Tag Archives: faith

Countdown to Christmas

It was painful to stand there and simply watch. To idly witness, that is, a little boy, no more than three, seized by a desperate longing to ride on the horse-drawn wagon that had circled the park more times than we could readily count in the hour or so that we waited. Again and again the team of Belgians passed us in the frigid night, pausing ever so briefly along its winding path to load and unload hoards of people who had come to this festive event—to soak in some Christmas cheer, to perhaps get a glimpse of Santa in his red, velvety suit and to feast their eyes upon the spectacle of lights that blanketed the grounds, casting a warm glow upon the darkness that sought to swallow us whole.

The boy’s frustration was decidedly palpable as he wailed in vain to his mother and to the starry sky above, arching his back and clenching his tiny fists in indignation—hot, angry tears streaming down his baby face. Inconsolable, as it were. Aside from diverting his attention from this sorrowful reality (i.e. that he was NOT sitting in the aforementioned wagon, lulled by the gentle rhythm of the horses’ gait and the muted sound of their hooves as they hit the pavement), there wasn’t much anyone could do to comfort him.

So many times I’ve watched my own children suffer through the misery of waiting for that which promises to remedy all ills, to satisfy all desires and to deliver instantaneous joy. The interminable wait for Space Mountain at Disney World. The intolerable chasm between ordering a Happy Meal and wrapping one’s pudgy fingers around the cheap plastic toy contained within said Happy Meal. The insufferable gulf that exists between falling hard on the gritty sidewalk and being swooped up into a parent’s arms, where soothing assurances await.

And though they’ve grown immeasurably since that time, my children loathe the process of waiting even still—especially during this celebrated month of December, on the veritable cusp of Christmas. Over the years it has become tradition, shortly after Thanksgiving and perhaps before any other bit of holiday décor emerges from the depths of the attic, to haul out the handcrafted, Santa-inspired DAYS TILL CHRISTMAS thingy—the one that is cleverly outfitted with removable wooden blocks upon which numbers have been handily painted. We do this, of course, because we cannot find our Advent Calendar—the endearing square of felt-like fabric filled to capacity with a crop of tiny pockets and tethered to a small, cottony fir tree intended to mark the days until the 25th. Needless to say, I had a deep and abiding love for that calendar, but sadly it disappeared—along with my girlish figure, every intact set of tumblers I once owned and the stain-free carpeting I once enjoyed.

At any rate, Thing One and Thing Two are patently delirious over all that the Yuletide embodies, so thickly immersed are they in the important business of crafting gifts for friends and family, taking part in a good number of caroling excursions through school and church and (much to my dismay) quoting the lyrics of The 12 Pains of Christmas far too often. They’ve also spent an inordinate amount of time composing wish lists that appear to change with the wind, instilling me with a fair amount of panic as we inch ever nearer to Christmas Day. Indeed, the ratcheting effect of the official countdown has begun in earnest. “ELEVEN DAYS TILL CHRISTMAS!” the wooden blocks seem to shout—reminding me of both the joy this season brings and of my glaring ineptitude as it relates to the enormity of the task ahead.

Cleansing breaths and great volumes of prayer are in order at such times, which, with any luck, will serve to ground me and to give me pause—especially during this grand and glorious season of hopeful expectation.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live. Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Growing Pains, Holiday Hokum

Bittersweet

Just completed a survey on grief, which, of course, triggered a deluge of grief all over again–inspiring me to re-post this…

www.melindawentzel.comThey say something good always comes from the bad. I heard that a lot in the weeks and months following my brother’s death. And for a long time I found the cliché positively detestable. I hated hearing what I believed was a lie. As if well-meaning friends and family didn’t know what to say, so they just slapped on something that appeared fitting for the occasion, filling the void with words that not only fell flat, but stung each time I heard them.

How were they to know such statements would do more harm than good? Surely none of it was intended. Maybe they figured the more I heard it, the closer I’d be to believing it. Perhaps they thought I’d be comforted in the knowledge that someday, somehow, someway—something good would come about as a result of losing someone so dear to me. Robotically I nodded my appreciation and understanding and put on a perfunctory smile, but down deep I harbored a sea of doubt.

The sweet scent of his cologne, as I leaned in to kiss him one last time, still lingered in the corners of my mind. The haunting memory of his pale hands, cold and lifeless under the warmth of mine, was as fresh as the marmalade skies last evening—only more indelibly cemented. Thoughts of standing there next to his rose-draped casket and running my hand along its silky oak finish—as if my touch could protect him and keep him near me forever—were still too vivid and too painful to believe something good would ever be a byproduct. The hollow clang of the church bell, singing its sorrowful song, rang ever clear in my ears as did the soloist’s heartfelt rendition of Our Father. I knew then and there that life would never be the same, so to listen to everyone’s spiel on how this would eventually turn into something good seemed to me an asinine thing to do.

Suffice it to say, there was little anyone could say to convince me otherwise. Strangely enough, it was my youngest children who first opened my eyes to the possibility that, in fact, something wonderful could arise from a circumstance so indescribably horrible. All I had to do was drink in the magic of their innocence and undeniable wisdom as it unfolded before me.

Ironically, one of the initial glimmers of hope arrived on the morning of the funeral—although I didn’t view it as such then. My husband graciously shared with me something one of our twins had answered while dressing for the occasion. “Come on, Hon,” he coaxed, thinking it might be a struggle to get one or both to the church in time. “We need to go and send Uncle Jeff to Heaven now.”

“But Daddy, he’s already there,” she stated with an air of assurance far beyond her years, literally stopping my husband in his tracks just long enough to wipe his eyes and marvel at the gravity of her words. “Wow,” was all I could manage in response.

