Frozen turkeys…

I was texting my sister to see if I should bring anything but pies to the lodge for Thanksgiving dinner when the issue of who should be responsible for making the Green Stuff came up.  We have both been making this strange concoction of dry lime jello, mini marshmallows, cottage cheese, and whipped topping for as long as we’ve both been serving holiday dinners.  The recipe is a holiday holdover from our own childhood. I think my  mother and aunt probably made it to ensure that the boys in the family would eat something besides crescent rolls.

Anyway, during our texting conversation, we discovered that none of our kids even likes the Green Stuff. I can’t print what my sister texted me upon realizing that MY family can’t stand it, either, but I’m sure glad we cleared that up. It certainly explains why I always end up tossing out the whole bowl after every Thanksgiving.  The Green Stuff is proof that it is really okay to let some traditions die natural deaths.

There was a tasty spinach and strawberry salad this year instead.  The day was lovely, save for the fact that our two adult sons confirmed for us once again that when they are together, they don’t have the brains God gave turkeys by trying to drown each other in a semi-frozen swamp on Thanksgiving.  Yes. This really happened. Thankfully, the big turkeys survived with everything but their cell phones and dignity intact.

Their sisters don’t put their mothers through things like walking on thin ice near beaver dams. They just don’t. We never have to say things like, “what in the H-E-double-toothpicks were you THINKING?” to their sisters on holidays.  Like ever. This either means that they have better survival instincts or that they are just more covert in finding ways to turn our hair silver. Okay, I already know it is that second thing, but seriously, guys?  Seriously??

Oh, well. Cell phones can be replaced. Sons who act like turkeys?  Not so much.  And so, we are more thankful than usual going into this holiday season.   Besides, the weather forecast is for more winter-like weather this week so if we are lucky, the next time those two sons of ours decide to go on an outdoor adventure together, the ice should be at least as thick as their heads.

That is this silver haired mother’s grown up Christmas prayer.





The great gizzard heist of 1973…

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice. ~Meister Eckhart

It is Thanksgiving, a time to gather.  Mothers and grandmothers fortunate enough to be invited some place will load up their sweet potatoes and lime jello salads and lefse.   We are going to my sister’s for the day, and so I’m taking my pies on the road this Thanksgiving.

Pies aren’t good travelers when compared to other baked goods.  They are fragile and flaky, for one thing. There’s always the risk that someone might stack something on top of a pie if you aren’t paying attention. Then what do you have to show for all that rolling and patting and filling?   Mush and regret.  That’s what.

And so, I’m thinking of making my kids ride over the river and through the woods with pies on their laps. They’ll complain, but they’ll thank me after dinner when it is pie time.  I just know it.

My sister will wake at dawn to do unmentionable things to the naked, ice cold bird before she shoves it in the oven.  She’ll count to see how many cousins she can fit around the table and boil potatoes. Lots of potatoes.  During dinner, there will be good wine, which will lead to the re-telling of ridiculous stories like the one about a particularly naughty family beagle who climbed onto the dining room table on Thanksgiving day in 1973, stuck his head in the fully cooked turkey, and made off with the gizzard. It was a brazen act, even for a beagle.

Oh, to be so ridiculously and undeservedly blessed on a day like Thanksgiving.  To eat good food and drink good wine and laugh over missing gizzards. At some point, I will look around my sister’s table at the faces bathed in candlelight and give silent thanks for each sweet soul gathered there.  For another Thanksgiving that finds us happy, healthy and whole.

And then, we will eat pie.

Happy Thanksgiving.




Rubbed raw…

I was that kid.

The one who could feel every tag in a shirt collar or toe seam in a sock. Maybe you were that kid, too. Or perhaps you raised a kid who would become completely unglued if something itched or didn’t feel quite right. Maybe your kid drove you as nuts as you drove your own mother when it came to tags.

I haven’t been a kid in forever, but I still cut the tags out of most of my clothing. In fact, just this morning I had this nagging feeling that something wasn’t just right and took a scissors to a tag. If I was elected queen of the world I would outlaw tags in collars. Half the time, the dang things are sewn in with what appears to be fishing line and I end up slicing through the collar seam before I can even get the tag off. I would love to know why some people Be-bop through life oblivious to tags and others don’t. I envy people who seem to be able to ignore the itch and just get on with it.  I want to be that kind of human. One wired to focus on the silver linings instead of the tags. However, when it comes to clothing, and pretty much everything else, that’s just not me.

In other news…Social media is rallying for the people of Paris. I would like to be able to say that acknowledging the tragedy and mourning the victims this way is the best we can do when faced with the unimaginable. For a couple of days after a Really Bad Thing happens, we line up to offer commentary and condolences, say a prayer, maybe have a plate of virtual hot dish in the church basement.  We walk back into the sunlight, thankful it wasn’t anyone we actually knew.

