Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ending the Year with a Good Dance

Another year draws to a close. Another year passes from reality to memory . . . the sweet, the savory, and the bitter all wrapped up in one calendar and stored away for the sake of remembering. As always, I sit by my twinkling tree, sip slowly of my morning’s tea, and chat with my Lord about all that has come upon me and all that waits.

Inevitably I ask myself, Was this a good year?”

Hmmmm . . . even in the early years as my writing gift began to blossom I learned (quite sternly from a teacher’s red pen) to strike “good” “nice” and “fun” from my vocabulary. These overused and vapid expressions carry no flavor, he argued. Better left unused . . . or so the grading one emphatically stated. BUT . . . I wonder as I recall:

Whatever is good . . .

It is good.

Could my long-ago mentor have been mistaken?
Does GOOD still mean something good?

Today, I retrieve “good” from my writer’s discard pile and venture to savor the flavor of the good in this past year. Memories of birthdays and holidays, achievements and acquisitions, losses and sorrows, changes and more changes fill my heart and mind to overflowing with all that the year contained. And so I wade back through . . .

Like Mary, my heart brims with material for pondering.

Why, just yesterday I received one of the truly “GOOD” gifts, surely one of those memorably great gifts one treasures the rest of their life – the kind of gift that overcomes us so completely we can only nod, choked with emotion, as we murmur, “It is good.”

Yesterday I received just such a gift as I stood by and observed my 11-year-old daughter falling in love.

Yesterday, quite unexpectedly and without warning her eyes danced as she began a relationship I hope will last a lifetime . . . she found HER piano.

After much research and a few trips to showrooms for introductions and debutant dances on the keyboard, she found Mr. Right. It turned out that the 100+ year-old Steinways beautifully restored with a richness of tone that we drove nearly three hours to meet did not hold the key to this 11-year-old pianists musical heart. Instead, a new Mason-Hamlin grandly sitting nearby in all its 6-foot 4-inch ebonied beauty would steal her heart. But we did not know that as we drove and arrived to meet three hand-selected Steinway & Sons pianos of impeccable reputation.

As she approached each piano formally, attired in a rich green velvet gown for the special meeting, she sat and set about the business of “small talk” with each potential mate. Scales and chords, Habanera dances and lyrical impressions laughed out from the two seated together while the rest of us busied ourselves in giving the shy musician her private space in this delicate minuet. Some pianos received but a mere glance, others a simple introduction followed by a polite “Thank you, but no . . .” Tears gathered in this mother’s eyes as I heard such beauty emanating from this pairing or that – the rich result of those hands upon those keys.

Style, age, and price mattered not to this child in search as she played a variety of pianos beyond the three that we had arranged to “meet.” She quickly discarded some fine suitors in favor of two contenders: a 103-year-old restored Hamburg Steinway and Sons, and a brand new Mason and Hamlin AA. Equally prestigious in the world of pianos, equally decorated amongst musicians, she danced back and forth between the two. The lingering dance paused for refreshment as we made our way to a small Italian restaurant to assuage our hunger and discuss the dancing partners. The impish pianist wistfully recounted how she loved one piano more than the other, but would settle for the second choice if that proved to be the necessary option. Both played beautifully, she noted with a smile.

[I must interject here that while the #2 choice had stretched the allotted funds to the limit, it rested within the budget, unlike the #1 choice which stood far-afield, considerably beyond the monetary maximum Dad felt the budget could accommodate.]

As we finished up a very satisfying lunch we all agreed that Rachel should meet still more partners. A quick flight to San Diego in the upcoming weeks and yet another Steinway specialist would greet the musical child with a host of new potential partners. And so we paid the trattoria tab and returned to thank the generous host at the current piano ball.

As we walked to the car from the restaurant I casually inquired of Rachel whether the “weathered” elements of piano #2 had influenced her feelings. She stopped, thought, and replied, “I hadn’t noticed any difference in appearance in the pianos. They all looked fine to me.” Puzzled, I wondered how she could have missed the scrolled beauty of this one, the deep ebony sheen of that one, and on and on my surface assessments rolled. She hadn’t even noticed color difference, it seemed! How could that be? Simple, she stated quite plainly, it is all about the sound and the feel – it’s the music . . . and no more.

We entered the piano shop wherein her father deftly engaged in small talk regarding the “to be continued” storyline in this quest for The right piano. As the men talked the young girl sat to play her favorites upon the favored ones just once more, storing up those melodious memories in her heart for future ponderings and comparisons when the inevitable choosing must take place. With her mother at her side she approached #2. Her mother queried about the differences in the two instruments and the child paused . . . “Well, I can’t exactly say, one just gives me what I want more than the other. When I play it answers just a bit clearer, sharper, brighter.” She shrugged, like a child, and began to play one of her favorite pieces entitled “Happy Heart.”

