Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Month of Thanksgiving: Day 26 {For Little Hands}

Mother wondered who had thought to make the first hand print turkey, and if whoever it was could have guessed at the generations of American children who would follow, crafting silly little birds made special by the nature of their bodies, the shape of the maker's tiny hand captured forever on a scrap of paper. The best ideas are simple genius.
Pigeon had been more interested in the project than she'd anticipated, spreading eager fingers to be traced as Mother had done decades before, when her own hands were smaller. In between, she'd traced the little hands of other children in Sunday schools and classrooms, crafting treasures for other families, waiting for her own little bird to land in her lap, perch at her table, and show a little interest in scissors and glue.

And now he was here. The proof was sent with a stamp to loved ones here, and there. An imprint, a name, a date to remember: Once you were this small, she might say, years later. Once, my hand was biggest. He might laugh in return, think her silly and sentimental. At least until he had a Pigeon of his own.

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Month of Thanksgiving: Day 25 {For Catching Up}

Mother supposed she could be thankful that day for the chance to catch up on the days she'd missed, instead of feeling bad about missing them in the first place. She had run out of time to write, after all, because her days were full of doing--visits to family, visits from friends; time out with Pigeon and Father; time in, cooking, making a home for them all. Best not to regret being busy with these; better to be thankful for the spent-up hours, the real opportunities, the memories made and not just imagined.

Pigeon at Play
Sitting down for a few free minutes that day, it was easy to think of eight thanks-worthy things, one for each day she'd missed along the way:
  • Day 16 - For hands held high in worship.
  • Day 17 - For Pigeon's chance to run on a real lawn, to play with dogs and men and a football, like any boy should in November.
  • Day 18 - For cooler weather, and smaller utility bills.
  • Day 20 - For the guests that do show up.
  • Day 21 - For once-a-year peppermint mochas and homemade gingersnaps. {All things in moderation...}
  • Day 22 - For the quiet, ordered therapy of baking, and recent excuses to do it often.
  • Day 23 - For a good, late dinner with old friends, and the dry, warm home (albeit small and rented) in which to eat it.
  • Day 24 - For long Sunday naps, followed by tea and snuggles in bed with her boys.
There was more she could list, always more. One didn't need a month or a day to be thankful, but it was good to have one anyway, to take the time to more than glance around, to notice: we are blessed, we are free, we are fed, we are loved. And sometimes, we have a few minutes to write a bit of it down.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Month of Thanksgiving: Day 19 {For Paw-paw's Garden}

in the early '80's with Pigeon's dad
Paw-Paw's Garden

We thank God for
your wizened hands, 
work-worn, leathered, weathered and
smooth-sanded by that daily task--

--that tenderhearted tending of
much more than mere tomatoes--

scattering seeds in memories;
it turns out you were growing these --
these boys into the best of men.
This happened in your garden.

some 30 years later with Pigeon

Happy Birthday, Paw-Paw!
: :
Today we are thankful for you.
(And, yes, for your tomatoes!)

Friday, November 15, 2013

A Month of Thanksgiving: Day 15 {For This Moment}

Joining in once again with  
... for weekends out with Father
Soulemama & others with 
a single moment
for which we are thankful.
: :
Feel welcome to leave 
links to your moments 
in the comments below.
: :
We wish you all a
blessed weekend.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Month of Thanksgiving: Day 14 {For Brown Paper Packages}

discovering treasures
After work, Father liked to take Pigeon on a walk to get the mail. Most days, they brought back a pile of papers that were sent straight back outside to the recycle bin; other days they brought back nothing but a couple of pine cones Pigeon had collected along the way. But every once in a while, they returned with a surprise--an unexpected note, or a magazine from a forgotten subscription full of pictures to remind them of the change of seasons sweeping other places; there might even be a box full of treats. The other day, they came back with two.

The New England Grands and Dear Aunt J had both sent surprises. Amongst other things, Grammy's box was full of autumn colors for their table, books and games for Pigeon, and a Thanksgiving treasure box they would pull out each November to help them be thankful; Auntie J had sent books and remembrances, and (of course), cookies.

coloring some of his favorite characters
Mother was thankful for the gifts themselves, but more so for the givers--and especially for the smile a surprise could bring to Pigeon's face.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Month of Thanksgiving: Day 13 {For Simple Requests}

Sometimes Mother found herself busy preparing for guests who never arrived. It was hard not to feel deflated and bewildered, to wonder what she was doing wrong.

So she was thankful at the end of the evening, to hear her little Pigeon coo at her side: Snuggle me?

Yes, little one. For as long as you let me. 

