Friends and Christmas Memories

This week a group of friends, all working and/or retired teachers, celebrated our Christmas pot luck dinner. I drove almost two hours one way to see them, as I do every month, but I love this group of friends and am willing to do it. We always go to Anne and Bobby’s log cabin home set back off a country road, surrounded by forest and fields. Years ago, they built this beautiful log home mostly by themselves; they dug their own well and set themselves up to be as self-sufficient as possible. They have a deep sense of stewardship for the earth and live as simply as possible. Their home is cozy and warm and I always feel welcome.

The group, as a whole, is creative and fun. We always go for a hike before dinner, enjoy our meal and then often play board games or share photos and conversations of recent trips or events. This month we had a celebrative Christmas party.

I arrived a little late and found Bobby putting the finishing touches on a Christmas tree set up in the corner. I complimented him on his choice, assuming that he had cut down one of the many trees on his property. He invited me to come take a closer look. I was amazed! He had found a dead maple tree trunk, put it in a pot and using fresh spruce boughs and a drill and ingenuity, inserted the live boughs to create a truly beautiful little Christmas tree.

“Would you call this a fake live tree or a live fake tree?” he laughed.

We always pick a theme for our dinner. This month, because it was Christmas, we all made ‘ginger’ dishes. There was carrot ginger soup, cheese and ginger mini sandwiches, ginger flavoured cheese, a stirfry with ginger sauce and rice, ginger and cabbage salad, ginger molasses cookies, chocolate covered candied ginger, and a lemon grass/ginger bubbling beverage.

After dinner we constructed a gingerbread house that turned into a gingerbread stable when one of the walls collapsed. We had lots of laughter and fun as each of us contributed to the Christmas creche we spontaneously created with two gingerbread figures for Mary and Joseph. A bright candy wrapper became a swaddling blanket for the baby Jesus, a tiny toy figurine Anne found that looked more like a tiny alien than a baby, and we stuck him into a gingerbread molasses cookie cradle. A plastic toy giraffe became the ‘donkey’ that carried Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. Lyn, with a huge amount of patience, finished off the final touches to the gingerbread stable with candies and chocolate.

We exchanged gifts and cards: Moraine had a friendship bracelet for each of us, brought back from her recent trip to Guatemala; Lyn had hand-made soaps and toothpaste she had made at a local workshop; I handed out my own photo Christmas cards and Anne and Bobby gave us each a copy of their annual “Egbert Courier” newsletter.

Kathy brought a Christmas trivia game and we had fun asking each other questions and trying to come up with the correct answers as a group. Many of the questions had to do with Christmas carols and each time one came up, we would stop the game and sing a Christmas song together with Anne playing piano and Bobby his violin.

At the end of the night, we dimmed the lights, and with musical accompaniment and two part harmony, we sang “Silent Night” in unison. With lots of hugs and kisses, we said our goodbyes and wished each other a Merry Christmas.

For me, this was a memorable evening that I will treasure for years to come. It was the simple things that counted the most: good friendships, a tasty meal, music, hand-made gifts, and lots of laughter and spontaneity.

Merry Christmas to all. I pray that you too will have a memory-filled, happy holiday season.

 

 

 

Treasure Your Memories

This day, as loved ones around me face loss and grief, I was reminded by Facebook Memories of a video I had posted three years ago, sent to me by my daughter Maegan. It’s about a 96-year old man named Fred Stobaugh, who had lost his wife after 75 years together.

Fred wrote the lyrics for a song about his beloved wife, Lorraine, and Green Shoe Studio helped him bring it to life. The song and video went viral as the world embraced Fred and his love story.

Now there are six videos on You Tube about Fred and his song “Oh Sweet Lorraine.” I am including the first video here. I had time to watch the other five videos and it is a beautiful story about love, and relationships, and the memories we cherish.

In the 4th video, a 7th grade student wrote in a letter to Fred about his song and his life with Lorraine and how it had impacted her. She wrote, “You should treasure what you have as long as you have it, and then treasure the memories you have of it.”

