Monday, December 21, 2015

I Won't Do Christmas Without You

I am home alone this morning. These days, that doesn't happen very often. Our Christmas turkeys have flown the coop. I will miss their meandering. (but not their droppings)I walked down to get Nellie. What a still and lovely December morning it is. While I was making my coffee a lively and catchy tune sung by The Once from Newfoundland was playing on CBC.I borrowed the title of the song for my blog entry this morning and had the song in my head as I walked down the driveway. I won't do Christmas without you. I thought of who we will be doing Christmas without. Nadine, Zac, Nan, Gram and Gramps, Leonard the people in our life that have left us. And the people who won't be right here with us. Meg, Cody, Emma , Paige, Mom and Dad. We don't really do Christmas without any of them because all the Christmases we were together are part of this Christmas as well. Traditions and memories are the fabric of Christmas in our homes and hearts. Doing Christmas can be a challenge but I choose to see it as a privilege instead. I would do it differently if it were up to me. I would create a Christmas with my Dad bringing us our stockings. My Dad would be surprising me with my first sewing machine. I would pull out the present from under the tree that had 'love Gram and Gramps' on the tag and my teenage self would be hit with the truth that my scary and sometimes judgemental grandmother loved me. I would prop up my 20 day old baby in his plastic chair as Burton and I opened our presents. I would watch a two year old Zac open his presents in the little shed we built and lived in in hopeful optimism before we bought the trailer and built the house. I would stand before the tree , the cordwood walls still exposed on our first Christmas in our house. I would stand back and watch my four kids hang their ornaments every Christmas Eve. I would wipe up the sour milk poor Caleb puked all over himself on the time the whole family went on Burton's Christmas Eve run. I would hear Zac sing 'So This is Christmas" creating his own lyrics and a family favorite every year. I would open the plaque Nadine gave me the first Christmas that now has a place of honor in our home. I would walk down to Chapin and Brianne's the first Christmas Eve we joined her family for munchies. I would watch Emma and Paige open presents, Paige basically wading through wrapping paper oblivious to the presents. I would watch the poor taxi driver drive up with to Megan's with Caleb's luggage and a very spoiled turkey. I would visit every Christmas and do it all over again. That is what we do. All our Christmases meld together. Of course it is hard to have missing loved ones but the times together can not be taken from us. All hearts come home for Christmas.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Who I Was There

A few nights ago Burton and I drove by my old school. The original part was built in 1904 and the new part added in 1979. It was lit up and stood there in the Kingston square in all its grandeur. I remarked that it made me sad that I wasn't who I used to be there. Burton in his wisdom replied,"You are still who you were there. Nothing has changed that." Yesterday on my wood road walk I ruminated on that thought. For the most part I think what he said is true. Just because I don't enter that building everyday and continue to teach there doesn't take away the years that I did. I was the teacher I was. I influenced the kids I did. I made the mistakes I made and had the accomplishments I had. I was Mrs. White in that place from 1986- 2009.Sometimes legacies are altered. Sometimes when a person becomes famous or renowned for something their past is embellished. Every detail of their earlier years are magnified and plaques are put up stating that they lived there or slept there etc. Sometimes something is uncovered that taints a person's past (Bill Cosby) and how they were once regarded takes a down ward spiral. Sometimes a person's present behaviour or society's present outlook changes a persons' status and buildings or places are renamed because of the negative opinions. (Trump Tower)Sometimes a person's reputation stays in tact and they are just known by who they were and what they did in the time they were given to do it. That is where I hope I fall. I was given the privilege to teach over 800 kids. I raised my four kids and I was an active part of my community. I was what I was. Those days can not be revisited except in my memory or in the memories of others. I hope nothing changes that. I don't expect fame and fortune will alter it. I don't expect to run for the republican party . I just hope to enjoy what life offers me right now and sometimes take the time to reflect on what it gave me in the past.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Mid December Rain

Here in Southern NB we are getting heavy rain. Our yard and driveway look like a muddy spring mess. My son Chapin is building their house and has had several beautiful days for working. Today the rain has given him a rest. Each day I walk down and look at the amazing progress he is making. An impressive home is taking shape on top of a hill far down the wood road our family has enjoyed for years. On a New Years days twenty four years ago we had a picnic down that road. Meg, Chapin and I hauled Cale down on his sled and met Zac and Burton in the woods for lunch. It was one of my favorite memories and every time I walk by the spot I remember how wonderful the day was. Chapin and Bri are building their home around the corner from our picnic site. Saturday I looked up at my two sons working together placing the posts and beams that will support a home and a future for Chapin and Brianne. I was proud on every level. Walking back out the road I thought again of that beautiful winter day and all the days Burton and I laid the strong foundation for the life and the family we were blessed with. I am thrilled that those traditions and values are being carried on. Our sons are amazing carpenters and are both resourceful and visionary. Years from now these days will be the memories. The busy demanding days of the fall of 2015 that Chapin was consumed with building their home will be part of our collective memory. It will be hard to remember when the house did not stand atop the hill looking out over the lake. The day of that winter picnic will have faded even further back in our minds. But the importance of the days we spend together will not fade. These are the days that matter!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