A simple request from her favorite guest. Easy to please, this one.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Month of Thanksgiving: Day 12 {For Little Kitchen Helpers}

Years before, when Pigeon was still just a wish and a prayer, Mother would daydream about having little hands helping her in the kitchen. She had been a little kitchen helper once. She had memories of sitting on a gold-flecked Formica counter top while her aunt stirred fudge on the stove, or let her drop the chocolate chips into the giant Tupperware bowl full of fresh-whipped batter for her famous cookies. Once, she'd insisted on tasting the Crisco--it looked liked icing. It was a lesson in the disappointment of dashed expectations. Things weren't always as tasty as they appeared.

Back then, Mother was sure she was being helpful, unconscious of being helped herself--probably at some cost to the cook. But it was in that kitchen that she learned to measure, level, and stir, and to associate baking with love and acceptance. She never felt unwanted in her aunt's kitchen. Not once.

And so she tried to remember, when she found herself rushing to get things done--the floor vacuumed, dinner ready, the toilet cleaned before the guests arrived--to slow down for a few minutes to invite Pigeon into the kitchen to help her run the mixer to make the dessert; to be patient, to allow him to feel essential, and to enjoy him enjoying the lick of the spoon. Because you can learn a lot of things in the kitchen. That day, she was thankful for all she'd learned there.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Month of Thanksgiving: Day 11 {For Those Who Serve}

pigeon's uncle and cousins
On most mornings, Pigeon woke up after Father had already left for work. But that morning when Pigeon woke, there was Father. Snuggle me? Pigeon said, handing him a favorite book to read. And Father did.

Mother thought of Pigeon's cousins, whose Father had left for work that past summer, and wouldn't be home again for months and months. Their brave daddy was in Afghanistan, where he'd spend a dusty Christmas away from his family so that other families could be safe.

Mother thought of her sister, who was managing life on her own without the kind of help which Mother often took for granted in Father. Her own husband was busy helping others in that far away land.

Pigeon was thankful to have Father home for an extra day, but was too young to understand the cost to other fathers and families. Mother was thankful for the many brave fathers and mothers and daughters and sons, who were giving so much so that families like Pigeon's could have these sweet, simple moments on a Monday morning--a safe, warm bed, a snuggle, and a book.

Thank you, Uncle B! Thank you Aunty and Cousins!
We love you. We are praying for a safe return.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Month of Thanksgiving: Day 10 {For Rest and Worship}

pigeon at rest in his father's arms : : 2011

On Sundays
they were thankful
for the gifts
of worship and
of rest.

: :
Blessings, all.


Friday, November 8, 2013

A Month of Thanksgiving: Day 9 {For Rivers in the Desert}

That Saturday, they went to the zoo. Pigeon stopped to stare at the animals he'd only ever known as drawn up or collaged in his story books. But he recognized them immediately, and said the name of each one with sweetness and love, as if he were meeting up with an old friend after a long absence.
As it happened, they had met new friends that day. The November sun was pleasant, the shade abundant, the company good. Sometimes the desert could surprise you. They were thankful to be refreshed.

A Month of Thanksgiving: Day 8 {For This Moment}

... for cheap dates at the bookstore.

Joining in once again with  
Soulemama & others with 
a single moment
for which we are thankful.
: :
Feel welcome to leave 
links to your moments 
in the comments below.
: :
We wish you all a
blessed weekend.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Month of Thanksgiving: Day 7 {For Cousins}

a small sampling of cousins, courtesy of Mother's cousin L
Pigeon was blessed with cousins on both sides of the States. He was learning the fun of looking up to people who were much smaller than Mother and Father, but still (mostly) a bit bigger than he. He had learned to say their names, to place them with the right faces, and knew which one had sent him which toys, which hand-me-downs, which folded papers colored with hearts and letters. He treasured every scrap. He remembered which places he'd gone with each one, the things they'd together done and seen; he pointed out reminders of these memories to Mother and Father every day, pointing at some insignificant item and saying a cousin's name with a bold nod. Sometimes it took a while for Mother to place the connection, but she always did. Pigeon's memory was his own little treasure box; she was glad it was full of so many gems.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Day of Thanksgiving: Day 6 {For The Slightest Progress}

First attempt: January 2013
Pigeon was potty training. Again. He didn't seem to care much about it, or about the puddles he left in his wake. Mother could think of nothing else from the moment she put the cloth pants on him to the moment she gave in to a diaper for bed.

(They had tried the no-pants-at-all method. Mother just wasn't built for that.)

