As the old year rings its last bell to herald in the new,
a page turner of a story unfolds on the calendar of days flowing, one into the next
where all that matters is for each of us to
create love, share love, be love with every breath.
May your new year be filled with all that matters to you flowing in Love.
As predictable as Santa riding the skies in a sleigh full of gifts and Baby Jesus’ appearance in the Crêche on Christmas Eve, six weeks before the big day, my father would retreat to the kitchen and commandeer the mixing bowls and measuring spoons and lock himself away to prepare for the onslaught of holiday entertaining he and my mother loved to share in.
With a snap of his wrist he would fling a tea towel over one shoulder, tie an apron around his waist and haul out the big stainless steel bowl, the cutting knives and board, the flour, candied fruit and nuts, and the Rum. It was essential to the mix he told me. It’s why you started making fruitcakes six weeks before Christmas. They needed time to soak up the Rum’s juices and become all besotted with their festive bliss.
Okay. So my father never said ‘besotted with festive bliss’, but it’s what I remember most about his Christmas fruitcake. I was besotted by the festive bliss its preparation heralded in.
My daughters will tell you making fruitcake is a crime of the season. I call it a tradition worthy of annual celebration.
And this year was no different. Once I decided I needed a good douse of connection to the comfort of Christmases past, that is.
It started with the realization that I was trying to avoid Christmas. My daughter and her fiance had told me they would not be coming home on Boxing Day as planned. They were coming in January and with the wedding next September, her graduation in May, 30th birthday in June and a spree of returns to Calgary for friends’ weddings throughout the summer, that was all they could fit in.
What? Christmas couldn’t happen without Alexis.
The knowing of her absence sent me into a slump. My heart murmured nostalgically for Christmases past when The Night Before Christmas was spent watching “Love Actually” and the three of us would sit beside the sparkling lights of the tree sharing laughter and stories of life and eating all kinds of delicious treats, but not the fruitcake I’d insist they try and they’d insist was really the grossest crime of the season. Then, just before midnight they’d open their one gift (PJs of course) and I would tuck them both into the same bed to drift off to sleep and dream of sugar plum fairies and nutcrackers marching in the night.
With the announcement our Christmas, early or not, would not include my eldest daughter, the clouds of Scrooge descended and I banned all celebration from my heart. Not to mention, work was so busy I had worked every Friday leading into December. I work four days a week. Friday is my day off but given the workload, I kept giving into the call to be there, because, I told myself, I had no other choice. I had to get the work done. Work needed me.
Don’t you hate it when you cross the very same boundaries you refuse to set?
And then, Black Friday arrived and the humbug clouds dispersed when C.C. and I decided to fly Alexis home for an early Christmas celebration.
I had to get into gear fast.
It may not have been the beginning of November, but the nuts and candied fruit were calling. I had to get the fruitcakes soaking.
My father was probably stirring in his grave, if he was buried in the soils of the earth that is. Thankfully, his ashes have become part of the sea of life so only his spirit of Christmases past might have given a tiny (perhaps not so tiny) grumble of dismay as I substituted wheat flour for gluten free and contemplated leaving out the nuts too.
Just too many gluten sensitivities and celiac relations to warrant flour in my cakes, know what I mean? I truly did mean to leave out the almonds (those nut allergies are pervasive) but realized in the end, substituting wheat flour with almond flour constitutes using nuts. I threw in the almonds and other achenes and caryopsides too! (Yup. I looked up synonyms for nuts and loved what I found even if they don’t quite fit the fruitcake.)
When I told Alexis about the mix-up with the flours and informed her she would not be getting a cake in her stocking she laughed in relief and my heart breathed easily. It isn’t the tradition of making the cake I love so much. It is their teasing I treasure.
To my daughters fruitcake may be a crime of the season but to me, it is a song of the heart. Of memory stirring in the comfort of my father’s kitchen where I would sit and watch him stir and mix and buzz around the kitchen concocting Christmas treats for all to enjoy. Of memories of the joy of hearing my daughters tease me over the years for succumbing to the call of throwing candied fruit and flour into a bowl and dousing it with rum then calling it cake.