You Can't Breathe Under Water

This morning I can't seem to shake these thoughts and despite my long list of tasks that I hope will get me through the difficulty of this day I am sitting down and attempting to write an entry giving voice to what I am feeling. Please bear with me. Life is filled with grief. It comes at us every time we turn on the news or meet with friends or neighbors or engage in a casual conversation at the grocery store. We are bombarded with stories of loss. Accidents, sudden deaths, prolonged illnesses, violence , fires , it goes on and on. It is what life is and has always been. Compassionate and caring people process those stories of loss , give voice to that compassion, exchange words of sympathy and horror and support one another . It can sometimes seem overwhelming as in instances of mass sorrow like 911,Columbine and the Paris shootings. It can make one feel like they are drowning. I have a friend that does not listen to the news and I think she is on to something but even with a no news policy suffering leaks in to our everyday . If you have stopped reading I don't blame you. I almost stopped writing but I am going to try to get back to what occurred to me this morning. Collective and selective grieving is very different than personal grieving and of course every one of the situations we hear of has at the core of it the personal and very real grief of the people it is actually happening to. I compare the two to swimming above and below the water. When you are feeling the grief as one only hearing about it you have your head above water swimming through the sadness of it and usually it is a quick effortless swim. Sometimes when it is so unimaginable you swim in rougher water even needing to hold one another up or grab a life preserver of some kind to ride out the treacherous waves. You might be in danger of loosing your breath for a moment but you are still above the water. When the grief is your own that grief plunges you deep under the water. Those first few hours days and months you sometimes feel that you will never catch your breath. You will never break through the surface and breathe freely again. But you do. Something, someone, some power forces you to the surface and you find the way to swim there on your own. But the thing is you get plunged down there over and over again. That is the difference between what you feel when you feel others pain and loss and what you feel when you experience your own. That is just the way it is and does not make what you feel for others or what others feel for you less than what it is. It is just reality. The loss you must bear is yours alone and the effort it takes to swim to the surface when you find yourself under water comes from just doing it over and over . Some days it is harder than others. But you can't breathe under water. I am thankful for everything in my life that propels me to the surface and makes swimming up from the deep water worth while.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Did You Write Charlotte's Web?

I love the questions kids ask me. Yesterday I had the pleasure of spending the day at Bayside Middle School. As always kids amuse me and amaze me with their questions. The group I spent the morning with were generous and insightful . They had participated in a book club. Six kids read one of my four books. What better gift for an author than to meet readers of all four books in one room? And these readers were keen, anxious to give their thoughts and opinions and ready to ask questions. We ended the morning with them writing one reason someone should read the book they had read. I will share a few of those. Then I asked them to write more questions down and I told them I would answer them on my blog. Jenna said " The Memory Chair is beautifully written with a spectacular story to tell." Chloe said " Ten Thousand Truths paints a story in my head ."Danielle said" The Year Mrs. Montague Cried is really touching and it's the best book I've read this year." Brenden said "I think you should read The Sewing Basket because there are a lot of events going on. This makes you want to keep your eyes open almost like an eye spy book or a word search." And then there were the questions. Ryan asked- Besides writing and swimming what is your favorite pastime. Knitting and eating maybe. Mary asked-How did you get the ideas for these books? from life. Robyn asked -What's your middle name? Ruth. Heather asked-Do you ever wonder if any of your students read your books? Yes and I know that some do. Xavier asked Who inspired you to start writing? Lots of people mostly other writers. Emily asked-What made you want to start writing? I like a good story. Isaiah asked- Would you ever write a book with you in it? I probably already have .Lucy asked Can writing books make you frustrated? yes. Luke didn't ask me anything. I guess I had answered all his questions already. Morgan asked-When were you born? 1956 Brenden asked- Who is your favorite actor? Sean Penn. Alex asked-What's your favorite movie? I am Sam. Jaymin asked-What's your favorite TV show? Newsroom. Heather asked-How long does it take to write your book and pick out a title? Sometimes 10 months to write a book sometimes six weeks. Sometimes a long time to get the right title and sometimes I know it right from the start. Bailey asked-Do you have any siblings? 2 brothers. Shannon asked- How long did it take you to write the books all together? About four years. Emily asked-What got you to write Ten Thousand Truths? a boy named Travis. Mikayla asked-What's the favorite book you've written? I don't know for sure. They are all my favorite in some way. Danielle asked-How does it feel being a popular writer? In this room right now it feels good. Kale didn't write anything down but what she probably wanted to ask me was " Why can't you get my name right? as I kept messing her name up all morning. Reese asked-Besides the epilogue what was the most emotional chapter for you to write in TYMMC. January 23 &February 20. Chloe asked- What was the biggest crowd you ever talked in front of? over 100 in the theatre at Hampton High School. Jenna asked - What is your biggest piece of advice for writers? Just write. Then the best question of the afternoon went to Gauge . No I did not write Charlotte's Web. I wish I had . I showed him that it was published in 1952 and explained I was born in 1956 and that my name was Susan not EB. Another memorable day at Bayside Middle School!