Angels Among Us

I was at the hospital today where both my children were born. The hospital has a wonderful cafeteria with an array of fresh cuisine. People actually go there just to dine. That can’t be said about a lot of hospitals.

Anyway, as I waited in line to pay for my pindi chana I thought I would see if I could leave some money to buy a young man lunch. Three years ago this young man, Tyler,  came by at just the right time after my youngest child was born. My youngest child has Down syndrome, as does Tyler. The day after I had given birth as I walked my baby around the maternity ward I ran into Tyler sweeping the floor. He stopped me and said, “Congratulations! He’s beautiful. Like me.” Tyler gave me so much perspective that day. Perspective that would take me a few months to realize.

So three years later, I decided to buy him lunch as a thank you for being kind. I asked the cashier if she knew the young man I was speaking of and she did. She told me that the hospital gives him a certain amount of money for his food and that he usually brings his own and just buys a cookie and milk. So there went that idea. But she asked if I wanted to wait around and thank him myself as he would be in the cafeteria soon.

So I waited. I looked around the hospital and recalled the sadness that overwhelmed three years ago. I saw the nurse who pushed my wheelchair to the door, gave me a hug, and told me everything would be OK and that she would keep us in her prayers. As I reminisced I realized how those tears weren’t really necessary. But that’s what worry and fear do–steal one’s happiness. I’m so grateful for her prayers, and everyone’s, as I had much to be thankful for: a healthy baby boy.

Then I pulled out my phone and looked at the video my husband had sent me the previous night while I was roller skating with our oldest. Our youngest was taking a tubby and saying, “Hi Momma.” He flashed his infectious smile and giggle. I smiled from the depths of my heart.

Tyler came over to meet me. I thanked him for his kind words three years ago, and how I never forgot them. I told him how I will always remember how he said my son was beautiful, just like him. I showed him a picture of my son. He then told me I was beautiful, just like my son. He asked his age and what he was wearing on his head. A hat with a fox face on it. It’s unbelievably adorable!

I thanked him again and told him to have a good day. We gave each other a hug and said farewell. Then Tyler turned around and said, “take good care of that little boy.”

I will, Tyler.

I promise.


Christmas Eve at Grandma’s House

It’s Christmas Eve morning.

When I was a little girl Christmas Eve was the one day where my anticipation was beyond manageable. I would spend a good portion of the day asking my parents “Is it time to go to grandma and grandpa’s house?” Every year on Christmas Eve my grandparent’s basement was a hurricane of gifts. And what child doesn’t love tearing into a pile of presents!

There was so much more than presents, however.

I remember going to my grandparent’s house and helping my grandma decorate. I loved putting up the Christmas village, the ceramic tree with the lights, and the Christmas tree (which has been known to be stored with the ornaments still on the branches.)

Of course, what is Christmas without food? The meal hasn’t changed. We still enjoy ham, meatballs, potato salad, broccoli salad, and a plethora of delectable sweets: Christmas cookies, cake, pies, and candy. My grandma bakes fantastic pies! My grandpa used to buy the ubiquitous Christmas ribbons and peppermint nougat candies with the Christmas tree in the center. They also had mixed nuts, which were placed in the traditional oak bowl with the stand in the center for cracking and cleaning. And my personal favorite: punch. There’s something about drinking 7-Up, fruit juice, and Cool Whip in “my” Santa mug.

The exchanging of gifts lasted several hours. We would all take turns opening a present, which pained me as a child, but I enjoy as an adult. Grandpa was notorious for discreetly unwrapping his presents before it was his turn. Who knew lottery tickets, circus peanuts, and obscene amounts of chewing gum were that exciting.

I recall the Christmas where my cousin received a toothbrush in her stocking. She was about three years old, and this was the best present. Ever! She gleamed with excitement and ran around the room showing everyone. She’s grown now and has kids of her own, but every now and then a toothbrush shows up for her under the Christmas tree.

I remember the video my father gave to my aunt, “The Wise and Witty Sayings of Red Heads.” She put the video in and waited for it to start. And waited. And waited. After several minutes, she figured it out.

My grandpa used to hang a $2 bill on the tree for everyone. They were always crisp and new. I think that’s the only time all year in which I actually saw a $2 bill.

Often the snow would be piled deep on my grandparent’s deck, and the lake effect snow kicked in on our way home. The best way to top off the day was a ride home with big, fluffy snowflakes gently falling on a calm, silent night. (Well, outside was calm and silent anyway. Kids hyped on sugar and gifts are anything but calm and silent.)

Now my children, nieces and nephews, and cousins enjoy Christmas Eve at grandmas. As a child, Christmas Eve was all about opening gifts and gorging on punch, cookies, and meatballs. As an adult, Christmas Eve is about savoring the moments and traditions that were built on over thirty years of Christmas Eves at my grandparent’s house. For years I took for granted the traditional foods, decorations, and the effort grandma put in for the annual night of festivities.

Things have changed a bit over the years. Grandpa has been with us in spirit for ten years now. The gift giving has started earlier in the day to accommodate schedules.

But the magic remains. It’s no longer found in presents, a punch bowl, or a nougat candy. The magic was never there.

It was, and remains, in my spirit.

Learning From A Toddler

I took down my oldest son’s crib. It seems like it was just yesterday that we were bringing him home from the hospital. It’s hard to believe it was three years ago.

While the time seems to fly, it’s filled with the best memories. Sure, I’ve taught him the ABCs, counting, using manners (OK, so that’s a work in progress). But he’s taught me much more.

As busy as he is, and as busy as he keeps me, he makes me slow down and notice the world around me: the chickadee in the tree, the plane flying overhead, the fish in the creek, the bird nest in a bush.  I love his childlike wonder. And I love that I’ve remembered how to look at the world with that childlike wonder.

Patience is a must for a mother of a toddler. And yes, he has taught me patience.  He has taught me that getting frustrated accomplishes nothing, except getting us both frustrated.

While I like a clean house and the laundry done, I’ve learned that I like a good game of Candy Land better. (Fortunately, he also likes to clean and is pretty good about putting toys away.)

I’ve learned I’m pretty good at building train tracks. Seriously. My basement has a train table, plus two other train tracks set up—complete with ramps. It looks like Union Station.

I’ve learned that every day is a new adventure: whether it is him attempting to make me eggs or finger painting the floor. (Thank goodness for washable finger paint! And how is it a child can wreak such havoc in a matter of minutes?)

I’ve learned that I really enjoy Raffi and Dan Zanes. Is it strange that I don’t mind listening to them when the kids are not in the car? I have also learned that I enjoy watching Curious George at the end of the day.

I’ve learned that a child’s laughter really is the best medicine. I hear his giggle and see his big grin and I melt. Completely.

While this list could continue for pages, I will end with what I’ve learned is the greatest phrase in the world: “Mommy, I love you soo much!”