Why is it that my grown daughter feels it is ok to ignore my phone calls? I know cell phones are invasive, and that you dont HAVE to answer them, but its her mother for God’s sake, wouldnt you think she’d pick up just to make sure everything is ok????? When she calls me, I answer. When her dad calls, 99% of the time, she answers. When I call? its a 50/50 chance she will pick up. Seriously.
When you parent you always wonder….will IT matter…? IT can be anything from using the time out chair to a trip to the beach to an extra story at night… to any of a multitude of moments that wrap themselves into the bundle that is parenting. Will IT matter?
This Christmas has been a mix of memories and precursors, misplaced Christmas dishes and a house too small to decorate the way I like to … which got me to thinking, will it matter?
Last week, I took my oldest grandchild ( 7 years old ) Christmas shopping. We’ve done it every year since she was born. Our son raised her alone the first 3 1/2 years of her life, mom walked out when she was 5 months old and left him with a mortgage, a dog she had to “rescue” and this precious little girl. So when Christmas came that first year, she was 10 months old and her daddy had done everything he could to make it a Christmas like he had always imagined he would have when he became a father. But, there was no one to buy him gifts so baby Ava and I went shopping. Everything she touched or smiled at I bought. He got a lego set, a pink polo shirt and, if I remember correctly , a gazing ball for the back yard. And so it began, the yearly Christmas shopping trip with our girl. When we went back to her house last week to wrap the presents she wrapped and bagged and wrote the tags. She looked at me and said, “so which of these are you taking to your house?” and I explained that they were staying at her house for her to give to family. Her face broke a bit when she looked at me and said “wait, we’re not going to your house this year , you know to open all the presents and eat and everything?? the whole family?” As I explained to her that “Yes, of course you will all come to my house, you will bring your presents then, everyone will be there” — she smiled and continued her task. And I knew, without a doubt, that IT mattered, the yearly Christmas traditions that are so much work and go way too fast, that result in huge piles of paper and misplaced pieces — that I always wonder if the kids are coming to just to appease me — they matter to Ava, and probably to all of them.
This morning my son came to pick up a gift for Ava that had been delivered here.He walked in and surveyed the piles of gifts under the tree. He smiled and said, “All red and white paper this year! It looks like a giant candy cane, awesome.” And, again, IT mattered. The buying and wrapping, the clutter and ribbons, matter. A candy cane. 35 years old and he sees the Candy cane in a pile of Christmas gifts. It matters.
Two weeks ago the youngest, 30 years old, called to ask me what I was doing on Christmas Eve. Our Christmas celebrations depend on when Ava is in town and what years the oldest daughter has to go to New Jersey to celebrate with inlaws….so it was a fair question. I said “not sure, hanging out, maybe church.” She immediately suggested a “7 fishes” celebration at her house — just us and my mom , everyone else had plans. She and her husband could have planned any number of parties or events for them and their kids, but they chose to spend Christmas Eve with us, her parents. It matters. All the years of gathering the family together at our house to play Christmas carols and open gifts, to eat and sometimes drink too much…matter. And, when it came to be her turn and she finally had a house big enough to feel comfortable entertaining in — It mattered. Then when her brother called to tell us what time his Christmas Eve celebration was starting, we all adjusted times so we could do both. and the traditions will continue. IT matters.
On the 18th. all the kids and all the spouses and all 7 grandchildren gathered at oldest daughter’s house to bake cookies. They do it every year, sometimes not everyone can make it, but this year it was full out everyone. Sprinkles and dough, ovens dinging and me and George just standing there grinning. It matters. All the years of gathering them in the kitchen and baking cookies and breads matter. And now, they continue it with their children, and since they are lucky enough to have siblings that they love, they do it together, bringing those cousins together to build memories.
I wonder sometimes if their dad and I are burdens, or insignificant in their lives, but this season has reminded me that it matters. We matter.
Merry Christmas everyone.
my kids lived far apart. If it took a plane ride or a road trip to get them together it would be easier to see them apart. but it is not space, but choice, that is tearing our family down. My kids grew up incredibly close. less than 5 years separated the three of them, and our house was full of laughter and noise and tears and hugs….
They grew up and became adults. Life got in the way and we had some ups and downs — but they had each other. we had barbecues and family dinners. Family vacations when all of us — 12 of us — stayed in one house for a week or more. Boat trips and impromptu beerpong in the back yard.
But then it changed. one of them has become joined to someone who has a power trip like non other. And it has torn my kids apart. Rarely do I get to see the 7 grandchildren together, to plan a party or a dinner and know they will all be here. I miss it. And, maybe it was inevitable, but it makes me sadder than I can say.
with this cell phone, tablet, facebook filled world is it makes you have the expectation that you can get ahold of someone all the time. And then, when you cant, when you have exhausted all the wonders of technology and they dont pick up, text back or respond to an IM,,, your head goes to the worst place. Ridiculous. Only to be cured by a ringing phone.
I am SO not my mother’s daughter. I tell myself this regularly. I pray at night that my wish will come true and that I can hold on to the precious few memories of bonding with my mom and let loose of the pain and the wound tight persona she embodies.
And, today I am reminded of just how much I am not my mothers daughter. Packing one more box for the dual moves we are making over the next month, I came across two poems written to us by our daughters. the first, from our oldest, musing about her memories of car rides and long talks, full of joy and melancholy and family. The second, a sort of apology and gratitude piece from our youngest, who often feels she has to apology for her past. This is not true, she does not have to apologize. She is the most caring, involved, loving person I know. her passion has led her astray a few times when she was young , but she has nothing to apologize for. her experiences have made her the amazing woman she is today.
But, anyway. As I picked up these two poems and read them, I remembered the last notes I had found tucked away in drawers and boxes. The hate filled notes my mother had written for me to find when, she assumed, she was dead and I was organizing her life’s clutter. I found them early, but their bite was just as strong.
And I am happy that the notes I have chosen to save are filled with hope, and joy and love. With good memories and praise. Notes that will make everyone who reads them, now or in years to come, know that this family faced things together, and loved each other through every heartache. I am SO not my mother’s daughter….
Parenthood. When your kids are teens you don’t let them drink. you let them have a sip of wine on Thanksgiving, just to see what it tastes like, but you don’t let them drink. their friends cant give you their keys and drink at your house, you don’t tell them “its OK as long as you don’t drive.” You don’t give them alcohol at the pre-prom dinner.
then they go to college. You play beer pong and flip cup when they come home for holidays. you buy silly shot glasses. You call on their 21st. birthday to see if they are with someone you trust ( yeah, right). You pray they will call on Sunday morning so you will know that, at least for that weekend, they survived.
They graduate. and they drink WAY too much. You worry. You give them the stink eye and count the beers in your refrigerator. Nights when you should be asleep you sit and look at the clock waiting for the graduate — who has moved back home, to get home from whatever club they are at that night. you pray they aren’t in Philadelphia.
Then, suddenly, they are thirty something. They have a glass of wine, or a couple blue moons. and then they stop. They have kids, and spouses and jobs. They share your love of a smooth shot of anisette or a nice bloody Mary. and then they go about their day.
drinking games. One of the rights of parenthood that no one ever tells you about.