The girls drew special pictures to include as parting gifts for their uncle—ones we promised to tie up with pretty pink ribbons and carefully place next to him, amidst the river of satiny folds lining his casket. “Uncle Jeff’s gonna put ‘em on his refrigerator I’ll bet,” chirped our curly-haired wonder to her blue-eyed counterpart.

“Hey, God doesn’t have just ONE refrigerator, silly; He has LOTS and LOTS! Maybe even 100!” she fired back, prompting a discussion I had never myself imagined having—but they did.

“No He doesn’t; He has MILLIONS!” the other corrected. And so it continued; but not once was it suggested that refrigerators DIDN’T exist there in that special place, or that God hadn’t thought it would be important for uncles to display the artwork of favorite nieces. Maybe that’s precisely what my husband and I needed at that moment—to learn that hope and faith and unwavering belief dwell within beings barely old enough to tie their own shoes. It happened again when they penned letters and expected us to mail them to Heaven. Of course, we did just that—using two “Heaven stamps,” in lieu of tying them to balloons—the preferred method.

Something good had indeed arisen, albeit bittersweet. But sweet nonetheless.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live. Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2006 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Love and Loss

You Can’t Take it with You

I love idioms—especially when kids interpret them in the most literal sense imaginable. Needless to say, I am thoroughly (and often shamelessly) entertained by the manner in which my children assign meaning to this or that age-old expression. So as a matter of course, I inject said blurbages into as many conversations as humanly possible. Case in point, not long ago I asked one of my nine-year-old charges to take a stab at the intended meaning of the phrase, “You can’t take it with you.” Of course, having recently experienced the insanity that is airport security she summed it up thusly: “It’s like this, Mom. If you have an elephant and you want to get on an airplane…someone’s definitely going to say, ‘You can’t take it with you.’” She then added with her patented macabre flair, “Or, if your head falls off and rolls away, you can’t take it with you.”

Feeling at once amused and defeated as the Explainer-of-All-Things-Inexplicable, I tried to remember that the smallish beings in question can be painfully loyal to words. But like a fool, I broached the subject yet again, attempting to make clear the muddied waters. “No, no, no. It means that we should enjoy life, enjoy what we have and stop worrying about not having enough money, because when we die, we can’t take it with us anyway. It’s like spending the whole day at the beach, building the most amazing sandcastle you’ve ever imagined—digging moats, carving tunnels and gathering all sorts of twigs and shells and clumps of seaweed to make it really special. And it’s terrific fun—this sandcastle-y stuff. Then it’s time to go and we have to leave it there, knowing that the tide will later wash it into the sea no matter how much we love it.”

For my efforts, I received nothing but a blank stare and a shrug of the shoulders—as if I had tried to simplify for her the theory of relativity. Apparently, the merit of idioms having any sort of “deeper meaning” was completely lost on her. So I gave up, resigning myself to the notion that some things are impossible to convey to those gleefully immersed in a world of literalness.

But it got me thinking—about the basic premise of the idiom itself. Money, power and worldly possessions will be of no use in Heaven. In a lot of circles, that’s pretty much a given. And aside from the obvious longing to “take with me” the people and pets I have loved in my lifetime, I really shouldn’t concern myself with other wants or desires. But I find such a concept wholly inconceivable. Intolerable almost. Quite frankly, there is stuff (for lack of a better term) that I can’t imagine leaving behind.

Like my refrigerator. Not its contents so much, but its surface—the one that is entirely blanketed with favorite photos, prized artwork and treasured keepsakes that chronicle our life together as a family. Seemingly every square inch represents a tiny window through which an unforgettable slice of time can be viewed. For all intents and purposes, it is a giant mosaic that depicts in glorious detail all that is meaningful and memorable to me—serving as a daily reminder that life has been good. I have trouble envisioning being separated from such a wondrous thing.

Nor am I fond of the idea of parting with my iPod. Or my beloved camera. Or my inordinately addictive cell phone—not that I anticipate feeling the need to call or text anyone, but because I’m quite certain I will long to listen to the voicemail messages contained within. Like the pictures, they are moments frozen in time, a bundle of words that carry special meaning for me.

Equally precious is my work space—not because of the vast array of self-absorbed writings stored on any computer there or the siren song of the Blogosphere, but because of the sea of photos, the abundance of heartfelt notes and the ever-expanding mass of rocks and drawings my kids have insisted I display in the vicinity of said device “…to help you remember me while you work, Mom.” Without question, I can’t bear the thought of parting with the stash of handcrafted “Hug Tickets” one of my progenies recently bestowed upon me either. Besides, the words “Usable at Any Time or Place” are inscribed therein—so why not Heaven, I ask.

And what about sandals? And delicious books? And pockets to put things in? You never know when you might need a dog treat or a place to store pretty pebbles. Heaven ought to allow such necessities to pass over the transom. Further, I cannot fathom leaving behind my wealth of childhood memories—or the ones I’ve harvested since becoming a wife and mother. Indeed, it would be a cruel twist of fate not to be able to instantly recall the way my children’s eyelashes curl while they sleep and the soft, warm kisses only the man I love can deliver.

And there had better be snowflakes in that place of eternal rest. And raindrops and sunshine and moonbeams and birds—great flocks of them that move as one, dipping and diving together, a massive collection of tiny, black specks that dot the skies in the distance and make great whooshing sounds as they pass directly overhead. Mark my words; I’m coming back if the aforementioned “stuff” isn’t there and I’ll be putting a note in God’s Suggestion Box, ever the discontented disciple.

Idiom or no idiom, I want to take it with me.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (still chortling over my friend Trish’s twist on the ever-popular idiom: “We drop the ball in this household so often…it’s a Frisbee.”)

Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Mushy Stuff