Sunday Morning ~ Ephemera
November 18, 2018
The rains have started in Blantyre. I know that because a friend posted a photo of the rivulets running through her yard. She said the thunder was show-stopping. It made me a little homesick for Malawi. I loved the excitement of the first rains. It’s more dramatic than the first snow here, which we also got this week, because their lives depend on it. We can go a winter without snow. They can’t go a rainy season without rain. For many years I lamented the fact that I couldn’t just sit home and enjoy the snow. I love winter and winter sports. I love tucking in and doing crafts and cooking and a snowy day was the perfect backdrop. I wanted to stay home and cuddle up with the kids, but often I’d be panicked about finding childcare, getting the car cleared off, and leaving my nest. Having to go out during the night in a raging storm made the snow lose a bit of it’s charm. I worried about getting out of my driveway, about getting up McFarland’s Hill, about making it to the hospital in time. So this week, I reveled in the sweet circumstance of not having to go anywhere. I enjoyed the storm from a heated house with plenty of food. George split a load of firewood so we’ve got atmosphere, and knowing the rain arrived in Malawi and there’s the prospect of a decent crop, it’s all a bit sweeter. And to boot, the election results keep getting better and better. It’s been a good week.
I’ve been nesting, a gratifying exercise partly because it distracts me from making decisions about how I’ll support myself for the next decade. Procrastination. My bathrooms were never so clean as when I was writing my thesis. I’ve been clearing out clutter, donating stuff I haven’t used in years and tossing broken stuff that I laughingly told myself I’d fix. I came across the word “ephemera” written on waxed parchment paper. It was a gift from my friend Jack and I loved the paper, shape, and sentiment. I framed it. Ephemera, a Greek word, refers to things that are short lived, or last only one day. They aren’t meant to be preserved. As I decide what to give away and what to keep, I kept this as a reminder. The playbills I’ve uncovered along with tickets, christmas cards, notes, articles, and invitations to events long past are ephemera. They’ve gone into the fire that warmed the colder-than-normal nights, and while feeling virtuous in the letting go, I worried a little about what I’d use now to evoke those memories. I found a pile of photos of strange kids in my house throwing each other into the air. I didn’t see any contraband, but wondered how distracted was I that I didn’t even know this was happening? I probably wasn’t even home. I don’t even know who these kids are! I’m saving those to review when the kids get here for Thanksgiving.
Which brings me to…holiday fantasies. I never tire of amusing myself with fantasies of how I want the holidays to be, which is the perfect recipe for endless disappointment and resentment. Use at your own risk.
I always loved the song Over the River and Through the Woods, from the minute I first heard it as a child. My grandmothers both died when I was little and we never had those rosy experiences of taking the fun and cheery ride to her house on Thanksgiving Day. In fact, we never went anywhere on Thanksgiving. It was football and my mother slaving away. But I always imagined myself living in an era (and a family) where we’d get in the sleigh and happily travel to loving, fun relatives. I still fantasize. Now I imagine my grandchildren singing this favorite as they travel here with holiday cheer and traffic-free roads trailing behind them. Hmm, I might have to find a recording of it with animation to capture their attention, which would make me upset. I don’t even know if they’ve heard the song (note to self: sing this to them many times when they arrive). When my kids were little we had a picture book with a line of this song on each page and I would study every illustration as if it were really my own family. I loved the coats they wore. I loved the muffs the kids had their hands stuffed into. I loved the smiles on their faces. I imagined the mother and father lovingly helping each other and having in-depth conversations about meaningful matters. I loved that they all dressed formally for dinner. I loved the bows in the little girls’ hair. I loved that the cousins all played together blissfully. Oh, there might have been a slight altercation over one of the wooden toys or handmade dolls, but it was swiftly resolved without resentment or lasting psychological trauma. The parents all agreed on everything. This was a child’s picture book. I was an adult. It makes me a little nervous now to recount how vivid this fantasy was. I read that book to them and was temporarily living there, moving over the snowy fields with healthy horses pulling the sleigh, bells ringing, with a handsome competent husband taking care of all the heavy work. I wore the gorgeous blue coat with the fur collar, cinched at the waist (which accentuated my perfect figure), and the matching fur hat was to die for. My kids were all tucked in to the back seat, no worries of anyone falling out as we merrily sped along. The adorable baby wrapped in a furry blanket on my lap was as happy as can be, and there was never a thought of frostbite on the cherub’s smiling face. Just rosy cheeks for my healthy kids! And the welcome we received! Loving arms reaching out to take the baby, adoring smiles for the children, warm fire blazing, good cheer and camaraderie as we enter. Yes, and all it takes is a good watercolor artist for you to have this perfect holiday! Oh, the fifteen minutes of reading that book to the kids was sweet. Then I probably threw a hot dog on their plate for lunch and fought to get them to take a nap so I could do the dishes from the night before, resentful that WE were the ones who had to travel because NO ONE came to OUR house. And then it would snow and we’d be late and everyone would look at us as if we’d ruined the day because someone had to leave for work, and why didn’t we make an effort to get there on time, and I vowed never to read that book again. But the next year I’d forget and play the fantasy again in my mind, and I realize I still do that. It’s just that now I’m the grandmother and it’s my house they come to. God! I just realized I’m the grandmother in that book! I look so much younger than her!
Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Be safe. Be careful with the fantasies.