Braving the Winter Storm


I have been shopping for Christmas gifts, and I found myself getting very emotional in a store yesterday. I was looking at things for my mom. I remember, as I’m looking at clothes. Her hands are frail and she’s having difficulty with the simplest of tasks. Buttoning, unbuttoning. Opening little things. She’s even requesting that I walk her from one room to another. I find myself thinking, how many more Christmases do we have?” Time is so fleeting. It seems like yesterday that we were young and celebrating Christmas, with anticipation.

She recalls these days, often. “What I loved the most was going to church on Christmas Eve.” She says. Yes, I recall these very special years, in my life. We all went to school right down the street. It was Atonement Lutheran. Every class participated in the Christmas program. Each class was responsible for reciting parts of the Christmas story. When it was time for the kids in Kindergarten, to speak, it was always the best. So cute, and there was always, one or two, kids who were trying to yell louder than the rest. With their missing teeth and squeaky voices, it was adorable, even to us older kids.

At the end of the service, we would leave, to go home and on the way out the door, we were given stockings with peanuts and oranges. It’s amazing how wonderful this gift seemed to us. I think if I were to give that to my son, he’d say, “What the heck? Is this a joke?”

We lived down the street in a place called, Parklawn. And although, we were the poor kids, we all had a great sense of community. My friends from the outside, would beg to come visit me. They were so intrigued by us, “Parklawnian’s.” The poor people, who seemed to live in a perpetual party.

I have to admit. As rough as the Project life could be, we found our own entertainment. And back in the 60’s it wasn’t as violent as it is now. Although, we did have our share. We would get into physical fights and meet up at the park. But we didn’t have gangs or carry guns and knives.

My mom, tried to make our holidays special, even with her meager income. I appreciated that. Looking back, I’m amazed that she even made attempts. And her whole purpose for sending us to this school can only be God. She had to become a member, and I would sit in on the instructional classes. It was taught by Pastor Schaefer. Who happened to be the grandfather, of a girl in my class. She would later become a good friend.

You really never know what you’re doing that will influence a child. My mother would take me with her, because I was the oldest and she thought, I would behave. I always brought a book to read, but I was so interested in what this pastor was saying, that I would just listen to him. Seeds were planted in my spirit. I had the fertile ground to cultivate those seeds. I  hadn’t realized this until much later in life. But just coming through the spiritual storms, had dredged up this dry ground, and I was absorbing this ‘Water of Life.’ It was perfect timing in my life, to hear the Word of God. “And faith comes by hearing, and hearing, by The Word of God.”

As my mother and I recounted these experiences, I said, “Mom, I remember the earliest Christmas. It was with you and dad and we lived at, The Green House. This was the term we used to refer to our house we lived in, right before my mother and dad split. It was a cute little green house, (hence the name) Built brand new. I still remember the smell of stained wood and new paint. I remember the excitement as a child, moving into this house.

It’s amazing how many memories we have. I told my mom, “That year, I wanted a Barbie Dream House. You and dad gave it to me.” She had remembered that they stayed awake into the wee hours, trying to assemble this thing. I loved these memories. My dad,would place a sheet over the entry to the living room and we weren’t allowed to go in until after we had breakfast. My mom would bake cookies the night before, for Santa, and there were a couple bites out of each one. It is actually my only memory of her baking.

We would eat our cereal, with so much excitement, just to race into the next room. I wonder at times, how they did all of this, considering the major dysfunction with my dad’s drinking and the abusive nature of their marriage. Perhaps this is why I love these memories; it shows how a sense of giving,  can bring people together. If it is only for a day. How healing comes through self-sacrifice.

That Barbie Dream House, had all of my own fantasies, wrapped inside. I had drifted into my own world. As I watched my brother, Dennis, I grew so attached to him. I taught him to walk and he would seem to know when I was coming home from school. A few short month’s later, it seemed, he was gone. Spinal meningitis, had stolen him from me.

