Tuesday, December 30, 2014

it's all about the Pea

at twilight, on the last friday in december 1983, my husband and i got the first good look at our new baby girl. we had waited for what felt like a month of fridays... after her delivery, they'd whisked her off for prodding and poking, putting me in a semi-private room with a woman who reportedly (her words) had her womb tied up. where we waited, wondering if something was wrong.

at last the wheeled our tiny new person into the room with us in her bassinet, circling us with a curtain, while the womb lady on the other side dialed the number over and over of some invisible man who would never materialize.

in those first moments, we cried, touching her fingers, running our hands on her legs and arms and head, taking a good look at this baby of ours. a baby! all toes and fingers and perfect eyes, a baby who searched our own eyes for what her future might mean.

who knew, because we could hardly see beyond that moment. 

i'm not sure what we knew in that twilight time except we were glad to be through the worst part. or what we thought was the worst part and the best part— her coming into the world. 

i remember the short days in the hospital as a bit of a Camelot. i can still feel the warmth of the water on my body after my first shower, as i pulled on the flannel gown i'd worn on my honeymoon two years before (and before you say flannel?! it was October in the mountains, and satin on the outside.)

i still can feel that first tug as i tried to feed her. can remember just looking at my husband and exploding with love for what we had done together.

i felt beautiful, for the first time probably ever in my life, as i, with God's help (and a bit from my husband) had created this great beauty of a child. how could that be?

on a crisp, deep winter day, we took her home, the dog kissing her on the face upon greeting. and with a lot of help from our mothers, we set about parenting. in the coming weeks, we would diaper her and argue over her, sleep (or try to) with her on our chests, try to keep her from crying during supper, move with her to a new city where she finally stopped.

uptown girl was a favorite on the radio in those years, and it would prove to be a theme song for this little girl of ours. when she was tiny, i'd dress her up in her best and head into downtown Atlanta to visit her dad for lunch, and her eyes caught the skyscrapers, and i wondered what she was thinking. (now that she has ended up UPTOWN i know.)

i've spent most of the years since trying to grow into being her mother, and while i have not been terribly bad at it, there are times i wish i could forget. 

times when i screamed at her at things there were clearly my fault, times i cried privately (and sometimes not so privately) over her own heartbreak — friends who left her out of things, when she didn't make the grade, a boyfriend or two who weren't worthy of her attentions. times when i felt she failed me, but were really failures of my own in parenting.

tonight she wanders around her chosen city, getting a massage — as her husband lays sick with a virus they both contracted over Christmas — not to be stopped from her small celebration. 

and i long to be with her. her birthday was a game-changer for me — one of those days in life when the earth shakes on its axis and you're never the same, the day i stopped being (totally) selfish because someone needed me for the first time in my life. and i will continually mark it. 

we FaceTimed from the office, with surprise visits from her father and my friends, all of us wishing her a happy day as she sets out for ginger ale and crackers... ordinary pursuits on a day that will never be ordinary for me.

happy birthday Pea. 

writemuch.blogspot is the original work of author susan byrum rountree. all written work and photography is copyright protected and can only be used with written permission of the author.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

let your heart be light

our young associate rector at my church is a born teacher. since he joined our staff last year, he's developed creative programs that challenge the mind and expand your faith. and for the second year in a row, on the last Sunday before Christmas, he goes "behind the music," giving the back story for some of our most favorite Christmas carols and songs. 

dressed up in a clownish Santa outfit, with a fire roaring behind him on a flat-screen television, Christopher shared with us the story of how Jingle Bells was written by the son of a Unitarian minister, gifted in music whose father asked him to write a Thanksgiving hymn for his church. as he sat in the living room of his father's house, trying to think of something, he heard sleigh bells in the distance and headed outside to see what was happening. he found sleighs racing through the night, and felt so joyful that he went inside and wrote the song that was all about about racing through the snow. later he had the song published, and before long it became an iconic Christmas song, though it doesn't mention anything about Christmas. (Racing and betting and going on dates with Miss Fanny Brice were more important apparently.)

we learned that O Little Town of Bethlehem was written by an Episcopal priest who visited Bethlehem in 1865. Inspired, three years later he wrote a poem and his organist back in Philadelphia added the music. he had been searching for a way to lift people out from under the Civil War.

when Christopher pulled up a picture of Judy Garland from the movie "Meet Me in St. Louis,"  he talked about how the lyricists for the movie wrote a dismal song that Judy refused to sing, for a pivotal, sad scene in the movie. it was the middle of World War II, and Judy had toured for soldiers over seas and knew they needed to hear something hopeful. so they re-wrote the song, which would be played for troops right before the Battle of the Bulge. though she battled many demons in the years after she sang that song, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas was more important to her, Christopher said, than Somewhere Over the Rainbow. 

as the congregation there gathered — children and parents and grandparents and teens — began to sing  the song together, i looked around the room, seeing co-workers and friends and people i didn't know, and all captured by the beauty of this little song. i recalled hearing that after 9/11, James Taylor recorded the song just in time for Christmas, in an attempt to give listeners a bit of hope during such a sad time for our country.

every voice lifted, and together, we created a joyful noise that brought tears to the eyes of some. 

Christmas is a hard time for many, surely. those who are lonely, scared, ill, grieving, heartsick. but how magical that, no matter what our circumstance, we can all come together in song, forgetting our troubles as we sing along with others.

have yourself a merry little Christmas, let your heart be light. and this year, carry a tune along with your troubles, and may those troubles slip out of sight for a moment or two.

writemuch.blogspot is the original work of author susan byrum rountree. all written work and photography is copyright protected and can only be used with written permission of the author.