas tradition?” 20191208_154746

It was an icebreaker question for my tablemates at Bible study.  First off, getting-to-know you questions are dumb. We are women, nurturers at heart, compatible beings, user-friendly and capable of carrying on a conversation.  With or without cause. We have words and know how to use them.

Secondly, I don’t have a favorite Christmas tradition.  My mom did. When you got any clothes for Christmas, you couldn’t wear them until after the New Year. Where she came up with this I don’t know.

After I got married, this went out the window.  With gusto.

As far as Christmas shopping is concerned,  my husband is not prone to buy clothes.  Many Christmases ago, as I shopped for others, I kept seeing things I’d like for myself.

When my husband returned home from work I told him, “You have some clothes on hold at the store.  Pick through them and surprise me for Christmas.”

He did.  I got them all-and amazingly they all were the right size.  Not all husbands can do that.

When I was a child, Aunt Jane had the tradition of hiding a really large gift for me behind the chair.  I caught on quickly. Christmas Eve always found me peeking at it.

Apparently I did have one tradition albeit unintentional.  It seems every Thanksgiving for too many years I clogged the garbage disposal with potato peels.

“Mom, again? You do this every year.”

“I do?”

“Yes, it happened last year too. Don’t you remember?”

“Um, no. That was last year.”

But I’ve learned.  Now I make instant potatoes. Problem solved.

Grandma Andrews had the tradition of baking fruitcakes for everyone in the family.  I grew up with them, but my little family didn’t share the love. It was mine, all mine.

Grandma died, but Aunt Jane carried on her tradition. It wasn’t until my aunt passed away that I had access to their recipe collection.   I was shocked that neither of them followed the recipe. Both these women were sticklers for doing things by the book. While I haven’t made a fruitcake yet, if I did, I’d modify it too. It’s what I do. Then wonder why it didn’t turn out good.

One would think I would learn from my mistakes, especially in the cooking department. But why change a perfectly good tradition?

Salvation Army

SA Bucket

Many a Christmas season I refused to donate to the Salvation Army cause. But my heart had been touched as I gave it more thought. Both physical and spiritual help is offered year round to the less fortunate.

“Oh no, I didn’t mean to do that!”

I came unglued. What was I going to do now?

About to enter the grocery store, I scooped up all the loose change in my purse and deposited it into the red Salvation Army bucket. I watched helplessly as the coins fell in, along with my husband’s wedding ring.

A couple volunteers stood at the post ringing their bell.

The man spoke up. “That was really generous of you.”

“No it’s not, I’m not generous at all.”

I learned the couple belonged to each other, but neither of them had the key that belonged to the bucket. Sensing my anguish, the man pulled out his cell phone placing a call to his supervisor. There was nothing he could do to help me either.

The husband handed me his business card, in case I should need him. He was a lawyer.

I wagged my finger at him. “You better be honest, because I have your number now.” I can’t believe I said that. Clearly I must stop watching so much TV.

I was cold and in a hurry.

I had just left my husband’s bedside. He was still hospitalized recovering from his fourth back surgery. The wedding band was put in my change purse for safe keeping. Yeah, right.

Eventually I was given a phone number I could call to retrieve the ring. The office of the Salvation Army was alerted to my error and were on the lookout for it. I was told it was found and waiting for me to pick it up.

It was one for the memory books.

That was several years ago, but it still brings up a vivid holiday memory. Today, I smile at it, not so at the time.

The following year, I again deposited some change in the red bucket. “You’re not getting any wedding rings this year.”

The young man’s bell stopped mid ring,  “That was you?”

A change of heart

The Salvation Army folk are a good group of people that make a positive difference in lives. Who couldn’t use a little encouragement now and then?

The Blue Season

 

 

We are fast approaching the blue season.

No one wants to be identified with what the world calls it. Depression. Down time or a case of the blahs doesn’t sound so bad. But it feels awful. I know.

We all have some form of heartache.

Too many of us have lost loved ones this time of year and the absence screams at you.

Why should this time of year be more painful than losing a loved one any other time?

In my case, it’s those Norman Rockwell scenes that appear. The pictures that depict what our family gathering will not be. The memories of what used to be

The holidays can look as bleak as this festive but hollow turkey.

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© of JB Katke

It’s all where you place the syllable.

My dear departed mother used to tell me about putting the emphasis on the other       syl-i-able. She meant for me to look on my situation differently.  The good Lord gives us enough opportunities to do just that, because nothing stays the same.

Not all change is bad…so I am told.

A few years back I inadvertently found the secret to overcoming the blues. It’s about taking my eyes off self and really seeing others.

A family from Great Britain were renting the house across the street. Being in the US meant back home there were going to be some empty seats at the table. We had some empty seats of our own and invited them over for Christmas dinner. It was a memorable evening for all of us.

The reality is not all Facebook lives are necessarily as they are portrayed.

Perspective changes, when you suddenly realize how much you have to offer and be grateful for.

Note to self

Joy comes when you lighten the load of a heavy heart.

It Just So Happens…

Who would have considered a trip to the grocery store as a divine encounter?

My purchases were made and I was in the process of loading them in the car. Likewise for the shopper parked next to me. I was oblivious of her until she spoke.

“Why is my car moving?”

 First she panicked, then leapt into action to stop the car. The young mother had put her daughter into the back of their SUV, then proceeded to load her groceries.  Apparently her little one clamored about the car, hitting the gear shift that set the car in motion.

The Memory Came Flooding In

thVE2CGGDEIt took me back to Clyde Smith, a local produce market that is now defunct. In its heyday, it was a thriving business, set far off the road with a huge parking lot in front. I let my toddler in the back hatch of our Chevrolet Vega and proceeded to load my purchases.

