Neither Abby nor I feel good, but summer’s winding down, and we’ve set this day aside for shopping. Time to hit the “cool” stores and try on some “cool” clothes in order to be “cool” during that first week of school. Time to watch mother and daughter do battle between fashion and practical, between appropriate and not so much.
Remembering that by week two or three, it’ll take some kind of magic for Grace to put feet to floor, slip on sweats, and skid into school at the last second.
But this morning, she’s in the back seat playing a game on her iPod and hoping for some press-on nails (keep dreaming.) Abby and I discuss the Saga of the Swimming Pool.
“What are we going to do about the pool?” I ask.
My husband and I had shopped around and called around and finally found the best deal on an inflatable swimming pool just the right size (about 3 feet deep and 10 feet across) for the littlest grandgirl, a belated birthday gift. But the spot in the yard where it was to sit was not level. So we got our handyman person to bring in a load of sand that Abby smoothed out into a nice round base. Dennis and I attached the pump and hose and tried to set the pool up, but it did not go well. The whole shebang just slipped off the slight mound, and it was too late and too hot to do more that day. It sat there for a week gathering dirt and bugs. Then Dennis ran over the pump cord with the lawnmower and chopped it right in half.
“I feel bad about it,” says Abby. “Lee and I rearranged it and filled it, but it’s just not going to work. Maybe we can sell it, fix the pump, get another hard-sided pool. They’re on sale now.”
She goes on, “We never did set the trampoline up this year. Maybe we can just put it over the sand and leave it up. I bought that myself, you know… oops.”
Abby shifts sideways in her seat and looks back at Grace. “Do we need to talk about this?”
I flip the visor down and peer at Grace in its mirror. There are tears in her eyes.
So Abby launches into the myth and magic of Christmases past. Like the footprints of ashes-coated boots on carpet, cookie crumbs, and half-chewed carrots. I figured if it was good enough for Ruth Graham (I read somewhere that she tucked “whiskers” in the fireplace brick and stuck a boot in the chimney because Santa had to leave so fast), it was good enough for me.
She tells Grace about the Christmas she had chickenpox and couldn’t go to the mall to see Santa. How I came back with a red flannel nightgown that I told her Santa picked out just for her when he took a break from all those children with their long lists. How crushed she was at age 24ish when I confessed I’d lied. How she’s not sure she can ever forgive me. She knew it wasn’t the “real” Santa who’d done that, that the mall Santa was just a helper, but she still wanted to believe. Even then. Even now.
Grace smiles big.
It’s not like she wasn’t already suspicious. But she still wants to believe.
Abby then goes on to tell about the love that goes into making the magical—about putting toys together outside on a 20-degree Christmas Eve, about sacrificing to buy special gifts and then hide them, about letters from Santa, about carrying on traditions and creating new ones. And how now that Grace knows the secrets, she can participate in helping to make memories for her little sister and later for her own children.
While all the while never forgetting the real reason for the season. Never forgetting the real Gift who makes every moment magical if we have eyes to see.
And while remembering that it’s much cooler to clothe ourselves with that Gift each morning and be a gift to others.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. ~Colossians 3:12-14 (NIV)
What piece of clothing do you need to slip on today in order to bring a little every-day Christmas to others?
“Once a nurse, always a nurse,” they say. But now I spend my days with laptop and camera in tow as I look for the extraordinary in the ordinary. I’m a Michigan gal, mom to two, grandmom to two, and wife to one. My husband and I live on 50 acres in the same 150-plus-year-old farmhouse he grew up in. I love this quote by Mary Oliver, “Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” That’s how I want to live. And I’m still learning how to be. Still.