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Thoughts on ordinary and not so ordinary adventures in the life of one Mom

Friday, January 6, 2012

It's Beginning to Look Less Like Christmas

Every year,  I approach the task of removing the Christmas decorations with much dread.  The tree, garland, lights and holiday knick knacks usually go up with so much exuberance and transform our house into a merry wonderland.  Yet, once Christmas is over, I  turn on my decorations, finding them the most depressing sight on earth.  Suddenly the tree looks dark and misplaced, the stockings remind me of dirty laundry and our prized Animated Victorian Couple looks downright creepy.  Within a few hours of the last present being opened, I want my house back so that I can start the new year fresh.    By the time Boxing Day rolls around, I feel like one of those hoarders that keep their tree up year round.

I was so aware of this impending turn of events that at the start of this holiday season, I seriously contemplated not even putting up a tree.  The kids rejected that silly idea and once I finally got the tree and lights up, they did the rest.  As they carefully placed almost every ornament in nearly the exact right spot, they reflected on each, sometimes remembering where we got it, or its significance, often commenting on whether they thought it was cool or not.    The realization that my children had memories of our family Christmases prompted by the habitual act of decorating, shouldn't have surprised me, for that is exactly how I felt as a kid when my family got ready for Christmas.



Knowing that my kids enjoyed the preparation and celebration of the holidays doesn't really make putting away all this crap any fun, but it does remind me that setting it all up in the first place was worth it.   We had a wonderful Christmas with special moments that we will likely recall next December, the minute a dusty box comes down from the attic and we unwrap the first holiday decoration.   Now, almost everything is put away; the tree, the garland, the stockings, the lights and the wreath.  What's left, however, is the most daunting task of all - safely wrapping up my delicate ornaments which currently lie in a single layer on my dining room table.  This unwelcome job is usually left for weeks, or until one of my favorites falls to the floor and shatters into tiny pieces.  But now as I stare at my un-stowed ornaments, I see more than an intimidating and unpleasant task.  Like my children, I see each individual ornament, which reminds me of a Christmas memory or, at the very least, a great after-Christmas deal and it makes me smile.  Now, I'm sure the idea of not putting up a tree will never cross my mind again.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

It Was a Beautiful Day

Flight 93 (temporary) Memorial, July 2011
 If you ask anyone who lived in the Mid-Atlantic states about September 11, 2001, they'll start off by telling you how beautiful it was.  It was one of those September mornings that made you wish you could stop time and soak in the moment forever.   The sun was shining, the sky a brilliant blue and the temperature was just perfect.   It was a day that held so much potential, maybe a bike ride to work or a long lunch, perhaps a picnic with your kids after school.  

We lived in a Washington, DC suburb at the time and on the morning of September 11, Joey had been dropped off at preschool, Steve was at work, and I was busy finishing up a consulting assignment so I could enjoy the maternity leave I had planned for the upcoming months.   I remember listening to the radio as I typed my reports and hearing about a fluke accident where a plane (presumably small) crashed into one of the Twin Towers.   The moment of realization that there were two passenger jets each hitting a tower weighs heavily on me as it does a nation's consciousness.  Suddenly, as if all at once, everyone understood that the United States was under attack.  Instinctively wanting to be with their families, nearly all the parents who were able to, took their children out of Crossway Community Montessori School as soon as they heard the news.   After picking up Joey and making sure that Steve was on his way home,  I settled on our front steps and gazed at an eerily quiet sky which gave way to the unfamiliar streaks and sounds of military fighter jets headed towards the capital.

Calls to my family in NY reassured me that they were ok, shaken and distraught, but making their way home from the chaos in Manhattan.   Steve had left work early enough to avoid most of the confusion and traffic brewing in DC and was home with me and Joey.  Wanting to shield our 3 year old from the terrifying images on TV, we chose to listen to the radio instead, learning about the Pentagon, Flight 93 and the total collapse of the World Trade Center.   When it became too much to bear, we took a surreal walk to the park with our mentally challenged neighbor.  He would break the silence every so often, repeating "I think they did it on purpose."  My response "I think you are right" released the tears I had been trying to suppress all day.  

Now ten years later, it's been a week of tears with each news story commemorating the anniversary.   I still want to shield my kids from the constant stream of horrible images, but I am quite sure they are better equipped to handle it than I am.   For them, it is an important historical event, about which they are eager to learn.  For me, it was the most devastating day I had ever experienced and one I'd rather forget.   While listening to the stories of those directly impacted by the events of 9/11 makes me uncomfortable and sad,  I believe it is important for everyone to be able to tell their story.   These personal histories need to be remembered.  I would not want my story, that of a typical American family who were indirectly, yet deeply, affected to be dismissed.  This is a time of shared mourning and everyone should be heard.

