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Every Christmas, I think back to the first one my husband and I spent together as a newly married couple. We were completely broke. He had just started a new job, and I was waitressing. We couldn’t spend money on a tree, but it didn’t feel like the holidays without one.
The weekend before Christmas we waited for the nightfall, when all the lights from the surrounding apartment buildings had gone out. With only our $19.99 Ginsu knife (we could not afford a saw), we hiked into the snow-filled woods behind our home. There we found a three-foot, barely-better-than-a-Charlie-Brown tree, and sawed through its tiny trunk. We carried it home together, though one of us could have held it single-handed.
We had only the ornaments and lights from my Christmas tree dress, leftover from the Halloween the year we met. Taking out my grandmother’s green wicker sewing kit, I used her seam-ripper to break the threads holding the ornaments and lights onto the dress. Together we decorated our little tree. As a final touch, we tied little bows of white and blue ribbon on the branches.
I think, despite the beautiful trees that we have had since, that will always be my favorite tree ever. We were penniless, with no idea how the future would treat us, but we had each other, and hope for a future together.
Today I am grateful for…
…my son, who will create a happy holiday for others, first through his volunteerism, then through his work.
…my daughter, who despite being unable to spend the holiday as she had hoped, will share her weekend with friends who are far from their families.
…my extended family, which will always include my dearest friends, those with whom we share the day, and those “over the river and through the woods”.
I am grateful for a warm home, for pen and paper, for prayer and quiet reflection.
I am thankful for eyes opening to the larger world, where for many, family and friends, small comforts of a soft chair for a brief rest, or a glass of clear, clean water; where happiness and gratitude, health and safety, are often just out of reach.
For many people, Thanksgiving is just another day.
So, while I laugh and dine with family and friends, while I thank God for my blessings, I will remember my friends and neighbors who are lonely, or cold, or hungry, or angry, or sad, and I will pray for them on this day of gratitude.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.
May the citizens of this country find the will to honor their sacrifice by healing our hearts, protecting the weak, and loving all our neighbors as we love ourselves.
A special thanks to my family members and friends who have served our country. You have done us all a great honor.
Today, I remember…
Jeanne C. Rath (Joan)
February 8, 1927 – October 22, 2011
How could I possibly put into words what my mother means to each of you? No matter what I say, it will not capture the essence of the woman who was your Bridge partner, friend, aunt; a sister, a daughter, a wife; Mommy, Grandma Joanie. All I can do is hope that the Holy Spirit will guide my words so that you will hear in them something that sparks the warmth she shared with all who knew her.
Perhaps I should start in the kitchen. In our home, all that is warm and wonderful emanated from the kitchen. And of course, that is often where our mother was found. She was a cook, extraordinaire. It is hard to think of Mom without including a standing rib roast and Yorkshire pudding or some other amazing meal in the picture. My personal favorite was when Mom made goulash. The house would fill with smoke that would ooze through the open windows, past the cool autumn air. If you went out on a goulash night, friends would ease up to you, take a sniff, and then say, “umm, you smell good, what is that?”
But, as good as the food was, the real sustenance was the love and laughter that was part of every meal. Mealtime was where we learned about words, politics, and integrity. The dinner table was where conflicts were played out and resolved, laughter was shared, and decisions made. We learned about democracy and compromise as we each submitted our jack-o-lantern candidacies on the back of a napkin, and voted for the best, and then set out to carve the best Jack-o-lantern ever each year.
Long after dessert was eaten, and coffee cups had cooled, we’d still be found at the table sharing stories. It was then that Mom would lift the smallest child onto her lap. For those of us who rested our heads on her chest at the end of a long meal, you will remember the comfort of her lap, her resonant voice, her gentle laughter. Like a warm blanket, Mom’s softness would envelop you and make you secure.
Lest you think she was perfect, she did have a flaw. She was often late (or was Dad early?), because she had just a few more things to do. So as she would get ready to go out with Dad, she’d shift laundry from washer to dryer, add “aspirin” to the blackboard grocery list, and read aloud just one more poem from Silver Pennies. Finally she would descend the stairs elegant, serene, and beautiful, with her soft scent floating behind her.
With six active children, Mom’s time was spent rushing from one place to the next. For just one moment, I want to imagine what it must have been like to be a young mother with six children between the ages of 3 and 16. In a car. All of them. Now, remove the car seats. Remove the seat belts. Have one child hanging over the back seat to reach the radio. Can you see it? I paraphrase Anne’s words, “I don’t remember being scolded to sit down or be quiet. In a sea of activity, Mom was patient and kind.”
How did Mom do it? Well….
And so she sent us out, Skippy peanut butter jars in hand, to find and collect them from the dew drops. “Look in the grass! They’re there,” she would encourage us.
In May 2007, my Dad was ready to go to the last, greatest, party. I can picture him in heaven, waiting for Mom to get ready. But Dad, Mom had a few more things she needed to get done. She traveled to Panama with her sister, Teresa, she danced and sang on a cruise ship, she saw the birth of her second great-grandchild, sponsored a grandchild’s confirmation, witnessed the marriage of two grandchildren, and applauded several graduations. She said so long to Aunt Jeanne, and her sister’s husband Bill; and she loved her family and friends through it all.
Well dad, she was finally ready. She took a deep breath to leave her cares behind, smoothed her face, and with her gentle smile she reached out to take your hand and join you once again.
 Thompson, Blanche J., Silver Pennies a Collection of Modern Poems for Boys and Girls, MacMillan Company (1925).
 Rose Fyleman, Have You Seen the Fairies? http://www.oldpoetry.com/Rose_Fyleman/8622747-Have_You_Watched_The_Fairies.
Writing is my oxygen.
My journey towards joy and well-being
the literary asylum
The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims His handiwork. Psalms 19:1
Working mom. Love to think and talk about books, creativity, education, music, and psychology.
A Peace Corps Volunteer Navigates Through New Lands, New Languages, and This Weird Thing Called Adulthood.