Light the Candles, Feel the Love

It wasn’t my plan to take so much time off blogging.  Some time, yes.  This much time, no.  I have reasons – no excuses, but pretty good reasons – but they’re for another blog.  This one is about family, and specifically two members of my family who are celebrating birthdays today!

Let’s start with the oldest my sister Andrea — although she will quickly point out in her comment that she is younger than me.  In this context, she is the older of the two birthday celebrants.  Andy Pandy.  Andrea Joy.  Andrea with the string of last names we won’t go into here.  She’s also known as Mom by three amazing kids, grown up kids now, who adore the hell of her, as they should.  To me, she’s my hero.

The hands she’s been dealt in the past couple of years, the work she’s done to try to get back on her feet, the support she continues to give other people even as she needs a lot for herself… that’s a kind of bravery I’m not sure I have.  Not without a lot of things being thrown at walls and a lot of single malt being consumed anyway.

Andy made a great attempt at living and working out a dream, and it turned into a bit of a nightmare through no fault of her own.  This forced her to make other decisions that I think she’s been happy with, but have also put her back at the starting line again.  The cool thing is, she’s up for the race.  She relishes having challenges and takes them on like nobody’s business.  But she would be great for somebody’s business (Hello, Calgary!!  Are you paying attention??) and I want things to work out for her.

But in the meanwhile, I hope she is having a great, happy, delicious birthday.  I hope she knows that she is loved and admired.  I hope she knows that some art thief is going to lose his balls someday for what he did.

Love you, sis, for all 60 years and I hope many more.

As for the other birthday… my daughter (who has a mother but who lets me share).  Durita and Andy never met, which is sad, but perhaps also good, because I think they might have stories to share I’m not sure I want shared!  They would like each other though, having the same sort of “yes, I’m going to do this!” attitude.

My Darling Girl is in law school in Copenhagen, living with her “man” Toki (I’m still not prepared for this), surrounded by a circle of wonderful friends (two of whom, Maria and Gunn, we were thrilled to meet last summer), and still and always loved by her ‘original’ family in the Faeroes.  And by me.

We met on my birthday, which makes  her the best gift I ever received, and there’s not a day that goes by when I don’t think about her and how she’s filled my life and heart.  Of course, the fact I have a photo of her in every room in the house probably helps me keep track of that but still…

The sun sets very late in Copenhagen this time of the year, and I hope she & Toki and all their friends are taking advantage of a summer birthday eve.  I hope she knows I would love to spend a birthday with her again.  I hope she knows how valued and missed she is by Jeff, and by me.

Happiest Day, Darling Girl.  And many, many more.





The Ghost of Lives Present

I’m sitting here in the room we used for watching tv.  There are boxes of DVDs against the wall and there’s a box waiting for the tv & dvd player.  In the living room next door, there are more boxes, of books and china, and the stereo gear and CDs.  The bookcase is empty, the rug is in storage, and even the throw pillows are packed.  In the dining room, there are still more boxes and four bags of tag ends of booze, and an empty china cabinet.  The kitchen is a mess.  Which is why I’m sitting here in the tv room contemplating the ghosts that are wandering around.

You’d think that there would be few, if any, ghosts having lived here just 11 months, but they seem to have come in from other residences and even from empty stages and concert halls and workplaces.  They’re not doing anything – a little talking with each other, a little sharing of information, a few private jokes of mutual experience.  They’re kicking the dust bunnies and pushing the ragged edges of packing tape against boxes.  And while I can’t be sure, I think they’re almost as melancholy as I am.

Moving this time is a really good thing.  I’m going to take great lessons away from the past 18 months, but lessons are not enough on which to base a happy life, so making changes is what we need to do.  Moving, as a whole, however, is a giant pain in the ass.  And shoulders, and knees, and also gives me headaches.  So I’m sad about packing up the stuff we own, and putting so much of it in storage.  And I’m sad that this experience, with the exception of a few friends, turned out the way it did.  And I’m sad we’re not going to see our tulips bloom – damn this late and cold spring weather!