Honestly girls. There is no crime in that. Only love.
I awoke early on Boxing Day all set to begin the preparation for Christmas dinner, the day after edition. 15 people. 15 individually wrapped Christmas crackers all set to be pulled apart. 15 serviettes each with a thought-provoking question waiting to be answered once our guests sat down at the table which I had yet to set. My friend Wendy had given me the serviettes for Christmas. I was excited to put them to use.
I made coffee but the thought of my usual Christmas eggnog brew turned my stomach. ‘What’s up with that?’ I wondered as I walked into the office, opened up my computer and began to make my grocery list. The grocery store opened at 8. I wanted to be first in line.
I didn’t make it.
By 7 I was back in bed.
‘I think I’ve got the flu,’ I told C.C. as I crawled back under the covers. My body was shivering in spite of the fact I felt like I was burning up.
‘Oh Oh’, he replied cautiously moving as far away from me in the bed as he could get. ‘Whatever you’ve got, I don’t want.’
Ah, how quickly the blush of newly wed first-Christmas as a married couple bliss evaporates at even the hint of the flu.
‘It’s okay,’ he quickly rallied. ‘I’ll do the shopping. You rest.’
I was kind of hoping he’d say we’d cancel.
In between visits to the bathroom, I wallowed in self-pity and thought about all the things that needed doing before dinner was served. Would C.C. do the yams the way I wanted? Would he remember to serve the cream corn (He didn’t by the way, but not his fault. He’d put the tins on the countertop and I’d put them back into the cupboard to get them out of the way. He did suggest we were not lacking in food. I know he’s right).
C.C. set off to the grocery store and I got up to set the table.
I didn’t think I could trust him to make it look as inviting as I wanted it to be. Dressing the table is ‘my thing’, know what I mean?
I love to not just set, but decorate it. And Christmas is the best excuse for over-indulging my Martha Stewart aspirations. Sparkles, stars, shimmer and glitz, it’s all okay at Christmas.
Except, my annual gluttony of over the top decorating took back-seat to my desire to keep my stomach from hurling itself outside my body. I kept my gestures small and kept the decorating simple.
It looked lovely. Especially the hand-crafted Christmas crackers set at each place. I’d spent hours over the past month creating them. They were filled with all the usuals, plus a blessing I’d written for each person. On each, I’d affixed name tags so the crackers could do double duty. A festive touch and a place marker.
By the time C.C. got back from the grocery store, I was back in bed wishing I hadn’t gotten up in the first place.
Note to self: Being compulsive does not sit well with flu. Flu always wins.
As I lay in bed bemoaning my fate (why oh why did someone have to remind me at the Christmas Eve gathering we were at that 30 million people died from influenza at the end of the First World War?), I could hear C.C. humming along to Christmas tunes, rattling pans and chopping vegetables. I wasn’t worried about the dinner. C.C. is amazing in the kitchen. I just wanted to be there with him.
It was not to be.
I did rally a couple of times. I had to make the special casserole for the vegetarian/gluten free guests and I needed to make biscuits for the ham.
I know. I know. Compulsiveness is the last thing to go, even with the flu.
And I did manage to visit for a bit with our guests and even opened gifts. I did not, however, manage to eat even a tiny morsel of the amazing meal C.C. created and to which our guests all contributed.
But when it came time to answer the question on my serviette, I knew what I needed to say. “What is the best decision you’ve ever made?”
To find value in all things. To know that no matter what decision I’ve made, what step I’ve taken, what life-happenstance has appeared, to find value in the outcome of my decision and the things that appear on my road.
And the value of having the flu for Christmas dinner?
I got to appreciate my husband’s willingness to jump in and create a meal everyone enjoyed. And even though I didn’t feel up to sitting and chatting and being part of the festivities, it was sheer delight to lie in my bed and listen from behind my closed door to the voices and laughter of our family and friends gathered together under our roof. It felt comforting. Warm. Like I was immersed in a warm bath of love and friendship. And I was.