The rich “Hamburg” sound of this German-made Steinway from 1906 filled the room with a romantic beauty that stung my eyes to tears. The melody faded into a reverberating memory. I couldn’t speak for the lump that had developed in my throat. The pianist knew it was beautiful. She knew it was a beautiful instrument. She knew it would work well for a lifetime. She knew . . . but . . .

She then picked up her books and casually carried them to the Mason-Hamlin beauty, a full 6 inches bigger wearing a new set of keys held a mere ½ inch higher than the competition. The pianist had remarked about the height difference in the keyboards when explaining one of the “better” attributes of the first-place choice – astonished, her father verified her find, but wondered how it mattered, as the piano dealer offered casters to elevate the other to match. She didn’t need it changed for her sake, she shrugged, simply noting it in her playing and finding that ½-inch difference a noticeable benefit.

Close by her side, with closed eyes, her mom listened as the Happy Heart danced upon the keys of the first-choice piano. Beautiful, simply beautiful . . . and then she heard it! The rambling dance across the keys in a middle stanza floated high above with a clarity and brightness that wasn’t there a minute ago when she played the Steinway. Everyone in the presence of this shy little pianist heard it. The dance was flawless. She had met her piano.

As she gathered her books and prepared to walk back to the car, drive the long way home, and ready herself for yet another round of dances in yet another town with yet another set of potential suitors, her father looked at her mother and nodded . . . “It’s the one,” He said quietly. Mom held back the tears and nodded. The financial barrier crumbled as that father thanked the Lord for an unexpected financial dividend newly received and plunked into the bank for future security, which (need I add) bridged the gap with little to spare. It was done. It was good.

With the check passed across the desk and the delivery date secured for early January, I turned to the little pianist and saw my baby girl yawning and ready to go home after a long afternoon of dancing. The pianist with her faraway look and lovely dancing hands had retreated to await the arrival of her very special partner sometime in the freshness of the new year. Truly a good way to end the old year and an equally good way to begin the new one. My heart spilled over from all the goodness of the day as I tucked my child back in to the car, settled in next to her wonderful father, and raised my eyes to thank the Lord for going before it all. It was a very good day for dancing.

Happy New Year, Sweet Friends.

May 2010 bring you Good things to dance about.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

From Our Home to Yours . . .

Merry Christmas!

With Love From,

Gary and Debbie


Elizabeth, Rachel, Lydia

* * *

But the angel said to them,
"Do not be afraid;
for behold, I bring you good news of great joy
which will be for all the people;
for today in the city of David
there has been born for you a Savior,
who is Christ the Lord.

Luke 2:10-11

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Let Christmas Come!

Christmas time is here . . .” croons the Peanuts gang, entreating us to take note of the “Beauty everywhere.” I smile and gaze at the sparkling tree that dances merrily before a picture window overlooking acres of gardens blanketed with pristine drifts of white. We don’t have to “dream” of a white Christmas here in Grass Valley . . . it has arrived in abundance this year.

Though we enjoy some measure of a white Christmas every year now, we have never become complacent about those first dancing flakes, for there was once a time when we only dreamed of it.

And then the dream came true . . .

I sit by the window and watch the sunlight dance across the brilliant landscape and fondly recall a time in years gone by when three-year-old Lydia, living in snow-free Felton, Ca, remarked with certainty that “Christmas cannot come until it snows.” We tried to educate her regarding the local weather patterns, which excluded any hope of snow for Christmas in our little coastal town. She staunchly refused to change her mind, declaring that it must snow before Christmas could arrive.

We racked our brains for a solution . . . maybe a dusting of snow would christen the distant mountains, as it does on occasion, and we could drive an hour or two to experience the wintry gift. Alas, no snow fell nearby; yet, Lydia’s snow queen dancing continued. Tension mounted as we hopelessly observed our fairy-like daughter clinging to her hopes of snow for Christmas.

A new baby served as our only Christmas present this particular year. Our glittering Christmas tree stood gift-free but beautiful nonetheless, swathed in a “snow-like” sheet at the base. It had been a HARD year . . . but we rejoiced in celebrating Jesus’ birthday with the arrival of our own baby born so near to Jesus’ birthday. Nobody requested anything more . . . except for Lydia who entertained newborn baby Rachel with enchanted notions of snowfall.

I quietly fretted . . . and prayed that there be no further disappointment in a year of incredible challenge. It had not been an easy year to endure and I felt unable to muster the strength to spend Christmas Eve consoling a weeping little one intent on seeing snow fall in a temperate beachside locale.

Christmas drew near. We baked the cookies, mulled the cider, and set the festive table many times as friends and family joined us in celebration. Smiles wreathed faces; hearts danced in merriment; all the while Lydia eagerly anticipated the coming snowfall so Christmas could really arrive.

