With just a few weeks before Christmas, I got busy the following day turning our house from a warm den of autumn coziness into a festive celebration of Christmas. Thanks to Greg's help and "brute strength" in carrying all of the boxes down from the attic and assembling the big Christmas tree, I had everything decorated in a record two days! Then it was on to baking and sewing...cookies, holiday breads, and pajamas, doll clothes and more.
In between, we endured a major ice storm that virtually shut down the town for about three days or more. This put a halt to scheduled activities like the children's Christmas program at church, the Christmas parade, and many other events that had to be rescheduled.
I took the children to church two different afternoons to practice for their program. As preschoolers, their role was to dress as angels and "ring bells". Assembling more than a dozen 2-to-5-year-olds...each holding two bells...is something akin to herding cats. But the veteran conductor patiently persevered, and by the end of the second rehearsal, the children had pretty well figured out what to do and when to ring - and when not to ring! And the adults had learned that it really didn't matter what happened... it was all going to be cute. When we would talk about the children's program, Timothy would say, "Everyone will be so PROUD of me!" And we were!
At one of the rehearsals for the children's program, we gathered in the sanctuary. Since our children attend their Sunday school class while we attend worship in the sanctuary, they had never seen this room before. Now it was fully decorated...massively tall tree filled with Chrismon decorations...poinsettias lining the choir loft railing...almost life-sized creche and angels in the foyer.
Timmy was in total awe. He kept pointing to the stained glass window over our choir loft that depicts a dove and the cross and saying, "Hey! Look at that pigeon diving into the water!" Even after I explained that it was a dove, he still called it a pigeon! I explained to Timmy that this was where Uncle Greg and Grandma E and I come while he and Zola are in Sunday school. He was impressed... but he still thinks there is a picture of a pigeon diving into the water over the choir loft!
The program was rescheduled, and the children stepped up to the plate and performed well. Everyone enjoyed the production.
A few days later, the Christmas parade was held...having been rescheduled because of the ice storm. I don't know who had more fun...the little ones or Grandma E. The parade lasted about 45 minutes... and there was never a lull. Our local courtsquare was fully lit and sparkled and glistened with brightly colored lighted trees, a nativity scene, a gingerbread house, and more. The two-storied courthouse glistened with lights outlining every window, wall and roof...and the children AND Grandma reacted as if they were walking through a fairyland.
Timothy had told us, "We won't see the real Santa. I don't think we will see the real Santa. And we sure won't see Mrs. Santa." A float came along with Santa - two of them - one on either side. Clearly that was not the "real" Santa. But THEN... a car came along with Santa... and MRS. Santa! Timothy was so excited.
After the parade, we opted not to wait on the courthouse lawn to see Santa Claus and sit on his lap. We headed up the sidewalk through an archway of lighted trees that Timothy had declared to be "magic" and we came face-to-face with Santa. He walked up to Greg and Timothy and stuck out his hand and said, "Hello! Merry Christmas!" Timothy didn't miss a beat. He said, "Merry Christmas, Santa!"
Then Santa came to Zola, Grandma E and me. We had been told that Zola was scared to death of Santa, but he knelt and stuck out his hand and said, "Merry Christmas!" and she just grinned and giggled and said something we could not understand.
Timothy talked all the way home about seeing the REAL Santa and seeing MRS. Santa. He loved the parade except for one thing... there was no Grinch. He is hoping for a Grinch in the parade next year!
On Christmas Day, everyone gathered at our house for a big dinner and presents and stockings under the tree. The children were so excited... Santa Claus had come to their house overnight, and now, they were getting to see not only their grandparents (my sister and her husband), but us, Grandma E, and my mother and her husband - just back from a nearly-four-month stay in Kentucky. To say it was loud and crazy would be an understatement. But it was also tremendous fun!
My point in sharing all of this with you is to make several observations:
- During the holidays, I found myself doing MANY of the things that my Mam-ma Polly did when I was younger...baking, sewing, filling the Christmas stockings for Santa, preparing the holiday meals, and more...and I thought of her...a LOT!
- I also found myself juggling trips to take the children to rehearsals, attending Timothy's pre-K Christmas program, visiting Mam-ma's friends (and mine) at the Assisted Living Facility, and reaching out to people from multiple generations during the holidays.
- Most notably, I realized that Greg and I still are very much a part of the "Sandwich Generation" as his 87-year-old mother has assumed the senior role...and the three little ones still keep us hopping on the other end of the spectrum! These children could not love Grandma E more if she were their own flesh and blood. The two oldest ones almost cry on Sunday if she doesn't go with us to church and out to lunch afterward. And I'm noticing that she is always thinking about something to do for them...some little toy or trinket to give them. It's a great relationship for everyone.
Grandma E's antics are not as entertaining - much less, challenging - as Mam-ma's grew. Mainly, she is forgetful... and stubborn (like going to retrieve her paper in the ice after Greg expressly told her NOT to go outside)...and she would rather stay home and babysit a dog than do just about anything else in the world. She is truly remarkable for a woman well on her way to age 88, and we hope she still has many good years of living alone in her own home and doing as she pleases ahead of her.
The best three words in the world from the kiddos are "I love you." Timmy freely tells Greg, Grandma E and me that he loves us. In fact, on the way home from lunch one Sunday, Timothy blurted out... "Grandma E... I love you!" Melts the heart! He also tells Grandma E nearly EVERY Sunday after lunch, "Thank you for paying for lunch, Grandma E!"
Our little ones are learning valuable lessons about life and relationships from the time they spend with my mother-in-law...and she gets just the right dose of being a great-grandmother in return!
In recent months, I've been asked more than once..."Now that Polly is gone, what do you do with all of your spare time?" Clearly, that "gap" has filled in rather nicely. Each "Sandwich" is different...but from the looks of things, we'll still be part of The Deli for several years yet! I look around at others who are smack dab in the middle of their own "Sandwich", and I marvel at how some of them manage to "keep all the balls in the air". For others, I offer three words of advice..."Hang in there." We are not alone...this subset of the population grows by leaps and bounds every single day. If you are not presently a member of the "Sandwich Generation", you very well could be next week or next year!
Knowledge is power, and for that reason, I am continuing this blog. Please share your stories...your insights...what works for you - and what doesn't. Ask questions, seek support...and know that there are people who can help. Someone asked me last week, "What's next for you? What are you looking forward to this year?" I honestly do not have an answer... but I certainly know that life will be anything but dull. What about you?