And bonus, I got to spend three days in bed reading and watching Netflix without one ounce of guilt spoiling my indulgence.
notes strung in perfect harmony
dancing on air
like pure white sheets
drying in the sun
a simple cavatina
the wonder that has begun
with this special time of year.
Piano keys felt
the key of life played
through a ligature
black and white/sharp and flat
a semitone on a half moving into full
a cadenza of hope
of heaven on earth
where no key is measured
a companion note
to play in harmony
to join in symphony.
each note a perfect intonation
a hymn without words
cascading from adagio to allegro
legato to staccato
hearts joining in holy communion
around a note of pure, ecstatic joy.
I cried for the world this morning. Gut-wrenching sobs erupted unexpectedly when I went in search of a Christmas song to post with my annual Christmas wishes and landed on John Lennon’s “Merry Xmans (War is Over)”.
And I cried.
I cried as I watched the images and saw the pain and horror we, the humans who are the custodians of this planet earth, unleash upon the very planet we have been entrusted with to care for and serve and protect.
We are not doing a good job of protecting one another and this earth upon which we walk.
I cried for the politicians who wage war to make peace, declaring that their war is the only way to bring harmony to the lands they say they own, they deserve, they want because what they want is more important that the wants or needs or desires of another.
I cried for the generals who command the sons and daughters who become the warriors toting guns and weapons of mass destruction designed to create the greatest harm, the greatest terror on earth.
I cried for the mothers whose sons and daughters go off in search of glory and come home torn apart by war, if they come home at all.
I cried for the children who lay silently in the night fearing the next bullet, the next blast of cannon, the next bomb to fall from the sky will tear apart their world, their home, their lives, forever.
I cried for the men and women who work in the factories that make the guns and bombs and bullets that rip through flesh and walls and tear apart limbs and lives.
I cried for each and everyone of us on this planet because we are doing this do ourselves. We are killing one another. We are destroying our humanity with our insistence that our way is better than their way, that our truth needs to be heard louder than their voice, that our faith is more righteous than another’s.
We must protect ourselves from terrorists we assert. But who created the ground upon which terrorism festers? Who contributed to the space where terrorism became the common ground upon which we all stand united in our belief we must fight against it?
Can we not see? We are one humanity. We share the same air on this one earth that is home to each and every one of us.
This air I breathe this morning came from somewhere else in the world. Someone else’s breath first took it in and sent it back out to travel the world. Just as each exhale of my breath travels beyond the four walls of this room where I sit typing and looking out at the pristine landscape blanketed in the fresh snow that fell during the night. My breath will travel the world seeking freedom. Where will my breath find peace within me and around me?
Come spring, the snow outside my window will melt and become part of the water that encompasses our planet and covers 71 percent of our earth. It will become part of a river, of the vapor in the air, of a sea, an ocean somewhere in the world. Where will it find calm waters to rest in?
We all share in the water. We all share in planet earth.
We share in its joys. We share in its sorrows.
We share in its trials and its triumphs.
We share in its violence and intolerance. We share in its compassion and its peace.
We share one world. One planet. One breath. One earth.
When will we find the courage to lay down our arms of mass destruction and embrace one another in arms of compassion, tolerance, Love?
I cried this morning.
My tears have flown free. I feel more peaceful now. Less despairing. I know that I can only do my best in our world to create the peace I seek and build a foundation of Love with every breath I take.
It is Christmas Eve. In the silent night of my soul’s yearning for Peace on Earth for All Humankind I must remember that with every breath I take, with every word I speak, with every act I make, I create peace within me and all around me. I must remember, my ripple counts.
I am inspired by the Christchild story. Inspired by the promise of the One who will come into our world and bring peace and joy to all mankind.
Yet, I grow impatient. Where is the love? Where is the peace? Where is the acceptance of one another. I grow impatient and wonder, what am I waiting for?