It felt like they might be stuck in the cycle of preoccupation and frustration forever. Pigeon ignored the bribes rewards, shrugged at the praise, was uncowed by Mother's meltdowns at the mess. After a day of battling his nonchalance with ineffectual nerves, she'd hide her relief and slip a diaper on him for bedtime. She could see him again, then--not just his puffy training pants and the drips--and relax enough for a sweet cuddle before saying goodnight.

One night while she and Father were putting Pigeon to bed, thoughts about giving up--putting it off for another week, or two, or a month--tiptoed into her head as she let herself enjoy her boy for a few clean, dry minutes. Kiss, Mama? he said, tilting his chin up towards her face. Daddy, hug?
But as her resignation trickled in, Pigeon looked up from his pillow, wide-eyed. Potty, 'morrow? he said, with a nod. Sticker? Treat?

Mother was thankful and very surprised; maybe Pigeon wasn't so indifferent, after all. Maybe he just needed a little time. If he was game, she must be, too.  And so they'd try, and try again.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Month of Thanksgiving: Day 5 {For People Who Value the Past}

Not too far from the New England Grands stood an old stone mill. It still ground flour and meal. Henry Ford had built it to preserve the past for future generations. Mother had gone there as a little girl; the Grands were married at the white-steepled chapel down the road. Mother's sister was married at the historic inn down the lane, where Mother and Father held a dinner for their wedding party the night before their own marriage. Mother's family still gathered for meals there yearly, charmed by the candlelight and the towering oaks, the smell and sheen of weathered wood banisters. And Father and I used to come here for picnics before we got married, Mother told Pigeon as they drove out to the old mill with the Grands that October.

When Henry Ford bought the inn and expanded the grounds in the 20's, had he pictured a little Pigeon's wonder at seeing it for the first time? Had he heard the tiny gasp at the sight of rushing water, felt the boy's delight at the living history that matched the pictures in his story books?

Mother was thankful for this man, who believed the past would make a pleasant gift for the future. She was thankful for her own father, who believed the same, who loved these old places and nurtured a love for them in his own family.

Some small slice of Mother's rich and simple memories became Pigeon's that day. His hair in the sun and his small strong legs stepping alongside his grandfather's would become part of their own past--a past worth remembering, and worthy of thanksgiving.

Monday, November 4, 2013

A Month of Thanksgiving: Day 4 {For Mother and Father}

November 2006
Seven years ago that day, Mother and Father were married. Mother wore a white dress with a gold sash; Father wore a black suit and a champagne tie. Friends played a song of thanksgiving on piano and strings; guests ate almond cake and truffles, walnut pastries, and fruit tart to celebrate. And so began a walk down a road that was theirs, and theirs alone. Five years along the way, Pigeon joined them on their journey.

November 2011
Mother, who was far from perfect, would sometimes forget that Father, though not perfect himself, was made perfectly for her, and Pigeon for them. 

But then some trivial moment would remind her, and her heart would close to burst with thanks. She did not earn this grace.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Month of Thanksgiving : Day 3 {For Ya-Ya}

Ya-Ya with Pigeon (November 2012)
Ya-ya with Pigeon's Father (the Previous Century)

Pigeon was blessed with a host of lively Grands and Greats. He christened Father's mother "Ya-Ya" before he learned to make the "grrr" sound for "Grandma". And so shall she ever be known.

Ya-Ya is loved by children and puppies alike, which means she must be intrinsically kind (she is), and give especially good treats (she does).

Happy Birthday, Ya-Ya! Today we are thankful for you.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

A Month of Thanksgiving: Day 2 {For Leafing}

October isn't the most horrible time to be in the desert, but it might be the worst time not to be in New England. Mother's best memories of childhood were filed away by seasons. In her growing-up corner of New England, each season was felt in its fullest fury and celebrated for its brightest beauty; October sparkled especially. She was sad that, come October, Pigeon wouldn't expect the sweet smell of frost and sugar maples, or anticipate the pleasure of crunching through leaves a foot deep.

And so she was especially thankful that Thanksgiving month, that he (and she) had been gifted such a brilliant dose of New England autumn that year. The New England Grands had brought them out just in time for a proper leafing. The crunch underfoot, the sugar in the air, the frost-bejeweled pumpkin on the sunny stoop; it was all the same. Pleasant enough for Mother to enjoy on her own, but newly wondrous when enjoyed through Pigeon's eyes.

