Light and Dark – Spring, 2007 (Archive-Diving)

I am about to undergo a blog ‘makeover,’ so I’m looking things over around here. And I’ve found a few draft pieces that never got published. From time to time over the next month or so, I will publish them, but I will note that these are from a time long past. Those of you who have followed this blog in the last two years will recognize the two babies featured here – they are now active, bright, fun and fearsome 7-year-olds, and we have added another little girl to our family circle. Mark died about 18 months after I wrote this piece and three years later, our daughter re-married. (Their engagement and wedding story are told here, here, here, and, finally, here. I have not yet been able to write very much about Mark’s death, but there is one post about our final good-bye to him to be found here. )

Despite the pressures of a remodel gone terribly, terribly wrong; despite the gnawing concern about my son-in-law’s health and my daughter’s intensive education program; despite my own recurrent struggles with overeating and under-exercising, with my own idiosyncratically strange mix of laziness, drivenness, self-doubt and grandiosity – despite the various stresses and messes of my life and my family’s life and my community’s life…this has been a Holy Week filled with gratitude and grace.

Our immediate family of 15 had a sweet afternoon together one week before this week began. Dick turned 65 and we all gathered together at a tappan restaurant in Thousand Oaks on a Sunday afternoon. We had two super samurai chefs, with their slicing and dicing and volcano-making skills dazzling us all.

We laughed as Dick donned a strange looking headpiece and bright blue kimono for a birthday picture. Then we traveled to Lisa and Mark’s home to enjoy birthday cake and babies. These two beautiful gifts of God have lightened and brightened our family gatherings for 18 months now, reminding us, even in the midst of all the pain and uncertainty of Mark and Lisa’s struggle, that life is a glorious gift, no matter what. They are living reminders of all that is good and beautiful, fun and fragile about this world.

Griffin is 18 months old, full of vinegar, climbing all over everywhere and keeping his mom awake most of the night. He is comical, loves to giggle, babbles to himself constantly – complete with inflection – moves around as quick as lightning and his smile lights up the room.

Gracie is 17 months old, loves to dance and sing, and recently, she too, is busy babbling to herself. Very soon now, they will both burst forth with full-fledged sentences and stun us all. Put them together in the same space, and the real fun begins. Whether stacking colored, wooden rings or banging out harmonies on the piano, they are quite a pair.

Life is such a bittersweet experience, filled with wonder and grief. How very grateful I am for these two precious reminders of all that is wonder-filled and glorious about the human experience.

‘Tis the Season…

Monday evening, Christmas Day, 2006

It’s been a quiet Christmas at Lake Woebegon. A lovely Christmas, in its own way, but a quiet one, nonetheless. We gathered with our kids on Saturday night, at our daughter’s home in Monrovia, 2 hours south of here. Eric, Rachel and Grace had safely packed, shipped off their belongings from east coast to west and landed in Long Beach the afternoon before. Mark had further medical tests that same day, Lisa and Joy took my mom out to a Christmas tea at the Huntington Library, and Dick and I had worked quietly at home in preparation for our long day south. I say quietly – that’s excluding the sound of the jackhammer ripping out (v-e-r-y, very s-l-o-o-o-w-ly) the marble floor tiles I have despised since we purchased this house almost 10 years ago. (Marble is cold, hard and unforgiving – to fine china and small children. We will soon have hardwood flooring throughout.) And, of course, we waited most of that day for the electricians to re-connect our internet service, our exterior lights and the tv in our bedroom – all of which disappeared from service the day before. Only the first of many such small mishaps over the next few months, I’m sure.

We gathered as an immediate family Saturday night, already stuffed and over stimulated from an earlier-that-same-day gathering with my mom, my brothers and my sister-in-law, niece and nephew. It was delightful to all be together – for the first time in two years – and we all enjoyed watching the babies toddle their way through the happy confusion.

Griffin is 15 months old, very attached to mom but willing to make friends, if you give him enough time. His lovely strawberry blond hair is growing in to form an interesting sort of mohawk effect.

Gracie is 14 months old, very social and tries her darnedest to charm the socks off every single person in the room. She also sports one of the spiffiest bed-heads since her father was a wee one. (She’s just up from a long nap – jet-lag, don’t you know – in these shots.)

We had had Italian food with the larger clan and everyone was stuffed by the time we celebrated together, so we just went straight for all those presents. The 8 years olds in our midst each received 3 different Star Wars light swords from various family units and proceeded to light-slice their way through the house while the rest of us enjoyed the rest of the gift-opening a little bit more quietly. It was a good day, all of us glad to be together in one space again. We headed for Santa Barbara around 8:45, tired and grateful.

Christmas Eve was a busy and beautiful day, with a single morning service and a brief candlelight service at 5:00. I was probably the only person who really missed serving communion by candlelight, but was still moved to tears by the lifting of our lit candles during the last verse of “Silent Night.” Dick and I had lunch at the Samarkand with his mom, so enjoyed soup and fresh pears for our Christmas eve supper.

Today was the quietest of all. Just the two of us this morning, sleeping in a little, enjoying the treat of Jeannine’s scones and homemade hot chocolate for breakfast, then taking Dick’s Mom out for a delicious turkey dinner on the pier at 1:00 p.m. It was a gloriously beautiful day and we enjoyed watching the birds and the sailors whilst we ate. We took Mama home and then drove downtown for a 3:30 showing of “The Pursuit of Happyness,” an excellent and heartwarming story which seemed appropriate for today somehow. And it’s been a quiet evening, restful and relaxing.

Tomorrow the jackhammer starts again, and we may try to take in one more flick before we check in at work on Wednesday. In the meantime, we’re enjoying the sweetness of quiet for a little while longer.

Here’s a look at our space as of now:

The kitchen, looking east, toward the hall and backyard.

The kitchen, looking into the living room. This entire doorway and wall will come out once the furnace ducts are moved tomorrow.

The family room, down to the studs, looking toward where the new laundry room will be built and the door opened to the new garage. We’re trying to salvage these two banks of cabinets for use in the new garage. We put all other old cabinets into the dumpster.

A brief addendum: as of 10:21 a.m. Tuesday the 26th, there are NO workers in view. Sigh.

A second brief addendum: as of 10:35 a.m. Tuesday the 26th, 2 faithful furnace fixers showed up and worked hard all day, clearing out the no-longer-needed-ducts and reconfiguring our existing furnace for shorter distance coverage without burning up. :>) Maybe tomorrow, we’ll cut through the remaining beams/walls.