I read of wars and soldiers fallen upon fields of battle far from home. I read of drug lords gunning down innocent children and mother’s arms reaching out to capture their child’s body before it falls.
I hear of a father killing his children, a mother abandoning hers. I hear of a mother running away from danger, gathering her children to her breast as she knocks at a shelter door, praying they will have room for her tonight. I hear of children crying out for fear they will be left alone this Christmas. Of children calling out for someone to come and ease their pain and fear.
I hear of disease tearing lives apart, of drugs ripping into the hearts of families. Of intolerance pulling apart communities and fear of the unknown polarizing towns, pulling down politicians and pushing up our fear of each other as we take up arms to protect ourselves from our neighbours.
I hear of these things and want to call out, Let us wait no more.
Let us bring peace into our lives today. Right now. Right here.
Let us still the raging heart that would have us hate our neighbours. Let us quiet the angry voices that would have us kill each other. Let us stop picking up arms of destruction.
Let us reach out with arms of love.
Let us know peace.
Let us wait no longer.
Let us embrace the message of this child. Let us open our hearts and minds to embrace his message of love, peace and joy. He brings it to all mankind. Not just me or you. But to all of us.
Let us love one another. Care for each other. Let us bring peace to our world. This one world. One planet. One humankind.
We gathered in the early evening darkness, the city a constant hum of traffic on the streets surrounding us. We gathered and we held our tiny flickering candle lights and listened to the sounds and stood in the silence. Remembering.
People who have walked the streets, stood on corners and asked for change and slept in alleyways and city parks or a mat on the floor in a shelter.
The laughter and the tears. The good times and the bad.
The friendship. The camaraderie. The stories told and those not shared.
Moments we shared. Moments we knew about. And the stories we never knew of where they’d been before. Of where they’d come from before this thing called ‘homeless’ hit.
And as we remembered, as we carried the light in the darkness, the city moved around us, a sibilant, hissing stream of traffic carrying people to and fro the places they needed to be, wanted to go, had to get to.
And we stood surrounded by tall buildings looming in the dark, their windows lit, lights glistening. And our voices called out the names of those we’d lost. Our voices spoke their names into the night and for a moment, their names lit up the darkness and in the stillness between each breath, hearts beat in time, candles glowed and we were one.
Last night, we held the first Longest Night of the Year, a memorial service for those who have passed away in homelessness. About 50 people gathered in a downtown city park to stand together and speak the names of those they knew who had passed away and to write them on a large framed poster.
And one woman came to the mic and spoke of her brother who she’d lost to the streets. They had lived together on the streets. She spoke of gang wars and drugs and fighting and hurting people and lashing out at those who passed by who never saw her, who didn’t know her name but who still chose to call her names and mock her and her brother for their baggy clothes and angry ways. She didn’t care, back then when her brother was alive. She only cared about blocking out the pain, numbing the fear, burying her past. And then, her brother died a violent death.
We must stop the violence, she said. Stop the violence.
And she’s right. We, all of us, must. Stop the violence.
It was a night of remembering and a night of promising to do better. To do more to ensure we do not lose more of us to the dark. We do not lose our way completely.
And we stood together so that we do not forget those who have left who once walked our streets. So we do not forget they once lived amongst us. That they once laughed and joked and told stories and shared a cigarette, a last meal, a last smile.
And I wondered, what if we saw them/this differently?
What if we, the privileged ones, the ones with homes and jobs and places to go, stopped our busy just to see those who walk amongst us with no fixed address as other than ‘homeless’?
What if, we do not see them as ‘other than’ but as all of us?
What if we took time to remember, this is our world, one planet, one earth. One home. For all of us. And we are each responsible for one another. We are all one.
The most exquisite fruits are at our doors. —-Song of Songs 7:14
There was love at our door last night.
Love and laughter. Conversation. Good food and wine and shared experiences.
We laughed. We chatted. We ate together and toasted one another and gave thanks for family, friendship, love.
I am grateful.