The ghosts have been reminding me that every move, every change is an opportunity to learn things, to experience new challenges and new opportunities.  New ways to hide the empty boxes…  These ghosts are the people I met as a new Navy bride decades ago.  They’re the friends we made at every new duty station, and the people with whom we worked, and family members and cherished friends who have come to this house and all the others in which we’ve lived for weekends and dinner parties.  They’re Julie and Durita and Bryan, our “children” who lived with us for varying amounts of time during their teenage years, enriching our lives beyond what words can express.  They’re our younger, optimistic, less achey selves… and they are who we hope to be 1o years from now (and remarkably, I’m still wrinkle-free).

What they are not, of course, is helpful in terms of getting the last cupboard of spices and other food stuffs sorted out, so I better go back and tackle my last big job before the movers come tomorrow morning.  I hope when the ghosts of your life show up someday – in person or in your dreams – you can enjoy them the way I do mine, that their presence refreshes and encourages you as mine encourage us.  Just don’t ask them to move the furniture.

Mothering to a Crowd…

In the category, time rolls by too fast, it’s been a month since my darling girl was here for a flying visit from her other, original home in the Faeroe Islands. Her primary reason for coming back, of course, was to see her friends in Owen Sound, but I was pretty sure she also wanted to see us… and she made a great effort to come ‘east’ to spend a couple of days here, which gladdened my heart no end.

Durita was a RotaryInternational Exchange Student for a year, travelling from a tiny country of 48,000 people and 100,000 sheep to come to a much, much larger country in every way… geography, population, number of
trees. Possibly even sheep, but I’ll leave that to others to determine. We were the second of her three host parents, and incredibly selfishly, I really, really wish we’d been her only set.

Life with Durita was always so much fun, always filled with so much laughter… even the day she got very angry with me for keeping her home from school and her play rehearsal because she had a bad cold and a fever. I let her go in the afternoon, and I think I’ve been forgiven. I taught her how to make pie, Jeffrey taught her how to ski, we went to Buffalo and to Montreal as a family, we went shopping, we played endless hands of cribbage, we watched “Friends” every time it was on tv, and started every day with lots of laughter over breakfast. We had a great time while she was living with us, and while two days was not nearly long enough, we did manage to get in some cribbage and some cooking, and of course the requisite shopping while she was here at the end of December.

Durita is one of those kids who will always find a way to fit in, to make friends, to do well. She has a remarkably sunny personality and easy way with her, and is at least as smart as she is pretty, and she’s quite pretty. Taking her into our home was both simple and a privilege because she came from such great roots at home in the Faeroe Islands, and because she represented her country and her family with such a great attitude.

Making the decision to be host parents for a second time (the first was 30 years ago! in Brunswick Maine, to a girl named Julie Danbolt from Stavanger, Norway. We weren’t old enough to be her parents so having Julie in our lives was like having a younger sibling to hang out with for four months – much fun!) was easy; it was the right time for us to have a kid back our lives again.

You know, for people who don’t have children of their own, we certainly have a lot children and teenagers in our lives. We think it’s important for young people to have lots of experience with lots of adults – people who have different view points and experiences than they might find with their own families. So we spend as much time as we can with our nieces and nephews, we’ve had exchange students and hockey players live with us, and we’ve been the house parents at the National Ski Academy in Collingwood (that’s three years that could be a book, but should definitely be a blog post of its very own!). It’s astonishing how much room there is one’s life, and one’s heart, for kids to fill up.

Durita has gone home, again, back to school, and I don’t think she’ll be able to come back to Canada for a while (although I have suggested she look into both Trent & Queen’s Universities because both are close to us and again, I appear to be a selfish mothering type). Nor does it seem likely Jeff & I will be able to travel overseas for quite awhile. So I content myself with conversations on Facebook and looking at old photos and remembering how much I love my darling girl and how much laughter and joy she brought to our home.

My friends will tell you that I am always talking about my own experiences with my own year as a Rotary student as well as international travel in general. I don’t think that there is a better way to improve the world than to
go out and see it. And I think you’ll be surprised to find that not only will you learn about the world, but you’ll find out a lot about yourself as well. Contact your local Rotary club for more information on their exchange programs, for yourself or your favourite kid.