Friday, November 1, 2013

A Month of Thanksgiving: Day 1 {For the Evening Before}

October ended with Pigeon's first tricks-or-treats. Until now, he'd been too little to gather his own bucket of sweets, to walk door to door and knock or ring bells. This year, Father was working; Mother helped Pigeon carve his pumpkin. Its glowing grin filled their little just-for-now home with light and the scent of singed pumpkin. The smell of eight-years-old-in-October, thought Mother, who liked feeling so suddenly young again, instead of so suddenly old. Surprises sent from the Grands and Greats set up a happy mood. A quick, comfy costume came together just in time for them to meet up with cousins wearing cute, cuddly costumes of their own. Together they walked street upon street, accepting a treat or two in exchange for the smiles they put on the faces that answered the doors.

Children are a blessing, Mother thought the next morning.  It was the first day of Thanksgiving Month, and there was much for which to give thanks: her youth recaptured for a few hours in the scent of a jack-o-lantern and candy wrappers; the laughter on street corners following the flashes of fairy wings and capes; and family in all corners of the country, some close enough to spend an evening with.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Pigeon Remembers

Running down the hill to find the ducks
One day they left the house with the pond out back and never went home again. There were days of boxes piled high, crowding the corners; strangers came to take away the big things, leaving a wad of cash in Mother's hand and an empty space on the wall, the floor.

So we can buy some new things when we get where we're going, she said, tucking the bills away.

But if they'd gotten there, Pigeon wasn't sure. So far, they hadn't bought much, but they did have a few walls around them and lots of space to run in circles where a table and chairs should be. There was a landing to share with the neighbors. Down the stairs and through a concrete maze lined with aloe and cacti, past a lemon (a lime? an orange?) tree, was a pool. Father would take him to swim there at night; the days were too hot to play out in the sun. Here the world was pink, and lime-green, with purple rock, and orange and brown; fringes of yellow and splashes of violet here and there, bursts of magenta along the ridges of pancake-shaped prickly pear paddles. Black-bronze mountains rose high on the horizon. There were beautiful things in the desert, but they were not his beautiful, small things.

Desert vista

Pigeon missed the ducks. He mentioned them daily to Mother in gasping breathes: Ducks! Ducks! Bread! Bread! He'd pound his fist to his chin, to remind her how they would feed them stale crumbs in the spring at the edge of the pond. Shoo! Shoo! Go! he'd shout, never forgetting how Mother would run at them, hollering, to scare them off the patio when they grew too familiar. Pigeon remembered all of these little things from his days. He missed them.

Old friends

Mother felt things about this that she couldn't say. She let him remember, remembering with him. These were the things she'd meant to write down in this space. Yes, at our old house... She'd smile and nod. Maybe, at our new house, she'd say, trying to sound convincing. It was, after all, possible. Anything's possible. Never say never; don't grow too familiar. Spread your wings over your ducklings and shepherd them with you. Make a home there, and all will be well.

Friday, March 29, 2013

{this moment} : : egging

Joining in once again with  
Soulemama & others with 
a single moment from the week.

: :

Feel welcome to leave 
links to your moments 
in the comments below.

: :

Have a blessed 
Easter weekend!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Pigeon's Snowy Spring

A week into spring, and Pigeon's world was washed in white. Last year at that time, he and mother had sat outside in summer outfits and sunshades, wiggling bare toes in early green grass. We'll make up for this next year, Mother had thought. It seemed she was right. The flakes had come in earnest Sunday evening, falling heavy through the night. It was still snowing Monday morning. They stayed indoors and out of the dull, gray day.
On Tuesday the sun was shining. Mother bundled Pigeon into puffy snow pants and fleece-lined boots. She put socks on his hands and an extra sweatshirt under his winter coat. Outside they squinted against the strong sun. It burned their cheeks. Mother realized they both wore too many clothes; soon everything but their fingertips was hot. Mother worked hard, rolling the heavy, melting snow into three large balls. Pigeon recognized the figure that emerged as she piled them one on top of the other and scraped off any dirt and pebbles collected along the way. He'd read books about men made of snow.

They gave him a carrot nose and pebble eyes and buttons. Pigeon's toy hammer made an excellent pipe. They found a big floppy hat and an old scarf to tie under his chin. Mother snapped two budding branches off a tree for his arms. Then they sprinkled nuts and dried fruit onto his hat and pressed them into his lap. They hoped birds would come to dine there. They also hoped the man wouldn't stay long. It was spring, after all, and the ducks were nesting.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Pigeon's Celebrations: Four Friendly Valentines

Pigeon had guests for Valentine's Day. Mother was helping a friend by having her four daughters in for the day. With so many youngsters about, Mother had an excuse to throw a party. When Pigeon awoke that morning, his breakfast table was spread with a heart-speckled cloth and scattered with candies. A pink heart banner hung over his breakfast chair, and someone had left a package for him to open on his tray. Inside were two new books from Mother and Father. Pigeon knew it would be a special day.

