The most significant relationships are never forgotten. I am fortunate to have had Mom in my physical life for about fifty-three years and six months, including the time inside her womb. I knew her intimately for nine months longer than I knew anyone on this planet. I learned to recognize her voice. I slept to the beat of her heart. I felt her emotions.
She gave birth to me the same year she turned 36. Mom met Dad, who was in the Air Force, through mutual friends. Their first date was a USO dance. They married several months later, on Christmas Day, 1943.
I grew up listening to music from the Big Band Era and loved seeing my parents get ready to go out dancing at the Supper Club. I had gone inside the building a couple of times. There were booths and tables and a huge wooden dance floor. My favorite parts were the ambient ceiling lights. They were recessed so only the light glowed and reflected off of what appeared to this small girl to be a giant upside-down oval bathtub.
Mom made Christmas so much fun for our family. We decorated the tree a couple of weeks before Christmas, with glass bulbs of all shapes and colors that had been in the family for years, and a few bubble lights that slowly made their way into history. We used the C-7 multicolored lights on the tree. Silver tinsel strands, placed a few at a time on each branch, reflected off of the colorful lights and made the meticulous job worth all the effort.
As the days slowly progressed toward Christmas, wrapped presents magically appeared under the tree. Little by little, by the time Christmas Eve arrived, the tree was circled by various sizes and shapes of wrapped packages with hand-curled ribbon, and a tag made out in Mom’s handwriting.
We always opened our presents on Christmas Eve after dark, around 9 p.m. First, we piled into the family car and went to candlelight service. By the time we got back home, Santa had already visited! I couldn’t believe how we barely missed him each year!
On Christmas morning, Mom got up really early to prepare the turkey and make all the rest of the dinner. She did it all on her own. She didn’t have time for children under her feet in the kitchen. It was too distracting from the task of ensuring everything was ready at the same time for our late afternoon Christmas dinner.
The table was beautifully set with a white lace tablecloth, real silver utensils that tasted odd, the best china, fancy goblets for water, a beautiful green pine bough centerpiece with red ribbon and red taper candles, and all the steaming food filled in the gaps.
Mom’s deviled eggs were the best ever! Her turkey stuffing was like nobody’s. It was delicious! Her mashed potatoes and gravy were always smooth and yummy! And the relish tray! Dill and sweet pickles along with green and black olives. It didn’t get any better!
The grownups sat at the table and the children sat at a card table nearby that sported a poinsettia-flowered tablecloth. I loved being at the little table! That’s where I learned how to put black olives on each of my tiny fingers before plucking them off with my teeth, one by one.
It’s been six Christmases since Mom left earth for a new adventure. She and dad would have been married 71 years today. I celebrate Christmas a little bit differently now, but Mom’s spirit is always with me. An angel statue next to her photo near my own little Christmas tree reminds me she is in excellent company.
The end is never the end
It allows space
Into a new beginning
May your own Christmas be full of joy and peace, along with much love.
Note: the photo above is from when I first learned how to wink. Merry Christmas!
Copyright 2014 Patricia Westbrook All Rights Reserved
Here’s a quote from, ‘One Last Poem.” Here is my website:
Take a look and let me know what you think.
‘One Last Poem’ is a prelude poem to a poem I wrote for my mother. She is the one my first book is dedicated to, signifying the love I feel for her, even though she is no longer on the same plane as those of us who are ‘living.’
She carried me inside her womb for nine months and cared for me until I could care for myself. I cannot imagine early life without her. I remember being heartbroken when she had to go to the hospital for a week. I was only three or four years old and cried on the back doorstep.
She was my proem. She was my prelude. She was my preface, my introduction into the world. She was my promise. She was the one I could run to for a hug anytime of the day or night, until I could not.
She was the one who rocked me after I fell down the basement stairs as a small child and comforted me after I tried giving our cat a bath. The poor kitty dug her claws into my arm and scalp like a climber’s pick into ice. I realized in that moment that cats did not like water.
Mom was the one who took me to coffee hour each week with the neighbor ladies. I was too young for school. One neighbor had two Siamese cats who were wild and crazy curtain climbers and howlers. Another neighbor cared for her own mother and auntie who spoke in thick Scottish brogues. I could not understand a word.
Mom was the one who celebrated each family member’s birthday with gifts and a cake. She was the one who made and placed our Easter baskets on the dining table early Easter morning. She was the one who boiled the eggs. We drew lines on them with wax and dipped them in food coloring added to vinegar water. The Easter Bunny, depending on the weather, either hid them outdoors or in the house. Rain and snow were never conducive to finding eggs. After being discovered, the eggs rested in a dish on the dining room table until they were all eaten, a week or so later.