Oh. And did I mention a wee bit tired?
We were 18 for an early Christmas dinner last night and while I absolutely love the preparation, the anticipation and the experience of hosting friends and family around a table, it is a lot of work.
Thankfully, everyone brought something to make the evening a little easier and for me, much more enjoyable, as I love how the gift of food deepens the meaning of a meal. It creates its own special flavours, as if the donor is saying, here, I am sharing a little bit of me through this dish. And the meal becomes a beautiful, tasteful blend of my food and your food joining together, just as our hearts do when we sit around the table and share in a meal cooked especially to celebrate our friendship, our bond, one another.
My mother came and sat quietly as she does, taking it all in. And when she left, she took with her the small star shaped name card I’d made for each guest so everyone would know where they sat, and have something to take home with them. “I took my star,” she whispered to me as my sister and her husband were about to take her home. “I like to show off to my friends and tell them how brilliant you are.”
All four of our children were there as were the son and daughter of my very, very dear friends, Al and Jane. Their children are my ‘tall’ children. I’ve known them since their mother and I were both pregnant together. I’ve known their parents even longer. I was on their first blind date years before the idea of ‘them’ ever came into being.
Our roots are deep.
As are my roots with my wonderful and loving friends Ursula and Andrew who bring great joy, love and heartfulness to the table and my life — not to mention to die for cauliflower and buns shaped like a Christmas tree! It also happened to be Andrew’s birthday and even though he told me not to make a fuss, we celebrated his presence in the world with a song and when we were done, and the candles on the Advent wreath, which was posing as his birthday candles for the evening, were blown out, he gave a brilliant speech which had the whole table laughing.
It was a heartfelt and heartful evening. Sitting around that table, candles flickering and twinkly lights sparkling, seeing the smiling faces, listening to the laughter and hearing the stories, I felt immersed in the wonderful concoction that is family and friends. Bonds and relationships that make my life rich and meaningful.
We had an early Christmas dinner last night to celebrate the presence of my eldest daughter who was here for a pre-Christmas visit. It was a gift of family and friends, a gift of deep roots and meaningful relationships that have stood the test of time, stood up to time’s challenges and brought joy and love into my world every day of the year.
There are two things my daughters and I have always shared together. Music and dancing.
As children, my daughters and I would listen to music together, sometimes sing together (though it was only Alexis who could truly carry a tune but her sister and I had fun trying to keep up — not to mention drive her crazy with our off-pitch, made up words and crazy riffs we’d add in just for fun, and effect) and always, we would dance. Some of my favourite videos from the girls when they were young are of the two of them all dressed up in some crazy concoction that they devised (think — black garbage bags and tin foil made into mini-skirts and tube tops, hair spiked out in some crazy fashion and bright red lipstick to make their lips all pouty), a hair brush covered in tin foil for a mic and some crazy antics as they danced and sang their way into a video just for me.
Absolutely awesome. Totally memorable.
Alas, I cannot share the videos here. I value my life too much and they have promised some serious retribution if I were to violate my promise to never share these precious moments in time beyond my personal viewing. 🙂
I can, however, share my eldest daughter’s favourite Christmas song. Last night, after we’d gone out to pick our tree and carried it back into the house to get it ready for decorating today in preparation of early-Christmas dinner for 18 tonight, we sat around the living room, sharing pizza and laughter as Christmas music played on my iPad.
This song came on and Alexis, as she states every year, said, “My favourite all time Christmas song.”
And though she didn’t get up to dance, she did quietly sing along, and as I always am when Alexis sings, I was in awe of the beauty of her voice and the joy that resonates throughout her being when she sings.
I have written often of my father’s love of music. He also loved dogs and animals of all nature and music of the holiday season. My father’s music tastes were eclectic. He loved bagpipes, swing, country and wester, big band, classical, jazz, and just for fun, he’d throw in some Ravi Shankar.
I know that this version of Little Drummer Boy with Bing Crosby and David Bowie would have been one of his favourites. It always makes me tear up.