Having the girls over in itself was special. So many people to play with! He shared his toys and his mother well. Together they made paper valentines. Mother helped Pigeon put glue on little paper hearts, which he pressed onto a red card for Father, along with stickers he picked out himself. Everyone's cards went into plastic sleeves. They dropped foil-wrapped chocolate hearts into each one to take the place of kisses, tied them up, and set them aside to hand out later.

After lunch, Mother brought out a tin full of heart-shaped cookies. They each got a pile to decorate with tubes of icing, sprinkles, candy hearts, and chocolate bits. The girls filled a whole box top with their work. Pigeon snitched chocolate bits when Mother wasn't looking. 

After naps, they ordered pizza and the older girls got to pick out a movie to watch while they waited for their parents to come get them. Pigeon liked having so many kids around his table. Maybe one day there would be other children there--the kinds, he hoped, who didn't have to leave at the end of the day; they'd already be home.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Pigeon's Celebrations: Pigeon's Christmas Gift

That year Christmas was a mix of joy and sadness. A dear uncle of Father's had passed away. Mother was in the middle of baking and cleaning the house for parents and great-grandparents to come and stay for the holiday when Father called with the news. A change of plans, bags packed quickly; Pigeon and his parents piled into the car with Grandma and Grandpa for the long ride to a place where they could say goodbye and visit with grief.

Mother was glad that for Pigeon, the trip was just another party. He met aunt and uncles and cousins he'd never met before. All were glad to know him. Someone's little girl chased him down and gave him his first kiss. There was food, and people talking and laughing around tables. If he caught the sadness in the smiles, he didn't let on. He went about his play, doling out smiles of his own and cheering heavier hearts. Such was the nature of Pigeon's gifts--given easily, in passing, but not easily forgotten.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Pigeon's Celebrations: A Happy Halloween

Halloween came not long after Pigeon's birthday. This year, Pigeon could walk on his own to the door to greet the trick-or-treaters. Mother brought out a costume his Grandma had bought him a year before. He'll never keep it on, she thought, slipping it over his head. But she was wrong. Pigeon liked being a pirate, after all.

The doorbell rang and rang and the children kept coming. Pigeon smiled at each one, wondering at their dress. Mother and Father took him outside to watch the parade of ghosts and butterflies, princesses and cowboys. He tried to run after them, so Father took him for  a walk to join the fun. They came back with pink cheeks, noses running from the cold.

They'd carved pumpkins the night before. Pigeon had run his soft, warm fingers over the smooth, cool skin of a pumpkin that was almost as big as he was. He remembered these giant orange globes from his picture books. Now he understood how much fun they could be. Father got fancy with his pumpkin, fashioning a ghost opening a door. Mother carved a classic pumpkin moonshine. The smell of fresh-cut pumpkin flesh roasting over a candle reminded her of being small in her parents' house, cutting gap-toothed smiles into pumpkin faces with her own father and siblings, their dining table covered in newspaper. Sometimes her mother roasted the seeds and they'd eat them, salted and delicious, in the glow of the jack-o-lanterns.

For Mother, Halloween had never been about fright and mayhem. It was a celebration of autumn's best: crisp leaves crunching underfoot; breathing in cool air while the sun is still strong enough to warm your shoulders; hot spiced cider and the taste of pumpkin and clove; pie-baking season; kids traipsing through neighborhood, laughing, as if the world were a truly safe and happy place. She hoped Pigeon would see things this way. She hoped she could give him that kind of a world, even for just a few years.


Friday, March 22, 2013

Pigeon's Celebrations: Happy Birthday, Pigeon

Mother sat down to write and realized how long it had been since she'd written. Pigeon liked to play on his own, unless he saw Mother pull out her computer. That lap was reserved for him.

In the months that had passed Pigeon had celebrated holidays that he'd been too young to notice the year before. In October, he'd had his first birthday. Grandparents and great-grandparents filled the house, along with mountains of gifts.

Pigeon's kitchen wish came true, complete with pots and pans for banging, and a fully-stocked fridge and pantry. There were also books, puzzles, toys, and clothes.

There was a special handmade train that spelled out Pigeon's name, made with lots of love by Father's grandfather. These handmade wood treasures were Mother's favorite toys to find around the house. She loved the bright glossy wood and the care it took to make them. She decorated the mantel with the train. It made the other birthday decorations complete.

There was also cake, made with lots of love by Mother. Uncle helped blow out the candles.

It was a good day, full of fun, food, and presents. When the cake and candles were gone and the new clothes and toys long since lost or outgrown, Mother hoped Pigeon would hang on to one memory from that day: that he was and would remain surrounded by a family that loved him.