In difficult times I have often clung to the hope set forth in 1 Peter 3:12:

For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous,
and his ears are open unto their prayers.

In the pit of my exhausted heart I forgot this promise . . .

My stomach churned as my mind raced with tactics to meet the forthcoming disappointment and tears.

BUT . . . the faith of a child melted the icy fingers of fear that gripped my doubtful heart. Lydia helped me remember God’s faithfulness as she sat at the window on Christmas Eve Day and calmly announced,

“There it is. It’s snowing. Now Christmas can come.”

With that simple declaration she hopped down from the sofa and danced over to inform Baby Rachel that all was well in the world of Christmas.

Tears sprang from my eyes as I turned in disbelief to catch sight of a mere handful of fluffy snowflakes cascading down from Heaven. If Gary hadn’t been in view I might have suspected him of standing on the rooftop with an ice cube in one hand and a cheese grater in the other . . . but clearly that was not the case. I watched as Daddy scooped up Lydia and took her outside to dance in the faith-filled snowflakes that called Christmas to Felton that year.

The whole town buzzed with delight over the unexpected snowfall . . . well, unexpected by all except one little girl who would not be separated from her faithful dream.

Each year as the first flakes of snow dance down from the skies, I pause and thank the Lord for that wonderful gift so long ago. It has been 11 years and Lydia retains no recollection of her faithful snow wish, but our family gained a new tradition that day. We have never forgotten our first “White Christmas” – a gift from our faithful three-year-old.

* * * * *

Every year, as the first snowfall commences, we dance and cheer,

“Now Christmas can come!”

As headlines blare of the cold front that has gripped our town, paralyzing all but the necessary travel . . . as snow drifts block doorways and driveways . . . as trees bow down with the weight of the wintry wardrobe . . . I smile a knowing smile, pray a joyful prayer, and wish everyone a wonder-filled Christmas.

From our house to yours:

Let go your doubts . . .
Let go your fears . . .
Open your heart . . .

Let Christmas Come!

Rachel at Play

Friday, December 4, 2009

Pocketful of Posies; Heart Full of Stories

I chuckle as I write this, for I have received a “TAP!” on the shoulder from a dear sweet friend, Karen Deborah over at Fresh Fixin’s, who has reminded me that proper manners in friendship do not allow one to simple vanish without notice. That goes for proper blog etiquette as well, I see. She writes:

Where are you?- and what is going on? You can't just disappear and not say anything for weeks and weeks. Well, you can and you have. But your absence is getting conspicuous. When your playing and having fun you still have time for a "Hi- I am busy playing"! Geez girl, I am accustomed to a wee bit more connection than this. I no good at cold turkey.

How was Disney world? Did You like Mathew with a mustache? I bet he looked cute in it.

Just write me a line if your busy and say, "I am OK--or I am not OK -please pray," You know something of that sort. A missive is not necessary on my end just a simple southern HOWDY.

You can't get away this easy! You are loved and missed and I have had ENUF OF THIS! I miss my friend!!!!!!!!!

Well, let me tell you I laughed out loud when I read this and then tears gently gathered in my eyes. She’s not the first to wonder where I have been and if they should pray me out of something difficult. Wow! This bloggy world has heartstrings zigging and zagging all over the globe . . . and it feels so good to have stumbled into this magical community over the ridge, down in the valley, and behind the waterfall. It’s pure magic, in the best of senses. Thanks to all of you that “clapped” loudly so that this fairy does not fade from “site.”

I must confess that I did not intend to fade away, but after the trip to Hawaii and during the prepping for Disneyworld, I suffered a serious relapse from an elbow injury incurred during the “Pantry Building” days of last spring. A touch of tendinitis flared up into a truly stubborn beast of pain. Blogging, internet searching for books and news and information, along with letter writing via email literally blew my elbow out and affected the entire right arm from shoulder to fingertips. Feeling stupid that I had over-dosed on the internet, I kept it mum and figured the Disney vacation would work wonders. I returned home with an improved arm, but the pain in the elbow persisted and my certified massage therapist daughter informed me of the dangers embedded in this little cry from my body. And so I faced an extended period of no gardening, no washing dishes, no vacuuming, no lifting of anything, no reading (WHAT!!!! Even holding books brought on lightening bolts of pain), and positively NO computer time!!!

