Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Sunday, January 27, 2008
“As long as we live, there is never enough singing.” -- Martin Luther
There is singing in our house again.
My husband has a bachelor’s degree in music. You’d think, then, that there would always be music in our home. In many ways, I suppose, there has. But for many years, it was sort of the begrudging kind. At certain times of the year, my husband would spend hours on the computer listening to snatches of choral arrangements in an effort to select music for his choirs. At other times, if he found himself humming a tune at dinner, he’d seem annoyed at himself for bringing his work home. It was as if teaching music for a living stole away his love of music and turned it into a chore.
Two years ago, my husband quit teaching music to try something else. I’ve missed going to his concerts. I’ve missed the music; my husband doesn’t even sing in the shower.
A few months ago he started teaching our daughter piano and voice lessons. In January, he started teaching voice lessons to a girl in our neighborhood. Ever since, there has been singing. Two weeks ago he spent $58.61 on three books of vocal music. He brought the books home and sang through all the arrangements. I really should thank them for asking him to teach their daughter. Because of it, he is excited about music again.
Because of it, he is singing.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
This morning my seven-year-old daughter asked me where one might buy colored pencils like the ones she got for Christmas. They were in her stocking. They are short with lots of colors and come in a cardboard tube.
“I don’t know,” I replied.
“Can you buy them at a store near here?” she asked.
“How would I know?” I replied, “Didn’t Santa bring them?”
She looked at me with a big sneaky grin on her face. I knew then that she knew.
“Don’t you believe in Santa anymore?” I asked her.
I had thought maybe she’d figured it out. On Christmas morning, when she opened what she’d really wanted—a Barbie with a jumping horse—she came and gave me a big hug and said “Thanks.”
Santa had brought it.
“Well,” she answered me, “On Christmas our presents had tags on them. ‘To: _________, From: Santa.”
“Yes,” I acknowledged.
“Well. . . before Christmas I found those same tags under your bed.”
Let’s just say, I’m not the world’s best hider of secret things. And she’s a fairly smart girl.
Apparently, one of her friends at school loves her colored pencils and wants to go buy some for herself.
“So, where’d you get them?” my daughter persisted.
“At a store in Boise, the same store I bought the pencil sharpener you wanted,” I replied, not even trying to convince her I was just “helping” Santa.
(The pencil sharpener, by the way, is the shape of a dog. To sharpen the pencil, you put a pencil in its mouth and turn its tail. It’s ears bob and the shavings go into a little drawer that you pull out and empty. It’s very cute).
We don’t live close to Boise, Idaho, so I’m afraid her friend is out of luck.
I still remember when I learned the truth about Santa. I was young. I must have been very young because we moved when I was five and in my memory we are still in the old house, the house before we moved. My sister, who was a year and a half older came into our room one night and said, “I know who Santa Clause is.” It was either just before, or just after, Christmas.
“I know who he is, too. He is fat and wears red and lives at the North Pole,” I answered.
“No. That’s not true. Mom and Dad told me,” she said.
I don’t remember caring much, or maybe it was more than my brain could handle, but when I seemed not to be very interested in her new secret, she said:
“I’ll give you a hint: it is someone you know.”
How could Santa be someone I knew? He was fat and wore red and lived at the North Pole. Honestly, at this point in my life, no other option had occurred to me. I was, however, suddenly very interested in who Santa might be. I spent what seemed like a long time guessing everyone I knew. I didn’t know a lot of people at that age: I guessed all of our neighbors, the man at the grocery store, the postman, and people who went to church with us.
(Somehow I was still believing that someone in our neighborhood lived a life incognito: had reindeer, delivered gifts all over the world, and maintained a secret identity in our small Idaho town. After all, the North Pole was probably an awfully cold place to really live).
“Nope. . .no. . . not them,” was all I kept hearing from my sister every time I made a guess. Finally, I was down to the last person on earth: Alvero Jones. He had to be Santa Claus! He didn’t look like him, but he went to our church and, to me, he seemed like a cheerful, jolly, and kind man.
It wasn’t him either.
Finally my sister just broke down and told me: “It’s Mom and Dad, silly. They buy the gifts. They set them out for us. They are Santa Claus.”
It did make sense. It really did. But somehow I found myself disappointed. I hadn’t been ready to know the truth—not yet.
There was no one Santa Claus. There were millions of them. Every Mom and Dad. Of course the world worked that way. Of course there was no such thing as magic. I knew it in that moment, and in all my years since, I’ve never forgotten it.
Monday, January 14, 2008
I am married to a man who loves to climb mountains. I imagine that thinking about climbing mountains occupies more of my husband’s time and mental capacities than he’d dare admit. I don’t understand why he loves climbing but I think he has his reasons.
Sir Edmund Hillary said, “It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” I think this is one reason my husband climbs, but there must be many, many more. Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to summit Mt. Everest, died on Friday. The sherpa that accompanied him, Tenzing Norgay, died many years ago. They both spent their lives giving back to the mountain people of Nepal, using their fame to raise money for roads, schools, etc.
I sometimes accompany my husband in climbing mountains, though I prefer mountains that require little or no technical skill. Even so, there is something to be learned from the ascension. I love this statement from Rene Daumal:
“You cannot stay on the summit forever, you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. On descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.”
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
My mother died five years ago. She was 52. I was 28. It was not enough time to learn all that I wanted to learn from her, but enough time to learn a lot of things. I still repeat her mantra of “sugar, shortening, dry ingredients” whenever I make cookies. I think of her every time I change my sheets because she taught me how to make a hospital corner. (Although I still can’t remember which way I’m supposed to tuck the sheet).
Our friends invited us over for Christmas Eve dinner. (They are always doing nice things for us). I volunteered to bring a jello salad. My husband wanted to know why I would volunteer for jello. He doesn’t like jello and I never make it. I volunteered because, growing up, my Mom used to make a jello salad for Christmas Eve dinner. It was red and green and had a layer of pineapple, cream cheese and whipped cream in the middle. It did look rather festive. My Mom would serve it on a bed of shredded lettuce and we’d always make fun of her for it. We aren’t a family that is into the art of presentation.
I bought all the things I thought I’d need but when I went to make it I couldn’t find the recipe. I called my sister in Georgia: she didn’t have it. I checked my files again: nothing. I searched online: nothing like what my Mom had made. I began to wonder if the recipe had died with my mother. It wouldn’t have mattered much: we only ever had it at Christmas and, even then, it was met with mixed enthusiasm. But, oh, must we mourn that loss, too? The loss of the recipe for Ribbon Jello Salad? Just when we thought we were done mourning?
I finally called my Dad. He looked through my Mom’s recipe file. It was a sweet thing for him to do. It was sort of like the night I called him at 3:00 am because my daughter had a high fever. Somehow I thought he could help. He couldn’t, but he’d wanted to. Maybe that’s all that mattered.
He did find the recipe, though. “It calls for marshmallows,” he said. “I remember her making it with marshmallows once,” he said, “but she didn’t like it with marshmallows. It’s better without them.” It sounded like he misses her. We all do, even if we don’t particularly miss her Ribbon Jello Salad.
Incidentally, mine didn't work out at all.