Easter Eggs

Easter Eggs

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I stood behind a man at Walgreens buying two dozen eggs today. His children bounced up and down beside him. When, Dad, they asked. When do we get to dye our eggs?

I remember my mother trying to clean the house for Easter company, prepare the large ham for baking, all the while fending off our constant refrain: When are we going to dye the eggs?

She would send us out to play, to clean our rooms, to take a nap. Finally a dozen and a half eggs would be boiled. Two for each of us to dye, two for her to dye for herself and my father, and a few extras just in case.

Old chipped mugs and cups would be set on newspaper lining the picnic table in the backyard. McCormack’s colorful hatted liquid food colorings would be dropped in the vinegar scented boiling water: Robin’s egg blue, purple, orange, yellow, green, scarlet, as we discussed among ourselves which colors we would choose this Easter.

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One sibling would drop her egg in all the colors. In the end the poor egg resembled the color of weak coffee. We were fascinated and horrified at her choice to ruin one of her precious eggs.

We fought over colors and bickered over how much time each person took to achieve the perfect shade of orange. Our fingers turned various shades and someone always cracked an egg as they dropped it off the spoon into the cup.

When we had finished and our masterpieces were ready, we trooped to the dining room where seven baskets sat waiting for our artistic treasures. The eggs soon nestled in the green cellophane grass next to a hollow chocolate bunny or lamb, jelly beans and yellow marshmallow peeps.

As I watched the dad leave with a child in each hand, I thought of my own three, all grown now, wondering if their own memories of dyeing eggs was similar to mine.

Do they miss asking mom: When do we get to dye our eggs?

©annettealaine2017

No Regrets

No Regrets

In my line of work, you experience death. We go on the death watch journey with a family as someone’s loved one goes into a decline. Or it’s an unexpected shock- and we must be the calm in their tumultuous storm of shock and grief.

I have answered the phone when someone calls with the news. I have sat and listened as a family sits and waits for their appointment with clergy to plan the funeral. And what I hear over and over again is:

Don’t waste a moment.

Tell everyone you love them.

Hug often.

Fill your days with things that bring you joy.

In a week that in our biz is filled with more tedious busy-ness and mind-numbing details than is the norm, it’s easy to forget those wise words. But this week was the perfect time for me to repeat the sage advice like a mantra as I drove to work each day.

For my children- they are ready to leap to the next adventure. Perhaps my concerns have some merit, but this is the time to fly. I have few regrets, but can look back and wonder how my life would have turned out if I had boldly picked choice A over choice B.

For myself- I’ve already started 2017 with a bang. Our radical lifestyle change has reaped many blessings and giving both of us an appreciation for another chance to turn the page and start something new.

As the grieving widower sat speaking quietly to us with a smile on his face and tears in his eyes,

We had a great life, but the last ten years was more than we were promised. And we did everything she wanted to do, and had no regrets. We loved, we played and we lived every moment.

©annettealaine2017

The Long Journey Home

The Long Journey Home

The first few months of 2017 have been quite eventful. The decision to sell the house and downsize has been accomplished.

Although my mind was made up to move forward and finally shed myself of this last piece of my past life, the emotions and memories it triggered were somewhat surprising.

I knew the sweet memories would flow as I packed up and sorted through my kid’s stuff- childhood memorabilia that brought good memories flooding back. Taking them to the pool, fixing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for picnics in the front yard, doll strollers and razor scooters, deflated basketballs and footballs that were used up.

Each closet, drawer or cupboard contained something from the past- bath toys, notes, legos and books. Watching my older sons sort and purge was like watching them grow up all over again. Their faces lit up in recognition as they uncovered some artifact, a memory recalled, then the item was packed into a storage bin, or placed in a pile to be given away.

The final week after moving out was sorting through the attic. The place we put all of the stuff we aren’t ready to part with just yet. If I thought sorting through the garage was a trip through the past, the attic was the place where broken dreams reside.

There were the usual holiday decorations, and the forgotten baby paraphernalia, along with a bin filled with nuggets saved from high school and college days- an unexpected treasure box for me to sift through later.

But, there were a number of boxes filled with personal items from the ex- left up in the attic to molder for the past ten years. I did not intend to open them, but they got wet in a sudden rainstorm. Sifting through the damp articles from his teen/young adult years, I realized I don’t know this person- and perhaps I never did.