I pouted . . . I fumed . . . I prayed . . . I cheated (and paid for it dearly). Eventually, I resigned myself to a period of healing wrapped in a quiet space. I felt useless and old in the beginning, but when I let go and floated with the inevitable inactivity I found something wonderful, beautiful, and YES, even enjoyable about sitting with music (or pure silence) in those moments when all others had found quiet nooks in which to feed the need to read (they lovingly spared me the additional pain of watching them devour books in my presence). Eventually I found myself able to hold a book for a few moments, wherein I chose the meatiest books at hand and took a hefty bite in a few controlled moments and then made it last like a lozenge of sweet candy, savoring the memory and recalling it in pleasure. A dabbling of journal writing kept me from going truly insane – I must write and EVERYONE around here knows it! Most of all, I savored the chatting times around the fire with my family. We pause often for tea and chats throughout the day. These chats came in second only to prayer in preserving my joy (and sanity).

This year my children decorated and cooked for Thanksgiving (I helped, of course, where hands were not needed). Great smiles of joy and gleeful giggles greeted the goodies spilling plentifully from the kitchen as I sat and fielded questions, filling the working moments with stories of Thanksgivings gone by. Next the girls exchanged the pilgrims for tinsel and baubles and Nativity Creche as we prepared our cottage for the Christ Child’s Birthday. Once again, I supplied the stories as the ornaments emerged to adorn our memory tree. We play this out every year, but somehow my limitations this time around made my stories more important to me . . . and to them.

“Please write this all down and save us the trouble of having to remember it all!” pleaded Elizabeth.

“Yes!” agreed Rachel.

Lydia, my poet child, simply smiled and nodded with the knowing twinkle of a storyteller in her eye.

And so I have promised to become The Story Girl and gift my children with the adventures and achievements, as well as foibles and fables of their rooted relatives along with the uprooted, unhinged, and otherwise unconnected save a chance encounter. I have chosen a binder to hold the stories which I will write out when the inspiration and occasion presents itself. Although a book may well come out of all this heartfelt overflow, for now it will merely be a storied lot safely stowed for all to share. My limitations at the computer will not allow me to pour out new things of a purely bloggy nature, but as I replied to Karen Deborah:

I haven't really fallen off the face of the earth . . . more like I have floated away for a time. And what a time it has been. God sends messages and when we fail to listen He captures our attention. Right? Lately I have been listening intently as I nurse tendinitis in my right elbow (from an injury back in the pantry-construction days) and seeking new direction for my blog (amongst other things). I will be back soon with an update and a shifting of the sails to go forth in a new direction. My kids are begging me to begin The Book so that they do not lose the stories that I tell so frequently about family members hanging off the family tree or delightful episodes filling the annals of family days, and even on into the tearful times that we cannot forget. Last year I set out to write a work of fiction long simmering in my heart, but life eclipsed it and I failed to complete the task. This year the novel will step aside and the family adventures that fill my memory bank and journals will step center stage for my children's sake. I thought I would toss a few onto the blog and see if my readers wanted to join the adventure. If so, Wisteria and Roses will fill with gifts from a storyteller. If nobody reads . . . my bloggy thing will slip into hibernation.

So there, my friends, I place the option before you. Would you like to read along? Do stories of immigrants and pioneers (because that defines both sides of the family) living, loving, laughing, crying, and even dying interest you? Are you curious to know what silly, sweet, or solemn story accompanies an ornament, tradition, or particular recipe that takes its special place in the history this storyteller has sprung from?

You decide . . .

I won’t be writing and publishing like a magazine, but rather my posts will pop up unexpectedly like a letter in the old-fashioned box. If you’d like to be on an email list to receive a copy directly please let me know, my techo-savvy husband promises to aid me in that service. I plan to stay right here on Blogger so any blog readers currently in use will let you know when I’ve popped in for storytime.

Oh, this really excites me now that I have written it all down for you to read. (Somehow the words become more alive to me when they take on the inscribed dimension.) I have stories galore that my children have enjoyed throughout the growing years, plus answers to lots of questions like what books would you take to a deserted island? When did you first keep a journal? Why haven’t you published a book? And so many more precious thoughts and moments that my children want preserved in a culture where families disintegrate and traditions dissolve without acknowledgement. I have promised to salvage what I remember.

Now comes the part wherein I dispel any notion that this is purely objective history. BEWARE! This exercise will be chock full of inaccuracies, stretched imaginations, misremembered facts, and all other manner of oopsies from a legal standpoint, but it will reflect my reflections, observations, memories, and conclusions stored away in my heart. (Just in case any distant relative wishes to latch onto something here for defense or more likely heated discussion – you’ve been warned. This remains a personal blog and thus filled to the brim with honest-to-goodness viewpoint. ‘nuf said.)

Okay, my elbow signals that this little chat session has come to an end. Gary has gone away on a day-long business trip and has made me promise to be GOOD and practice restraint. I intend to comply. So for now I bid you well and hope you will let me know via comment or email whether you’d like to sport a little pixie dust and fly away with me in a new direction. (I only ask so that I don’t spend time/effort uploading to blogger if nobody cares to read along.)

Until next time . . .