We had low-key Christmas holiday these past couple of weeks. Our traditions were pretty much discarded but that was okay. Andrew drove down from Pittsburgh and stayed with us for a couple of days, then left for Atlanta to spend Christmas and New Year with Alex’s family. Clare arrived on Christmas Eve (but left a few days later to hang out with friends in New York through the New Year) and Andrew returned on January 3rd. We celebrated our family Christmas Eve that night and Christmas Day the next. Clare flew home to Olympia yesterday and Andrew drives back to Pittsburgh tomorrow. The only constant was Mingus who spent three weeks with us, loving the huge windows to the deck where he could observe squirrels feasting on peanuts I set out for him.
It was great having the new kitchen and our “lodge”. Clare adopted the lodge and made it look cozy and very Clare-like. She even slept there (on the floor) two nights, but realized her bedroom had a comfortable bed. That didn’t stop her from spending her waking hours in the lodge though. The kitchen proved to be as useful as we’d hoped and we spent lots of time as a family cooking and eating in it.
That said, it is always a bit of a disruption when everyone is here and the house usually gets very messy.
In 2000 when I graduated from George Washington University with a Master’s degree my mom, and her two sisters pooled their money and bought me a Lenox mug that featured an illustration of a cedar waxwing (by artist Catherine McClung), my favorite bird and my online persona on several forums. I knew that they’d spent a fair amount on it because Mom cautioned me that it should probably not be used.
I heeded her warning and didn’t use the mug for several years but in April 2013 I decided to start using it, a decision I documented on Facebook:
Fast forward to a little over a month ago during our kitchen renovation, when, while washing dishes in the basement, Dean accidentally knocked the mug to the cement floor where it broke in several pieces. I heard it, I knew what it was and my heart momentarily froze and when he showed me what happened, I replied, “Don’t worry about it. It was bound to happen sometime. I got lots of years out of it.” And strangely, that was how I really felt.
Of course I documented it on Facebook.
The responses were heartwarming and several friends tried to help me find a replacement, at least one even offering to buy me one.
I could not find the exact mug and felt that buying one would be cheating. Part of its appeal was because it was from three special people in my life who were no longer with us.
Two days after the mug was broken my brother commented with a photo of the mug and later said it was an early Christmas gift to me in memory of Mom. It turned out that he found a set of four Lenox bird mugs online and bought them for me.
I got them a week or so later and put them in my China cabinet. I’ll use them someday, but not right now.
Kevin buying them for me was such a surprise, but when I think of it, not that much of a surprise. He’s always been a kind and thoughtful person. I’m lucky he’s my brother.
My mom and dad had a couple of friends, Patti and Bill, with whom they spent a lot of time. I remember going to their house many times and they would come to ours. They had children around my age — Mark a little older than me and Kim a little younger. I was probably closest with Kim, but I also remember handing out with Mark some.
At some point — I don’t think I was in my teens yet — Bill suffered a massive heart attack at age 35 and died in the night. Since the adults talked around kids a fair amount, I heard more about it than I probably should have. Apparently Patty called to Mark to call an ambulance (I don’t know if 9-1-1 was even a thing back then) but Bill was dead by the time the ambulance arrived.
My mom also told me that Patti told her that she and Bill had such a wonderful marriage and while she would miss him, she had no regrets because the marriage was perfect. She wrote the letter of thanks after the funeral that pretty much says that.
Not long ago she and I exchanged a few emails and I meant to send this to her. I asked her why she and my folks stopped hanging out and she said she thought it was because because she had to work extra hard after he died and didn’t have much free time.