I read some of his words, and my own, when we went on a weekend to try to salvage our relationship many years before we finally divorced. I heard the pain of my loneliness in my journal from that time. As I read some of his writing that weekend I recalled how disconnected he was from his wife and son.  Work has always been at the top of his priority list. And that never changed.

This house is the last tie we share. But it was never his house. We were relocated to different cities four times due to his job. This was the only move that was my choice. I wanted this house for my kids, and myself. A place chosen because it was a neighborhood filled with families and kids. . A place that felt like my own for the first time in our marriage. A place to call home.

And the dream was sustained for a while longer.  The house served its purpose.  My kids are filled with great memories, but the marriage did not survive. So I’ve packed up and moved on to a new dream,  leaving the past behind.

©annettealaine2017

 

Postscript: I’ve been writing and re-writing this piece for a number of days. I hesitated to write about my ex, out of respect for my children. But, in order to bring the last ten years to a close, this final act of shedding the past is significant to all of us. For my kids, the selling of a childhood home is a definitive end to childhood.  For me, it’s the last shackle to the past, a place and time that has influenced my writing for many years. Thank you to my husband for opening my world and filling it with so much love.

Saying Goodbye

We’re at T- minus five days until the move.

I’ve collected seventeen garden bags of stuff given to charity,

given away a dining suite, sofa, chairs desk, table and more assorted furniture.

Taken one load to the storage unit and there’s at least one more trip before everything is tucked neatly away.

The walls are denuded, some rooms are bare.

Curtains are packed away, the garbage and recycling cans are overflowing.

My back is aching and I’m bone weary. There is no rest on my days off, there’s too much to do.

But I need to keep moving, keep wrapping, and sealing boxes.

If I stop I will have time to think,

to feel the wrenching pain of putting a dream long-lost away for good.

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These rooms are filled with memories- of birthday parties, and Christmas trees, Easter egg hunts, and a Halloween haunted garage.

Loud basketball games on the driveway, playing catch in the grass. Riding scooters and bikes down the hill. And hot summer days splashing in the community pool.

Sidewalks for skating, and backyards for playing hide and seek. Trees for climbing and streets wide enough for kickball and football games.

My dream was to provide my kids with a neighborhood- a place where they could wander and play with friends. That was my gift to fill their childhood with great memories.

Now it’s time to pursue a different dream- this one is for me. City life for a change.

©annettealaine2017

 

The Magic of Christmas

It is the day before Christmas, and all through my house, the only creature stirring is my crazy cat.

It’s in this deep silence that I contemplate, the blessings that surround me this day.

The foggy skies wrap my house in stillness. The birds are quiet and the squirrels stay warm in their nests. The coffee pot burbles and ham sizzles; the grits create a sigh as they bubble on the stove.

I am grateful for feeding those at home today. Oldest son is already here, and the college girl has been home for a week. Husband will be working until late tonight, but for now he is enjoying a long winter’s nap.

I treasure my time to sit and write. To reflect on Christmas past, and anticipate this day. We will bake and watch Christmas movies, and enjoy a good dinner. We will dress up and make our way to the little church with its jeweled windows glowing. Fresh cedar greenery and wreaths hung with red bows surrounded by ruby colored Poinsettias will fill the space with beauty.

Families will greet one another, and we will sing all the beloved carols. We will light candles, and in their glow sing Silent Night.

We will drive by the lighted houses filled with decorations, slowing down to enjoy the spectacle. Back home in our pajamas, we will eat cookies and watch the Christmas Story again as we tell stories from our separate lives.

We will wait up until my husband comes in very late from the midnight service and then crawl off to bed. Santa no longer stops by this house, but there will be filled stockings in the morning, and just as eager as a child, the young adults will rub their eyes and thrust their hands into the depths to find out what goodies are inside.

And all of this reminds me that the magic of Christmas never dies.

Merry Christmas.

©annettealaine2016

Coming of Age

I know I’m not imagining this.

In the past three months, I’ve noticed a shift- a significant body shift. The shift has reminded me that I’ve hit the halfway mark of another decade. Maybe it’s just me, but things always seem to change near the cusp of a decade, and mid-way through it.

I remember turning thirty. The first couple of gray hairs discovered and the subtle widening of the hips after the birth of my son. I was getting older- ha!  Five years later a bit more padding that came with the second son, and my first visible wrinkles around my eyes. It couldn’t be!