My father and mother were separating and I was in crisis. Yet no one noticed. After all, I was a child. I learned very early on, that the Dream House was destructible.  It would not withstand the test of time any more than my whimsical family life.

Now, I am sharing memories with my mom and wondering how much time I have with her. I seemed to have turned a corner in our relationship. For years, her attitude has been stubborn and argumentative. I see a softness in her.

We had watched a movie starring Betty White, yesterday and I commented on how vibrant she is. “Yes,” she said, “You have to have something to look forward to.” I thought, this is so true. We have to feel relevant. It was the reason my father, lost his desire to live. He felt he had no purpose and it’s the reason that people just give up.

Just last Christmas she was upset about a toaster. And this year, I bought a bright, red toaster for her. I can’t wait until she opens it, as it has become a joke to all of us. I went into a Salvation Army, the other day, and amazingly, I found a little porcelain toaster too. I was so tickled and knew it had to be God.

Toaster

She is happy with the simplest of things. My son gave her a little ornament last year. It says, Grandma, on it. It lights up. And she keeps it on the table so she can look at it. She pick’s it up every few minutes and says, “This is so cute, isn’t it?”

I realize that I’m getting sad, that she doesn’t keep talking about her return to Wisconsin. She used to drive me crazy with this incessant talk. But now she hardly mentions it, and I feel more upset about not hearing it. Is she beginning to give up?

I woke from a dream this morning. In this dream, I had a doctor’s appointment, with my mother. I had been out shopping and a snow storm, was just starting. I must have lived somewhere else. I looked all over and couldn’t find my mom. I asked my kids, “Where’s grandma?” They told me she went out for a while. I was frantic. “Your grandma can’t go out by herself! She doesn’t even know where she is!” I was furious, and terrified, at the same time. I started running from room to room, with the hopes that they were wrong. “I’m sure I’ll find her sitting quietly on the bed.” I thought. Every where I looked, it was empty.

I’m now wondering if I should call the police. I look outside and it’s beginning to get dark. The street lights are on and the snow is coming down so hard, it’s blowing sideways. There’s no way she can survive out there. I’m panicking.

I go into a bathroom and see a hole in the ceiling. “What in the world? I climb up and realize that my daughter and a friend, had broken some lights, and had found a hidden room. Then I remember, there were rooms in the highest level of this house, which I never went into,because of fear. It is a nightmare I’ve had for many years of my life. I would not enter into this highest level and open these doors. But now I was looking at them from below. I see that my daughter and her friend had found this secret room. And there were all kinds of things in here that I could use. I saw paint containers and tools. I was looking at a ladder, coming down from one of the rooms which I would have never entered. But somehow, from this perspective, it was all so non-threatening. I felt a sense of relief, that I had been able to finally access this all alone.

When I woke, I began to dissect this. Of course, I know that this dream, had bit’s and pieces of my life throughout. I see that the Lord has tried to show me how fearful I’ve been to open certain doors. As I’ve been told in my past, these are the areas, He wants us to give to Him. And as He helps us to open them, we will see that, we have all kinds of tools, which will help us. “I know the plans, I have for you,” says the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

My mother is one of those rooms. I hold on so tightly and I am afraid to face the winter storm. Distracted in my search for her, by a room which had hidden all of my fears. He revealed to me that, He is in control and I felt Him trying to prepare me. At times, the thought of her leaving, makes me scared. When she wakes up too late, I have fear. When she loses interest in little things, like her Soap Opera, I try to rekindle her fire. As if by doing this, I’m the one holding onto the silver cord of life. Christ reminds me that He is the reason we celebrate this holiday. He is the “Light of the World,” on Hanukkah, and the “The Greatest Gift,” on Christmas. He’s greater than any Barbie Dream House, and He’s not a fairy-tale.

I’m so thankful that my mother listened to the voice of the Lord and gave me the opportunity to Hear the Good News!

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!

The Blizzard

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