Lyrical Laughs

Thursday, November 23, 2017

A different kind of holiday memory

Shortly before the actual holiday, I was given the opportunity to share something about a Thanksgiving that was memorable to me. It happened in front of my fellow Toastmasters members at our recent meeting, during a session called Table Topics, where you are asked to speak spontaneously in response to a question. Nobody is prepared for the query, but I was even less prepared for the first thing that popped in my head as an answer.

“This is going to sound pretty ironic,” I began slowly, “but the Thanksgiving that was most memorable to me was ten years ago this Thanksgiving while I was in the hospital with a diagnosis of Leukemia.”

Naturally, there was a hush in the room. I knew I had to continue because that’s a heck of a way to start off a memory. For the next few minutes I was transported back to my hospital room where Spouse, our girls, my sister and my parents gathered around a long table the nurses had enthusiastically set up when they heard about our impending meal. A traditional Thanksgiving dinner had been prepared by my family in my little kitchen at home and driven to Maine Medical Center where I had been receiving treatments for two weeks by then. The enticing scent of turkey and stuffing filled the room, providing almost a sense of normalcy to the setting. We sat together eating, joking, soaking in our closeness.

This story wasn’t an easy one to tell because that Thanksgiving was the last memory I had of a lengthy hospital stay. There were complications, an unexpected, rapid decline, and a long, arduous road to recovery. But recover I did, and there I stood last week acknowledging this odd anniversary to a room of acquaintances who were probably expecting a story about an uncooked turkey or a snowstorm that threatened dinner. A feast in the confines of a hospital room would not have been on their radar.

Thanksgiving of 2007 was not my finest hour, but it was my family’s greatest, most selfless act of love and support. Their presence and all they did to find the positive in a difficult situation was the greatest gift I have ever received.

Every November, crisp fall scents and plummeting temperatures are a penetrating reminder of where I was then. I don’t always remember to be grateful for all that I have when those flashes of the past resurface. But this year it’s different, thanks to a simple question. Ten years is significant and worth celebrating. Ten years makes it worth remembering.

By the time you have a chance to read this, Thanksgiving may be over. The parade, the food, the family gatherings and the football games will already be history. Maybe you sat around your table a few days ago and shared what you are thankful for. Perhaps you dug into buttery mashed potatoes along with loved ones you only get to see a few times a year at most, grateful for this gathering. Hold on to that feeling of gratitude a little longer. Hold onto the memory of siblings arguing over the last piece of pie, the smell of burned potatoes, or a crooked cornucopia the six-year-old made for a centerpiece. You may be thankful for something only you can understand. It could happen… just as it did ten years ago when thankfulness surrounded a hospital room.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The resurrection of winter wear

Winter is not my enemy. I’m more of a cold weather fan than of the humidity and intolerable heat of summer. If anything might make me shiver, it’s going through the dreaded hat and mitten box. We all have them – those bottomless containers where gloves, mittens, scarves and hats from 1983 are still stored. Right around this time of year I drag the whole box out of the hall closet, attempt to match gloves back up, ask myself several times why there are seven different single gloves, toss the ones that are missing fingers before Spouse says those are his ‘good’ gloves, and wash everything else. I roll the scarves and place them neatly on one side, put the hats in the middle and layer the mittens and gloves on the other side. It looks like a department store display.

As soon as that first hand digs in for scarves, gloves, or hats, my neatly organized collection resembles the aftermath of a going out of business sale.

A couple of years ago I fell in love with big, fluffy, blanket scarves after seeing one that Second Born purchased in Budapest on her study abroad. Ironically, she got it at H&M instead of some unique Hungarian shop. I didn’t care where she found it, as long as I found one under the Christmas tree when she returned home (I did). The problem with blanket scarves is that they are, well, like a blanket. That equals about four regular scarves, a couple of hats and at least half a dozen wandering gloves.

I crammed that sucker into the box anyway. It pretty much blanketed everything else, making it even more of a challenge to find a winter cap that still fit. Eventually I got the hint and moved it to a hanger so I can grab it without swooping up several other items at the same time.

Then there is the rest of the closet. I have three winter jackets hanging in our hall closet. One of them fits but the zipper isn’t always cooperative and the pockets are ripped. Another jacket doesn’t really fit – it’s more of a ‘wish’ jacket. The third is… was my favorite. I got one year out of it when a nail snagged my arm and ripped a gash in an arm. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, I know. Someone should be able to repair it. There are plenty of seamstresses around here. Yes, there are – and not a one of them wants feathers anywhere near their business.

The first place I walked into with my jacket in two and the offending hole taped securely closed, the owner just about chased me out, saying she had prom and wedding dresses everywhere and could NOT afford to deal with feathers.

I didn’t even try to just show up with the offending piece of clothing for the second seamstress. I called first to ask if she would be willing to look at it.

“No! No-no-no – no feathers.” Well, all-righty then.

This year is going to be The Year of Winter Wear Renewal. Once I collect everything that is no longer used and donate it elsewhere, we’ll have more room and others will get good use of those kid-size caps and Grandma’s knitted mittens. Then we’ll realize we have nothing to wear, so naturally, the box will be refilled with new stuff. I refuse to get a bigger box because then I’d need a bigger closet to put it in, which leads to needing a bigger house.

I guess it’s cheaper to keep pushing down on that pile and deal with the hat, scarf, and glove treasure hunt of winter.