Forty approached and the struggle was real- Subtle highlights gave way to permanent hair dye to cover those “stubborn grays.” I worked to lose the cumulative weight gain that came with three kids. At the half-way mark of the decade, I shed the weight, the heartache, and started a new life.

I was comfortable with fifty. I was content with trading the young body for the gained wisdom that comes from living life. There were more wrinkles and the body shifted downward just a bit, but everything seemed to be holding up pretty well, until now.

I was sitting at the car wash yesterday, noticing how my 2006 Civic is showing its age. There are scratches and dings. The upholstery is stained, and worn. Now I notice the liner above my head is sagging and loose- just like I’ve suddenly noticed in my own skin. The subtle, but unmistaken loss of firmness and elasticity. Which in turn causes a lot of body parts to sag.

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I try hard not to buy into the whole youth at every age B.S. To be honest, I think we all look a lot younger than our grandparents did at this age. I recently found  a picture of my paternal grandparents and realized they were in their fifties when I was born. They look twenty years older in the photo. Will we one day look really old and dated to our grandchildren?

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I work in a place where I am surrounded by folks older than me. Most are in their seventies and above. There are wrinkles on their faces. Some are round, some are very thin and frail, but what I really notice is the sparkle in their eyes; their joyous energy. They are active, engaged and still living a pretty full life.

That’s the wisdom of the elders-and from my sweet little Civic-  the body is going to age, not much you can do about that. So keep the engine (mind) healthy. Stay active, curious, keep laughing, and loving life. You only get one chance.

©annettealaine2016

I Believe

                                IMG_0903.JPGIf we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.      Henry Thoreau

 

Tomorrow has been anticipated and dreaded for months. Never have I felt so mentally assaulted by a campaign season. Everything is covered with a layer of grime- the kind of greasy dust that clings to your skin. A vicious tar like that stuff on the beach. You rub your skin raw with sand and towels, but it only drives the goo deeper into the creases of your skin.

I have a lot of strong opinions about many subjects. I know my views aren’t often shared by even close family or friends, but I understand that my world view is based on my own  lens. Everyone views life through their own lens. And that’s ok.

I grew up with an awareness of how much my parent’s struggled to keep six kids clothed, fed and educated. I went to school with mostly blue collar workers- the bus drivers, cops, firemen and federal government drones.

I went to college- at the time the first one to complete more than two years of community college. I got all the financial aid I could manage and still struggled to finish on my own.

I chose a career that didn’t guarantee success- unless you count teaching a kid to read or write. I taught in the poor, Title One schools, because I loved the students and the job.

I had some upward mobility when I married a white collar professional. We weren’t rich, but we owned a home and I was able to take time away from my career, and raise my three kids.

I’ve been divorced, unemployed, and uninsured. I’ve been back down that mobility ladder- beginning all over from scratch. I struggled to get food on the table, pay those bills and put three kids through college.

That’s my lens. That’s how I see the world, and those experiences are what I think about when election time looms.

We all base our votes on what we think is best- for ourselves and for our country. We try to strike a balance, but it’s not always easy.

I believe in voting my conscience. That’s how I make a black and white decision on a ballot when the world is one million shades of gray.

I believe in a secret ballot. I don’t share my vote with others. It’s just my thing, I don’t need to know how you vote, either.

I believe that 99.9% of voters who go to the polls do care and take it seriously. If you took the time to get in the car and drive to the polls, you already care more than the cynic who cries, “what’s my vote going to change?”

I believe that no matter what happens tomorrow, there are no winners- we are all going to be disappointed. Maybe your candidate wins, maybe not, but the price we all paid was steep.

I believe that perhaps we all  might benefit from a bit of self-examination after tomorrow, about how we judged and thought of others who did not share our beliefs.

I believe that Wednesday should be declared a day of reconciliation and kindness towards others. Because we need to scrub off this tar of hatred with love.

Most of all I believe that no matter what the outcome, the world will keep turning.

Finally a prescription for tomorrow:

Be gentle with yourself. Get some sleep.  Bake some cookies. Give yourself over to something indulgent. Binge watch Seinfeld, or the Office- definitely do comedy- no heavy dramas or doom.   Hug your kids, love your lover. Pet your dog. Cuddle your cat. Take a walk. Get outside at least once and notice the tinge of Autumn in the air. And Breathe.  

©annettealaine2016