Sunday, December 27, 2015
You Can Go Home Again
Christmas Eve started warm and damp. We drove north through intermittent rain showers and patchy fog. There was one spot on the Connecticut River where I wished my camera hadn't been packed away, inaccessible in the back of the car. Alas, there was also no place to pull over and get it out. For I saw that the river was as still as a mill pond, the mist rising up from the water to create a mystic scene which was quite pleasing to behold. It seemed to whisper that I was traveling not only in space, but in time as well.
We got to my Mom's house with little trouble, traffic was amazingly sparse, perhaps because we got away early, to beat the rush you know.
My brother's car was already there, he had gone up on the 22nd to help my Mom get things ready for the holiday as she had fallen the week before and cracked a couple of ribs. Mom is getting on in years, 85 to be precise, but she still thinks she's 25. You have to admire her spirit, though to tell the truth we kept threatening to tie her to her chair as she kept getting up to do "stuff."
"Mom, sit down, we'll get it!"
It's tough to get her to slow down.
Dad isn't around anymore, he passed away back in February of 2010. Feels like a long time ago, feels like yesterday, but he still has a presence at home. We will never forget him.
Christmas Eve we eventually ordered pizza, as no one could decide where to go out to eat earlier in the day. The first choice had already closed for the evening. Do we go with Chinese? Which restaurant? How about the one in Bellows Falls? Jeebers, that's like 15 miles from here, might as well drive to Beijing! (That last from me, after driving 155 miles I wasn't too keen about jumping back in a car for a while.)
The pizza was purchased locally, The Musician drove down and picked it up. The Missus Herself had directed that I accompany my kid brother, I conveniently pretended I didn't hear her. (Again, that whole get in a car again thing. Jeebers, give it a rest, my butt is still asleep.)
The pizza was quite good, for those who wonder.
It's good to see decorations older than me, the big snowman, the red sleigh, they've both been around longer than I have. They were there for my first Christmas. A long, long time ago.
Christmas Day dawned misty and warm. The temperature would rise into the sixties by afternoon, officially it's the warmest Christmas I have ever experienced. Even the one I spent on Okinawa in 1976 was colder! (Mid-fifties as I recall, had to wear a field jacket that day.)
Looking outside, I remembered a Christmas 24 years ago. We were home from Nebraska, on our way to Germany for the next seven and a half years. Dad was still alive, as was my Uncle Charlie and my maternal grandmother. It was cold that ten days we spent in New Hampshire before shipping off to Europe on New Year's Day, 1992 (a story of Air Force incompetence I need to tell someday).
We had fun that Christmas so long ago. Dad is gone. Uncle Charlie died when I was in Germany. That Christmas was the last time I saw him. My grandmother is gone. My kids were all there, my Lord they were so young back then. The Olde Vermonter and Mrs Olde Vermonter were there with their two youngsters. Again, they were so little. I got to see them this year again, they are young adults now.
Looking outside, I decided to take a walk.
The mist in the trees reminded me, somehow, of a snowy day 24 years ago. Back then the house was full of people, family, I was headed out to what would no doubt be my last assignment in the Air Force. I'd be gone from the old homestead again. I needed to think. So I went out in the snow. On that day long ago.
Dad had told me of a gazebo that The Olde Vermonter had built that summer. I should go see it. So I did. The gazebo is still there. It's still in good shape. The pond which lies in front of it is grown over with cattails now, the pond is still in there, it's just hidden. Like the past. Like the future.
After I retired from the Air Force I was at my parents for a couple of months, job hunting in a rather desultory fashion, my Dad and I would wander over to the gazebo and just sit and chat. You can see the step where we used to sit, just barely. That used to be a nice lawn around the gazebo, it's been a while since anyone maintained the area.
I stood in that gazebo on Christmas morning, in this year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Fifteen, and thought of many things as the sun began to burn through the mist. My talks with my Dad, he was retired, I was (for the moment) retired and he talked of things he'd never mentioned before. We talked one soldier to another, not father and son, but two old sergeants who had "been there, done that."
I thought of my grandchildren two thousand miles away in California. It would be a few hours before they were awake. It would be some time yet before their parents got to hear those squeals of joy which many parents, blessed by hard work and circumstance, have heard over the centuries.
My parents were so blessed, as was I, as are my children.
I would miss being with them on this most blessed of days. But I could hear them all.
In my heart.
You can just see an old tree which has fallen into the pond (to the right). I once watched a kingfisher perched high on a branch in that same tree, on a hot day in July. Watching as that bird studied that pond. Watching for the flash of a scale, a ripple on the water, waiting to strike. As I watched he launched, down from on high with a brief flicker of wing, then a splash. Then back to the tree limb, no joy, he had missed the small fish he had spotted. Back to his perch to begin his watch anew.
It all played out again, in my mind's eye. A summer long ago, before we all went our separate ways. A Christmas even farther back when the snow lay crisp upon the ground and the ice crystals sparkled in the December gloaming.
The sun was now breaking through the mist. It was time to leave the past and rejoin the present. There was food to be eaten, stories to be told, carols to be sung, and more food to be eaten. Yea verily, there was even ale and wine to be quaffed. Family and friends to enjoy the present with.
Oh yes, and presents too.
How was my Christmas?
Blessed it was, a day to remember in some distant and dim future. A day to be remembered, as I remembered times long ago.
By an old gazebo. On a misty Christmas morn.