Just as I slammed the hatch down I became aware of the car moving in reverse. The keys were in my hand but I couldn’t side step fast enough to get them in the lock to open the door.

My daughter had climbed into the back seat, her eyes wide, as I watched her through the window passing by. The car getting ever nearer the heavily traveled main street.

I was screaming for help, but no one could hear me. Having to think fast, I darted behind the car and let it bump into me, not thinking of the dangerous consequences.  Eventually it stopped.

But here is the main thing. From where I was parked, the car came to a halt about fifty feet from the road.

No other cars were parked behind me that could have been in the path of mine.

Now is that a God thing, or what?

Back to the Present

Because of my experience, I was able to share with this mom how God had made himself known to me.

The Point is

In thinking back,  I hope she sees God in her experience as well, because he was most assuredly there.

Then She’s Gone

Do you know what your purpose in life is?

For the longest time I didn’t give it a thought. Not even wondering if there was a reason for my existence. Today I have a better grasp on it. But I find it changes with time.

Or maybe it’s just me changing, realizing there is more involved to living than just existing.

I’ve mentioned my cousin Diane in a previous post. We spent a lifetime separated. Not deliberately. The circumstances of our lives were worlds apart.

During those separated years, Diane made the family she never knew as a child.

“I made a good life. I have wonderful children and we are happy.”

Diane & Julie

Except she always wondered.

Through all those sixty plus years, she never stopped thinking of me or my brother. We did share the same grandmother, after all. We had that much in common.

Doing volunteer work in the library gave Diane access to a computer. My guess is that is where she conducted her search. Obviously my brother and I were found.

What I hadn’t realized when I met Diane, was this completed her life. Finally. She had extended family of which she also belonged. That brought her satisfaction and closure.

That dreaded C word

Soon after I learned she had cancer. This was not her first go round with it. Mentally she was prepared that this would take her. And that was okay. With her, but not me. To my way of thinking, we were just getting started.

We agreed about life after death. Only she was at peace with wherever she went. I hadn’t known her long enough to share her peace. Because I wanted her with our Creator. Life is better knowing he is by our side at all times. Whether we are on planet earth or face to face.

Lessons Learned

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Family has handed me a fistful of mysteries. Grandma’s anger at her sister-in-law went unexplained.

Curiosity made me wonder why Aunt Jane refused marriage proposals from three men. In time she became comfortable with her singleness. How did she know marriage would be a mistake for her?

Learning has no age barrier, the longer I live the more I learn. Soon I expect to know everything.

Too Late Now

A neighber insisted her children spend equal time between the TV and reading. Likewise, learning a musical instrument to listening to the latest rock songs. Why didn’t I think of that in my child-raising years?

I wish I had seized the opportunity to teach my granddaughters to sew when they lived nearby. Regardless of my busyness, I realized too late that children don’t stay little.

How Can This Be?

Is this (practically) an instant replay? I was dragged into grandparenthood before my time. Now great-grandparenthood too. How can this be? My daughter a grandmother at thirty-eight years of age. Is she old enough to qualify for this? Doesn’t anyone get married and have children after the wedding?

I have made too many blunders to point fingers at anyone. 

My Circle

My circle of family and friends have taught me much, but I am a slow learner. Patience was won by raising forgetful, rebellious, talkative children. The bloodline has become my launching pad. Kin has been a priceless experience bringing me where I am today.

Tolerance came when I realized others with a different background than my own; their words and actions made sense…if only to themselves.

I’ve found forgiveness is best learned on the receiving end. Then pay it forward to another undeserving soul.

God is patient with me. Past events have shown I’m no longer the person I used to be. That’s a good thing,

Friendships can move on, but family should never be cast away. There is too much to be learned from them. I wonder what my family has learned from me.

I may not want to know.

Many Octobers Ago

Fifty two Octobers ago I met my husband. It was a high school field trip to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. In the automotive section, some of the students climbed over the barriers to clamor about in the antique cars. Security was on us in no time.

Henry Ford Museum

“Ok, that’s it. You were warned. Consider your tour over, exit immediately.”

We were shoved out a side door into a cramped courtyard. Some guy and I were shoved through the door, his broad shoulders crushing me.

Getting To Know You

We struck up a conversation. Both of us bummed at leaving such a neat place. A date came soon after, that grew into going steady. I can’t recall what we talked about, but spent hours on the phone with each other.

Often I stayed after school as he worked on a drafting assignment. I learned he couldn’t doodle without a straight edge. In turn, he learned I considered my sewing class as recess to play.

During football season, we attended every game. Completely ignoring it, as we were wrapped up in each other. Grandma called it puppy love.

A Questionable Proposal

Our recollections of his proposal don’t agree. I say we were on the phone, he says in the car. I just hope it’s acceptable, now that our children are grown, with their own kids. Us being great grandparents is no time to learn it wasn’t legit.

Take note though, the proposal came after his purchasing a radial arm saw. That should have waved a red flag, had I not had stars in my eyes. Today we continue to support and encourage the interests of each other.

The Best Part

The best part is we still like each other. Not that life has always been peachy keen. We’ve had our ups and downs, but we never outgrew that puppy love. It was what glued us together. Both of us are convinced that God brought us together and carries us through wherever life takes us.

Commercial Break

If you are a history buff, consider traveling to this wonderful museum. Next door is Greenfield Village. Both are owned by the Ford Motor Co. and well worth the trip. Give yourself several days, both are huge and you don’t want to miss a thing.