So, on Sunday,  I will try to commemorate the events of 9/11 to the best of my ability.  I'll be with my children and will answer their questions honestly and without fear of them seeing my emotions.   I'll remind Alex that his middle name, Thomas, honors one of the heroic passengers on Flight 93.  I'll tell them that although the promise and potential of that beautiful morning was lost for thousands of people, more beautiful days are ahead of us and we are safe.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Family Portrait

Picture a family living apart and visiting once in a while
Picture an occasion that brings them together that makes everyone smile


Picture a marriage 50 years strong with children and grandchildren to show
Picture a celebration including a photo shoot that fosters the warm family glow



Picture a setting with trees and a pool, with sunshine and fun things to do
Picture the children enjoying each other as if every activity were new


Picture good food,fun talks and some fighting
(but not much, we were especially good)
Picture an atmosphere where everyone feels at home and is in a very good mood


Picture the goodbyes, the waves and kisses as one by one we depart
Picture the sadness as we slowly realize we will again be apart

Picture a family living apart and visiting once in a while
Picture the memories of an occasion that brought them together to smile


For lots more pictures, visit  www.aidaspics.phanfare.com

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Gateway to the West


 
Lady Gaga would have enjoyed the ride
After several days on the road, stopping mostly just for convenience,  I was happy to be headed to our first pre-planned destination, St. Louis.  I have fond memories of the time Steve and I "met" in St. Louis during our long distance engagement and I was especially eager to show the kids my favorite monument, the Jefferson National Westward  Expansion Memorial (aka - the Gateway Arch), an engineering marvel.  Even though we arrived on a July day Arizonans only dream of, with it's blue sky, mild temps and slight humidity, we didn't waste time enjoying the climate.  Instead, we hastily made our way through the picturesque Memorial park to the underground entrance for the Gateway Arch to catch the next tram ride up to the top.   A capsule (5 person egg-shaped elevator), takes you up to the top of the arch where you can see various sites of the city, including the Eads Bridge (inspiration for the Arch), Busch stadium, the Old Courthouse and the mighty Mississippi river.  But my favorite view by far, is straight down.

With nothing directly under you and leaning forward toward the slanted windows, you get the cool sensation of falling toward the Arch's shadow.   The kids enjoyed this St. Louis must-do and quickly internalized that, at 630 ft,  it is the tallest US monument and more than twice the height the Statue of Liberty.  They thought it was very cool, just like Mom.



After spending some time at the museum, learning about Westward Expansion and trying on pioneer bonnets, we headed outside for  a riverboat cruise along an industrial and very busy portion of the Mississippi river.   Then we strolled, leisurely this time, through the park and enjoyed some lunch, including a plate of toasted ravioli (St Louis favorite), while we waited out an afternoon thundershower.

When we hit the road again,it really felt like we had crossed a threshold in St. Louis.  We were not expanding westward in to unknown territory, though.  We were headed east, toward home and places familiar to me.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Detours

As we drove past billboards and truckstops along Interstate 40 yesterday, I started to think all that Oklahoma had to offer was humongous American flags, 72oz steaks and messages from God, himself.  I was resigned to more of the same as we left our overnight stop, Oklahoman City,  this morning, but luckily, while trying to start an audio book on a misbehaving ipod, I missed a critical exit, which took us on an unexpected and delightful detour.

Route 33 in Oklahoma: no billboards


Rather than turn back to the Interstate, we continued on Rt 33 under a blue sky dotted with  diorama-like clouds that appeared to be made out of cotton balls.  The road winded through rolling grass-filled hills and small towns.   The town of Drumright was particularly quaint with its normal sized flags and busy main street complete with an old lime-green roadster built for one.   This was a welcome change from our usual Interstate sightings of  Indian Casinos and Golden Arches.  I was so glad to have seen the beauty of Oklahoma on my first visit to the state.

In contrast to our Oklahoma detour, we planned to get off   Interstate 44 at Miami, OK to venture into Kansas.   Since Steve and I (and now our kids) have a decades-old goal of  eventually visiting each state in the U.S., we decided we could not pass on a 30 minute side trip through the southeast corner of Kansas.   We drove on  historic Route 66, and not so historic Rt 69A through the lovely town of Baxter Springs.  Although this part of Kansas looked a lot like Oklahoma, I could have sworn I saw more wheat fields and a flying house.


Having a schedule and specific destinations on a long roadtrip limits your ability to go off and explore.  Sometimes though, you'll luck out and get lost.  Other times, your compulsive need to plan and check off lists will lead you to a detour you've been wanting to take for years.


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