I speak from experience. I watched the news unfold on Friday evening, too, and all I could think about was how grateful I was that all of my people were safe thousands of miles from that stadium or concert hall or sidewalk café. I’m painfully aware of how selfish that sounds.  I thought about how terrified the parents of students on trips abroad must have been as they heard the first reports on the news.

I want to think of mundane and silly things today, and write about them, too. Things like tags. I don’t want to think too hard about the fact that another terror attack took place in Beirut the day before the ones in Paris, or that a Russian airliner dropped from the sky over the Sinai a week ago, or that Syrian toddlers in sodden, orange, life jackets continue to wash up on the world’s beaches.

But the truth of the matter is this. We are all connected in the most profound and terrible ways, whether we choose to see it or not. We can pretend that we aren’t or try to focus on other things, but it doesn’t change the fact that my humanity is tied to yours.

It’s tied to that toddler on the beach, and the tourist in the café.

To those preaching peace, and to the ones bent on destroying it, too.

And as much as I’d prefer to ignore this, I can’t.

Slippery slopes

O would some power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us.

-Robert Burns

I’m a sucker for earrings that dangle.

I’m not talking diamonds here. I mean the ones made with beads and wire that crafters craftier than I am make and sell at shows and bazaars.  They are usually pretty inexpensive, so if I lose one from a pair, I don’t get too worked up. Through the years, I’ve acquired quite a collection of these little beaded lovelies.  I keep them in a box on my dresser and enjoy choosing a pair to match whatever it is I’m wearing that day.  It’s kind of my thing, actually. To match, I mean. At least it was until a month ago.

Have you ever had one of those Lord-have-mercy moments when you realize that you’ve been walking around all day looking goofy?  When you are sure, beyond all doubt, that every stranger you’ve met that day has walked away from you muttering, “what in the world is HER deal?”  A humbling moment when you give yourself a mental slap upside the head or a good shaking and tell yourself to get it together?

I have. Last month on a day that included trips to Target, Walmart, and a hair salon with my son who, even in adulthood, has this maddening habit of going completely mute as soon as he sits down in a stylist’s chair. He believes that stylists, like mothers, read minds. But that’s a story for a different day.Suffice it to say that I was having a bad hair day of my own and as such, should have kept my opinions about how to cut his hair to myself.

It was a day like many of my days. Get up. Get dressed. Run an errand. Pay a bill. Boss someone.  All the while feeling fairly okay with the state of my general appearance and ability to keep it together.  At this age, that’s the best I can hope for.

At bedtime, as I took off my earrings, I realized that in my haste to choose a pair that morning, I’d grabbed two that were not from the same set or even color family. That’s right. The very same woman who’d bossed a perfectly nice hairstylist just hours before.  The customer buying undershirts and making  polite conversation with a cashier who, come to think of it, seemed mesmerized by that customer’s earlobes. The mom with the grown son who never noticed that his mother’s ears were making two different fashion statements. Because, why would he? He is obviously still under the impression that his mother has her you-know-what together.

This is how it starts. First, it is mismatched earrings. Then, one day you’re wearing your sweater inside out.  After that, it’s one blue shoe and one black one or a wig on backwards. Before you know it, you’re careening down the fashion slope at warp speed with nothing and nobody to break your fall.

The moral of the story for women of a certain age? Look in the mirror. Double check. But if you forget, I promise that if I see something, I’ll say something. Promise you’ll do the same for me.

Solidarity, Sisters. Solidarity.  It’s all we have.

Blank spaces…

Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.

~Jane Howard

The small ghost sat between my grandparents all the days of their lives.  In those rare times when his name would come up in conversation during my childhood, I would imagine him that way. Invisible, but there. Unseen, but deeply felt.

My grandparents lived long lives as bookends to the tragedy of losing their only son.  Each of their surviving daughters would eventually produce grandchildren, many of whom would eventually become parents themselves. Some would do this through birth, some through marriage, and others through the miracle of adoption.

It’s a numbers game, this continuing of a family. It is Family Math 101. Subtract, add, multiply, and try hard, really hard, not to divide. Live and love. And tell the stories of the ones who’ve gone ahead. Sometimes, they are sad stories like the small ghost boy. In any family, there are those stories. But so many happy ones, too.

The blood of my grandparents does not run through the veins of my children, but they know the stories as well as their long legged, fair-skinned cousins do. These are family stories, after all.  And they are a family.  A clan. A tribe. Long after I become just a story, that will still be true.

And I am their mother, the teller of the stories.  Circumstances beyond all our control brought us together and we’ve been filling in each others’ blank spaces ever since.  Ours is a new branch on an ancient family tree.

We belong to each other.  Adoption did that.

November is National Adoption Month.   For more information on Minnesota’s Waiting Children, please go to:

Minnesota Waiting Kids