Thursday, December 20, 2007
We went to see the Nutcracker last night. Arabella, our 6 year old Granddaughter was in the production along with lots of kids from her dance studio. They performed it on the stage at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga (UTC). Maybe I will get some of those pix on the blog after Christmas. It was truly delightful! And some time soon I hope to post some pictures of our recent trip to Biltmore Estate in Ashville, NC. Ed surprised me with a day trip up there this past Tuesday to get me outta the house. The Christmas decorations there were just beautiful and the grounds are gorgeous. There is even a winery on the premises. We didn't see everything and we have to go back when the gardens are blooming. But it worked and got me in the spirit to go right home and decorate my mansion.
But today I am trying something new. I am posting a little video. If it works I might try it again. If I don't get back to you before next Tuesday, have a wonderful Christmas, everyone. And a Healthy Happy New Year!
(Just click on the right arrow and turn up your volume.)
Sunday, December 02, 2007
Part I. Breakfasting with Princesses
“I want the Princess Placemat!” said 2 year old Indigo, in her sweet and delicate, irresistible way. “But that is my, placemat, Indigo.” responded six year old Arabella, in her saddest middle-child voice. She was right. Grandma had bought her this placemat with Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Snow White colorfully depicted on clear plastic at the Dollar General, along with one of Spiderman for oldest brother Zeppelin, and one for Indigo of Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and company, with whom she was so enamored just a few short months ago. But this morning, she only wanted the Princesses.
With some coaxing, Arabella agreed to share her Princesses with her little sister, and this made her Grandmother very happy. Grandma was a little less energetic this Sunday morning than she had been the morning before when these two tow haired princesses had been dropped off for an overnight at Grandma and Grampa’s house,but she still had a little something left in her.
So, with Indigo settled in with her Dora the Explorer bowl and spoon set on Arabella’s Princess Placemat, Grandma set a special place for big sister Arabella. She went to a special drawer and took out a hand crocheted placemat made by Arabella’s mother a few Christmases ago and paired it with a matching cloth napkin. As Arabella watched with some curiosity, Grandma pulled her big step stool over to the cupboard and climbed up to the top step. She carefully took a treasure from the highest shelf there and climbed back down. In a minute or two, she came to the table bringing with her a small yellow and blue ceramic object and ceremoniously placed it near Arabella’s grown-up place setting.
It was a small pitcher shaped like a pig. The pig was yellow with a blue kerchief around its neck. It had a handle at its tail and a hole where its mouth would be. And it was full of milk. Grandma said to Arabella “This pig has a story.”
“When I was six years old, exactly how old you are now, I had to have my tonsils out. I went into the hospital and while I was there, somebody I love made me feel much better by bringing me flowers in this ceramic pig. And I have loved it ever since then. On special occasions I sometimes let children pour their own milk from the pig pitcher, just like I did when I was a little girl. This pig is fifty years old now, and if you are very careful with it today you may use it.”
Arabella was very pleased and felt very grownup as she proudly poured her milk on her cereal. Indigo was happy, too, and when she was finished with her breakfast, for some reason she placed her white paper napkin right on the top of her little blonde head. She looked at Grandma and Arabella and announced “Look at me! I am Snow White!" Grandma and Arabella looked at each other and laughed.
And while Grandma was cleaning up the breakfast dishes she was thinking about that fifty year old pig and the wonderful woman who gave it to her so many years before. And Grandma smiled.
Part III. Frank Capra and the Fifty Year Old Pig
After John came to pick up Arabella and Indigo this morning, and while I was basking in the glow of grandmotherhood, I couldn’t stop thinking about my fifty year old pig. Like the story said, I have had it since I was six and was only allowed to use it as a child on special occasions. There is something special about having your very own little pitcher of milk when you are just a kid. I remember when we were sick and couldn’t come to the table to eat, we often had Cream of Wheat for supper while we were still in bed. We had these really great metal bed trays painted with the map of the United States on them. They had fold-down legs that were placed on each side of you and you had to stay very still while you ate so as not to spill. There was one for Chuckie and one for Suzie. I have a clear recollection of this little pig pitcher on that tray.
But what the sight of this little pitcher really made me think about was the woman who gave me this little object d’art. Her name is Gloria Petersen, closest friend to my parents, and I adored her all my life and still do. I married her nephew many moons ago, although I have never held that against her. I am sure the card on the flowers that day in the hospital in 1957 was signed by both Gloria and her husband Pete, but I have a hunch it was her idea. That was how I first learned what Baby’s Breath was. I don’t remember what flowers were in the arrangement, but I remember the Baby’s Breath.
Giving me this little pig fifty years ago is what I call a Frank Capra thing. As you know, in the Capra film “It’s a Wonderful Life” the message is that we all touch each other in ways that we might never know. In the movie, George Bailey’s mere existence was responsible for keeping someone out of jail, for saving a couple of jobs, several marriages and even a life or two. For the movie these things had to be monumental. In real life these little things may or may not have a monumental impact on our lives. But we can’t underestimate how powerful a small gesture of love, an exchange of knowledge or a kindness might be.
I like to tell teenagers I know that everything they say and do even at their stage in life can have a huge impact on their future and the future of those with whom they come in contact. So be mindful of what you say and do. I use the example of the teenagers, summer sweethearts, who decades later came together again, fell in love again and married. Of course, they don’t always believe the story until they find out that the girl in the story is me.
Little things we do or say that maybe don’t change lives, but can immediately bring up thoughts of funny and loveable memories can serve as little legacies we leave behind. There are three such legacies that I think of all the time, besides the fifty year old pig.
First, whenever I make a bed or fold a sheet I remember my Godmother, Maryellen. She taught me how to make square corners. She taught me how to fold a sheet by “kissing” the corners. And she taught me how to put a pillowcase on a pillow in a silly way by turning it inside out first, just to make it fun. I think of her whenever I hear Que Sera, Sera, too. She used to sing that to us all the time.
And I think of my cousin Liz every time I curl my eyelashes. She taught me how to do that, even though she doesn’t remember it, because I asked her not long ago. But ever since I was about 14 I have thought about Liz everyday when I do my eye makeup.
And I think of Mr. Myers, a much loved fourth grade teacher who a generation later taught my son Doug when he was in fourth grade, the first day of every new month. Mr. Myers taught Doug about Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit and Doug brought it home to our family. I wonder how many of Mr. Myers former pupils think of him the first of every month.
To this day I can’t look at that little fifty year old pig pitcher without thinking of Gloria and Pete. Pete passed away a couple of years ago and we miss him very much. Gloria doesn’t remember things as well as she used to now and she may not remember the gesture of giving me those flowers or that little pig. But this morning when Arabella was pouring her milk from it, it was just like Pete and Gloria were having breakfast with us and I have been thinking about them all morning long.
I know you all have a fifty year old pig somewhere in your cupboard. I am sure there is an object, or a phrase, or the scent of cinnamon or something that will lead you to these little legacies in your life. Leave me a comment if you think of some of yours. And if you are lucky enough to have these folks still on the planet with you, why not share with them how they have touched you along the way. I bet they will be just as surprised as George Bailey was that they made a difference.
Have a great day.
PS. It's A Wonderful Life airs on NBC December 14th at 8PM Eastern