Mom was the one who took me with her each week to her hairdresser, Maurine, who always had the latest McCall’s magazine. She handed me scissors to cut out the paper doll and dress her while she fixed Mom’s hair. Occasionally on a hot summer day Mom treated me to an icy soda pop at the lunch counter in the five and dime.
Mom was the one who held my hair with one hand on my forehead and her other hand under my belly whenever my stomach became upset and vomited its contents in the middle of the night, on countless nights. She was the one who soft-boiled an egg and dry toast to settle my gut the following morning.
She was the one who prepared all the family meals and presented them on a tablecloth covered table, in their special bowls and on their special plates. She ensured our meals were nutritionally balanced from all the food groups with much variety. Home-canned fruits and vegetables fed us all year long until the following year’s harvest.
She was the one who sewed tiny Barbie doll clothes on the sewing machine to be sold for our Camp Fire Girls’ fundraiser. She must have had the patience of a saint. The clothes turned out lovely, even though she hated to sew. I understood why after taking home economic classes in Jr. High school. Nothing I sewed years after turned out. I finally gave up the practice.
She was the one who helped me study for tests by quizzing me the night before. Good grades in school were very important in our home. She was the one who drove me to Camp Fire Girls, 4-H, and all other activities after school. She was the one who joined the PTA. How she made the time for it all, I’ll never comprehend.
She was the one who ensured we visited the cemeteries on Memorial Day as a family. Arrangements of flowers, homegrown purple or yellow irises, or pink peonies, depending on which were in bloom, arranged in a coffee can with water, found a new home at each family headstone, along with some family history for our impressionable ears. It was a full day’s outing. It always left me feeling sad when I was young. That was before I fully understood that the soul was eternal.
She was the one who contacted the Tooth Fairy when it was time for him to fly in through the window and leave a shiny nickel under the pillow in fair trade for a recently lost tooth. Of course the nickel would be spent at the candy store…
She was the one who packed the brown wicker picnic basket for Sunday outings and for the July 4 celebration every year. She was the one who filled bread bags with homemade popcorn and quart-sized Mason jars with ice water when we went to the drive-in movie theater in the summer, a very special treat. Six of us poured into the family station wagon, sleeping bags laid out in the back, the littlest ones already in our pajamas.
She was the one who made chili (and packed extra crackers) and hot cocoa for our winter outings to the South Hills to inner tube down the snow-covered mountain somewhere behind the ski lodge.
She was the one who didn’t like to play board or card games, but couldn’t stop herself from answering a game question out loud from the kitchen.
She was the one who made Christmas the most special holiday of the year, fully expecting all of her children to be there every year. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. She was the one who wrapped all the presents when we were little and made a tradition of oyster stew with canned smoked oysters along with her own special twist on the recipe for Chex party mix. I can still smell it baking.
She was the one who looked like a princess when she wore her blue chiffon floor-length formal for an especially special evening of dancing with her prince on New Year’s Eve.
She is with me always. I can feel her spirit nearby and appreciate her for sharing her love so freely with me. She’s in my heart and in my voice.
Each new sunrise offers us a precious gift: to live in the moment. It is here where we come to understand how utterly beautiful all of life truly is. Every day we have a chance to begin again. We can start over if we so desire, by choosing to create a different story, with one single step into a brand new adventure of our own choosing. The power lies completely within our minds and bodies.
With gusto I read the book, recommended by my sister, entitled One Small Step Can Change Your Life by Robert Maurer, Ph.D. He shows and explains how anyone can take one small step, even metaphorically speaking. After that first step it’s easier to move forward into the second one. Maurer’s book has helped me understand how, when I break tasks and dreams down into small parts, I can accomplish much, including new beginnings.
Watching a sunrise is one of my favorite activities at the start of a new day, especially when the early morning light begins to filter through the feathery gray hues that are clouds and turn them into swirls of pinkish orange. My widened eyes cannot keep up with the transformation of the ever-changing sky mural. It has been known to leave me breathless.
Each of us has an opportunity to transform ourselves on a daily basis, like the sunrise, moment by moment. Too easily we allow ourselves to fall into a pattern of living in the past, even the recent past, ruminating on memories of that which no longer exists in our immediate circumstances.
Memories are great when they bring us joy and learning and information to share, but sometimes we live them so habitually, we forget to be present. Just as easily, we are drawn into the future, thinking too much about what has or has not yet happened or worrying needlessly about our to-do list or an unknown outcome and asking the unanswerable question,
What if instead we focus on right now? Eckhart Tolle wrote the book, The Power Of Now, where he shares much wisdom through his personal experience. He writes about how he finds himself in a place of greater awareness and living in the present, and finding peace in the process. His philosophy is and always has been available to us. My sister-in-love (I like the sound of ‘in-love’ much better than ‘in-law’) read this book and liked it so much, I had to read it, too. In following Tolle’s advice and choosing to live in the now, I have found that peace he speaks of.