Some things in life we can’t change, we can only accept them, and accept them with deep gratitude and love. The simplest, most basic moments, shared with someone we love become the most valued as precious memories. As I felt with my Tom, it didn’t matter what we did, but that we did it together.

Momma’s Wedding Wisdom

My eldest daughter got married this past weekend and, speaking as Mother of the Bride, I gave this following blessing and advice to them at the reception:

Maegan and Andrew, we are so happy to be gathered here to share in your joy and commitment to each other. Not only do the people in this room send you blessings but we know that those who are no longer with us, send them from afar. We all wish for a long and happy marriage for both of you. Life is to be celebrated and shared and how wonderful that so many of our family and friends could be here today to be part of such a special celebration.

My darling daughter. When I think of you I have so many wonderful memories:

I remember on the day you were born, the nurse brought you to me after a cesarean birth and placed you gently upright on my lap where you sat looking at me, eyes wide open, little arms folded in your lap. There you sat looking like a little god, the great I AM, radiating purity and wisdom and a calm energy, fresh from the heavens.

I have always loved your soft pillow cheeks which, by the way, you still haven’t lost.

I picture you giggling as you crawled around the living room chair, being chased by your father as the two of you played peek-a-boo.

I got used to saying goodbye to you as you began to travel the world. It began with your 3 ½ month volunteer work stint in Venezuela, and was followed by trips to Europe, South Korea, and most of east Asia. It continued with Andrew to Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, and Africa.

I admire your great love and generosity, whether that be buying a homeless person on the street a morning coffee and breakfast sandwich, making a friend feel loved with an unexpected gift and a small celebration, or arriving for a weekend at my home to help Mom clean out the garage.

Andrew, I remember the first time I met you. Maegan had returned home from Korea and you made sure you dropped in at Christmas to see her. It was obvious that you were very interested in my daughter and there was definite chemistry.

I admire your incredible talent, your entrepreneurial spirit, and the way you set goals and work with discipline, sweat and persistence to achieve them.

I love your crazy sense of humour and your smile that fills the room as if the clouds had just parted and the sun came streaming in.

And I see my daughter’s incredible love for you and know that she has found a man worthy of spending the rest of her life with.

Together you are a formidable couple.

Together, you have all the adventure of Tarzan and Jane,

The romance of Romeo and Juliet,

The glamour of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie,

The power of Antony and Cleopatra,

And the devotion of Krishna and Radha.

I want to end with some motherly advice gained from experience. I know that Poppa Tom sends his love to you both. We had a little game that we used to play. He would say “Do you love me?’ and I would answer “Yes.” Then he would say, “Do you love me in spite of my faults?” and I would answer, “Yes.” Then he would say, “Do you love me because of my faults?” and I would always smile and say, “Yes.” We both knew that our strengths are our weaknesses and our weaknesses are our strengths, and the very things that attract you to your beloved can also be the very things that drive you crazy.

I’m sure you both drive each other crazy at times. But I want you to always remember to RESPECT each other at all times. Barbara de Angelise, a well-known authority in the field of relationships and personal growth says, “The real act of marriage takes place in the heart, not in the ballroom or church or synagogue. It’s a choice you make – not just on your wedding day – but over and over again – and that choice is reflected in the way you treat your husband or wife.”

Respecting your spouse means watching your mouth. Every thought you have doesn’t have to come out of your lips. There’s a time for silence and a time for loving truth.

Build each other up, and seek ways to support each other in all your doings. Show interest in your loved one’s activities.

Keep love alive, through daily hugs, kisses and regular words of love and romance.

Small gestures can mean so much. A small wild flower picked and placed in a bud vase, one truffle on a pillow, a cool drink brought to you while working on the computer, or a warm blanket placed gently over you when you fall asleep on the couch, all speak the unspoken language of love.

I would like you all to join me now as we raise our glasses to this loving couple. Andrew – Maegan – our love and best wishes to both of you as you begin your life together as a married couple. We celebrate with you today and will always support you in the future. Blessings on your union.