Wednesday, December 28, 2005

December 28, 1999

At around 4:00pm on this day six years ago, I was eating a helluva good ham sandwich. I followed it with apple pie and coffee, the single best piece of apple pie and the single best cup of coffee I'd ever tasted.

I know now why they tasted so good, but at the time I simply marvelled at the quality of the hospital food.

My younger daughter, Little Miss, was born at 3:28pm that afternoon. I'd had nothing to eat since the night before. We were at the hospital at seven in the morning, and at that time, food was the last thing on my mind.

Flashes of memory fill in some of the spaces of that day: sitting in the rocking chair, big and tired, dressed in a hospital gown and waiting for the nurses; my husband across the room in the only other chair, asking if I'd like the television on. Sitting up later on the hospital bed, hooked up to an IV and a maternal/fetal monitor, marvelling that I was having contractions just three minutes apart that I could barely feel. Playing cards with my husband and watching "The Price Is Right." By the time TPIR was over and the Young and the Restless had begun, I could feel those contractions. My water never broke on its own, but once the doctor took care of it, the pain came in waves and rushes. It had been twelve and a half years since the last time I'd given birth, and I didn't have a clear memory of what to do.

It was hard. Harder than I thought it would be. I opted for pain killers, but only in intrathecal form, rather than the more popular epidural. It wore off as I hit transition, dragging me into brain stretching pain in a sudden, sharp slash.

"You're not pushing this baby out through your feet, honey!"

The nurse, trying to help me remember just how this was done, reminding me not to push with my heels. She laughed - sympathetic, not cruel - when I asked if she couldn't just reach in and pull the baby out for me.

Lots of noise and rushing and activity and a marvelous, nearly audible whoosh - and then blessed relief and the sound of my baby's full and angry cry.

I learned she was a girl through my husband's tears. I saw her, touched her, gasped for breath with her, and shook as the nurses gently took her to be weighed and washed.

And I was hungry. It was a lusty hunger, a craving for food I'd never felt before. My husband said something to a nurse who said something to someone else, who came back with the snack for me.

I still wonder if I'll ever taste a better cup of coffee.

They put the baby in my arms and she stared at me. I stared back. It was a moment I'd waited years for, breathtaking in its sweetness. Her eyes, the striking midnight blue so many newborns share, took me in with a knowing calmness.

She's in her bed now, safely wrapped in red flannel jammies and snuggled up with three teddy bears and a new birthday doll. She has long blonde hair and spring sky eyes, my little kindergarten daughter who pronounces her age "six" with a distinct and charming lisp.

It's another breathtaking moment these years later than the first, and today's cup of coffee carries the bittersweet aftertaste of the passage of time.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas

Peace on Earth, goodwill to all.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Salad Dressing and Pickles...

I've been exiled to the office from the family room, where I had been happily watching television. My husband and my kindergartener are in there wrapping Christmas presents for me. My daughter has a hard time keeping secrets...she has already divulged that they picked out "two pairs of something" for me. I told her I didn't want any hints, but she was insistent on telling me that much.

I thought I might try enjoying my temporary banishment with a glass of Cabernet, but after the first sip I remembered that my other daughter needs a ride home from work in half an hour, and it'll be me who has to make that run. Best save the Cabernet for afterward.

A check of my message boards revealed very little activity.

A game of Free Cell? Gems? Text Twist? Nah. Not in the mood.

What's left to do but fiddle with my blog? I asked myself if it was possible to blog an entire entry about absolutely nothing of value whatsoever.

Probably. Interesting? Perhaps not.

My in-laws arrive the day after tomorrow. I spent the day yesterday deep cleaning. The master bathroom smelled like white vinegar for hours, but the floor sparkles! Amazing, that - in this day of The Space Age Housewife, vinegar remains the most effective floor cleaner. The eternally wise, efficient and thrifty Betty Crocker would be proud. All I could think of was salad dressing and pickles.

I hear giggling from the family room. Giggling and the Squirrel Nut Zippers' version of "Sleigh Ride."

Salad dressing, pickles, and "Sleigh Ride." And I haven't even had the wine yet!

Monday, December 12, 2005

"Melly Kameekimaka"

My kindergarten daughter is joyfully, loudly singing - in childish mispronunciation - the song "Mele Kalikimaka" from our Bing Crosby Christmas album. It's one of her favorite holiday-time songs, along with "Marshmallow World" as performed by Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.

Generations of family holiday celebrations are embodied now in this one little girl, illuminated by her excited smile, dancing by the Christmas tree in her own family room. I can watch her and listen to her and think of my own childhood Christmases, still living in grainy moving relief on the old home movies, carefully preserved from the old reel tapes onto DVD.

I'm spending more time these days sick with worry over our finances and less enjoying what should be the brightest spots of the season: the cookies we've baked, the delicate process of making lefse, the time-worn but well-loved Christmas specials we watch, and the quiet peace of sitting in a firelit room in the glow of Christmas lights.

I can help worrying. Someone has to.

May it never have to be my glorious, featherlight, carefree girl - the one who sings with such joyous abandon and lights up my heart.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Cookies and cats and evergreens, oh my!

Yes, yes, yes. I'm still here. It's just that I'm buried under Russian tea cakes, raspberry thumbprints, three different kinds of nuts and a vat of eggnog the size of Rhode Island.

I have wrapped three thousand two hundred and forty-seven Christmas presents. Okay, not really, but I think I've gone through enough tape for that much. They didn't call me the Scotch Tape Queen when I was growing up for nothing.

My children are running around the house after our cat while Frank and Dean giggle their way through "Marshmallow World" on the stereo.

The cat. Yes, we acquired a cat. Though, as the story goes, you might say he summoned us . A week ago today, my children were playing in the backyard when they discovered a cat in our backyard. It was plenty cold outside, so I let him in. He had a collar but no I.D. tag. The kids and I fell in love with him immediately, as did my husband when he came home. We knew we had to search for his owner, but it planted the seed of an idea in our heads. Two days later, via the Humane Society, we found Boots' owners. His family was happy to have him back, but we were left feeling empty-armed. After delivering Boots to his rightful home, we turned back for the Humane Society right away. There, we met a two-year-old orange tabby, a shy but loveable fellow who looked familiar to me. After reading the information card that indicated he was found just blocks from my house, I realized where I knew him from: he'd followed my children and me nearly all the way home from school some weeks ago. I'd decided if he followed us the whole way, we'd let him in. He disappeared just two doors short of our house.

If you believe in Cat Karma, you might suspect that our new pal, Dino, had sent Boots to our house in order to get us to the Humane Society to find the cat really meant for us.

If you don't believe in Cat Karma, then...well...I guess it's just a sweet little coincidence.


The tree is up. We have tinsel this year! I've never had tinsel before. Tinsel is an enormous pain in the neck to put on the tree, but it looks beautiful. It reflects all the lights, and is especially pretty at night. There's a smaller tree here in my office, looking cheery with its green and red glass ball ornaments and red cluster lights.

This year marks the 40th time my favorite elf ornament, given to me by my grandparents for Christmas, 1966, has been placed upon a tree. He goes on first, taking the place of honor front and center.

Back to the kitchen for me. If you haven't heard from me in a while, come on over and dig me out of the flour, sugar, and dried cherries.

Thumbprint cookie, anyone?