What if we stop what we are doing for a moment, close our eyes, take a deep cleansing breath, and think about…nothing? Nothing at all. Just be in the moment. Now. Allow your body to relax and rejuvenate in that long, slow breath. It may even cause you to smile as your muscles peacefully unwind. Ahhhhhh…perhaps another…
What if we begin to appreciate the deep learning thrust upon us through our different life experiences? We all have much to share through lessons learned and insights discovered, and have come to this life to do both equally well. What if we ask ourselves, “What am I here to teach?” “What am I here to learn?” Then let it go. The answer arrives as we allow ourselves to become more receptive to signs and nudges that guide us on our journey.
What if we begin to notice the way the yellow leaves on a quaking aspen shudder in unison in the crisp autumnal breeze, as if they inherently know to embrace the moment? Do you think the leaf worries about tomorrow?
What if we begin to see the perfect calm water of early morning drowsily awaken to its first wisp of a wave created by an unknown creature swimming just under the surface? Do you think the water frets over yesterday’s waves?
Each new day is full of miracles. On a continuous basis, moment by moment, we have the choice to begin again. I always love a new adventure…Oh, look at that gorgeous sunrise!
Copyright 2014 Patricia Westbrook All Rights Reserved
Life savers come in many flavors and colors. Some watch over you. Some are angels disguised as people. Some life savers are round and can float, others are sweet and crunchy. Some stay in the shallows until the time is right for them to float your way. Some show up completely unexpected. Sometimes you don’t realize you even need saving.
I’ve been blessed with many different life savers through the years. My sister saved me with one phone call. A truck driver saved me with a single CB (Citizen Band) radio message. Snow saved me from certain injury when the car I rode in slid off the side of a slippery mountain road. My dad saved me from drowning more than once when I was little. I saved myself.
When I think about it, life savers have been with me all my life. I didn’t fully understand the ways of life savers until quite a while after I started journaling. As my feelings poured onto the page through the pen in my hand, a shift began to occur in my interpretation of events.
With new perspective comes great awareness. Discovering a true passion, turning it into a dream, and creating something beautiful allows me to share experiences and ideas more fully.
Getting ideas out of my head and onto the page is freeing. It doesn’t matter if they are real experiences or imaginary places. The point is to release them. Sometimes I journal in the darkness and am surprised the following day to see what I’ve written. It’s cathartic.
More good news: my paperback is now published on Amazon! WOO HOO!!! I feel like a little child who just unwrapped a present! This gift was bound in many layers that needed to be torn away one at a time to get to the core.
Here’s the link for my book:
It’s a great accomplishment for me to be able to say, ‘It’s done!” It is also a heartfelt gift for the world to enjoy. Who knows? Maybe my poetry will be a lifesaver for someone. From my experience, lifesavers come in all sorts of surprising packages.
Are you an extrovert or an introvert? A couple of years ago I mentioned in conversation that I was an introvert. The response? “Don’t worry, we can change that.” My mouth dropped in my mind. I was taken aback wondering why anyone thought I needed changing. I replied. “Oh, I prefer being an introvert.” They looked puzzled.
I am often reminded how deeply ingrained our social norms have become. We are all on very different paths of understanding ourselves and others. I believe our communication breaks down because of these differences. We really don’t know each other very well.
Susan Cain, author of ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,’ did a TED2012 Talk on this subject. Giving this speech was an extremely difficult task for her, but she pulled it off with seeming ease. She won the 2013 Golden Gavel Award from Toastmasters for this speech.
According to Cain, extroversion is valued in our world society and Introversion is not, but should be. She is here to change that assumption. Introverts add much more than we might realize.
Cain gave a second TED Talk in 2014 with some lofty goals in mind for the workplace and for empowering children. She calls it the ‘Quiet Revolution.’
I wrote the poem, ‘Be Yourself,‘ to bring awareness to the subject. We are all here to do our part in helping create a better world, in our own way, together. Doing what makes us happy and fulfilled helps make Earth and her inhabitants thrive.
I heard recently on NPR that up to 40% of people on the planet are introverted. I am happy to be in that large minority and wouldn’t want to change a thing.
Note: If you’ve never seen a TED Talk, you can find them on a wide variety of subjects. Some talks are a few minutes, some an hour. They’re very informative and entertaining.