On the 31st of December

For several years now I have spent every New Year’s Eve watching a marathon of The Twilight Zone.

I am not a fan of science fiction – in fact, if I were to rank all of the different genres out there according to what I like the best, science fiction would be towards the bottom.  But I do love The Twilight Zone.

I always search the guide for my favorite episodes – “To Serve Man,” a tale of aliens visiting Earth with a chilling ending; “The Masks” where a man finds a creative way to get revenge on his selfish family; “Spur of the Moment” where a woman tries to fix an old mistake; “Number 12 Looks Just Like You” where a girl fights her society’s insistence on everyone being pretty; “A Penny for Your Thoughts” where a man suddenly gets the ability to hear everyone’s thoughts (which, to be honest, I like so much because it’s pretty happy for a Twilight Zone episode), and so many more.

The Twilight Zone aired its first episode in 1959, long before I was born.  I think that’s the mark of a true work of art – when it lasts longer than anyone expects, when grandchildren are watching shows that their grandparents watched in their youth…when I sit down to read something that was written over 100 years before…when a tourist is able to gaze in awe at a statue or a painting or a piece of architecture that was created long, long ago.  A true work of art reflects what it is to be human, and is able to appeal to people of all generations.

And I guess that’s why I’m so fond of The Twilight Zone – even if it’s not the kind of thing that I would usually like.

(Note:  It’s the last day of December, folks!  Which means that it’s the end of my Beauty in Every Day project (at least the written version…I think that I should still try and find the beauty in every day…I just might not write about it).  I’ve enjoyed it, even though it’s been a struggle at times, and I hope that you have, too.  Happy New Year!)

On the 30th of December

Today I am thankful for many things –

for a good night’s sleep, for many laughs gifted from a classic tv show, for firsts, for good conversations, for two new furry faces in the barn, for crisp winter walks, for a tiger-striped cat curled up in the straw, for warm blankets, for poetry in prisons, and for a quiet night spent with family.

I can not put them into beautiful words tonight…

but, nonetheless,

I am thankful.

(Note:  Just in case you’re thinking to yourself “Poetry in prisons?”, let me refer you to this very excellent TED talk by Phil Kaye.)

 

On the 29th of December

The chickens did not welcome the onslaught of the snow.  When that disgustingly cold, wet stuff started falling from the sky, they ran into the coop.  And they stayed there.

Each day they poked their heads out the door and surveyed the scene out in their yard – the snow heaped on their doorstep, and the frozen blanket across the ground – and shook their heads.

“Nope, nope, nope.  No outside today.”

A few days ago, a thaw came.  It melted away most of the snow from their stoop and left their yard bare.  They poked their heads out the door and surveyed the scene.

“Yes, yes, yes.  Outside today.”

And that is where I found them for the first time in weeks this afternoon, little bundles of black and white feathers getting a taste of fresh air.  I looked down into their pen and they looked up at me with expectant eyes, their toes gripping at the dirt.

“Hello, girls!  Glad to see you here again!”

On the 28th of December

I am voluntarily reading a collection of poetry for the first time.

If my high school self knew what I was doing, she would probably say “Why?  Poetry is so frustrating!  Everything’s in metaphors and hints!  Why don’t the writers just say what they want to say?  Why disguise it?”

It took me a while to shake off my high school self feelings about poetry – but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate it more and more.

I don’t remember where or when I stumbled across the videos of Sarah Kay performing spoken word poetry, but I do know that as soon as I saw them, I loved them.  I showed them to my students – the high-schoolers who were shouting “Poetry?!  Why?!” in their heads – and they loved them, too.

Everyone has gifts that they are meant to share; lamps that are not meant to be hidden under baskets.

And Sarah Kay’s is poetry.  And I am glad to say that I am both reading and listening to her today.

 

On the 27th of December

I am swimming in leftover Christmas desserts.  Sugar cookies shaped like Santa, Muddy Buddies, cake, caramel corn, squares of peanut butter and chocolate, candy, cookies, cookies, and more cookies.

At my Grandma’s house, she insists that I help her eat up her own leftover Christmas desserts.  I eat more pieces of chocolate fudge than I really want.  We mustn’t let them go to waste.

I get home, and the counter is plastered in leftover desserts.  I eat two – a small bowl full of cereal slathered in chocolate, peanut butter, and powdered sugar; and a square of chocolate cake.  I can’t let them go to waste.

Sigh.  There’s no way we’re ever going to eat up all these desserts.

But, may I just say – how lucky am I, that on my list of current life problems is this:

TOO MANY DESSERTS.

On the 26th of December

There are quiet treasures hiding in the corners of attics and basements.

Old textbooks with “John 1954” written in pencil on the cover.  Doodles are scattered across the pages: a long-legged bird (perhaps a killdeer?) next to the title World Geography, a rifle bordering the index, a tiny farm sitting atop the author’s note.

A book titled A Complete History of the World’s War, dated 1919.  Little did the authors know how soon the War to End All Wars would lead to yet another World War.

Old letters written in faded pen.  Messy cursive scrawls across the page “It seems so strange to think that Clara is gone – it was so sudden – I almost don’t believe it.

Today I stood in a basement.  I was looking through piles of boxes – but really I was looking at little bits of people’s lives.  I glimpsed their pain, their hopes, and their dreams – and I knew them, if only for a moment.

On the 25th of December

Ring.  Ring.  Ring.

A familiar voice from a familiar face that I haven’t seen since spring came from the other end of the line.

We talked of Christmas and chicken coops and families and future plans; he in a thick Southern Kentucky accent; me in Northern Michigan speak.

Sometimes the best Christmas presents can’t be wrapped.

I know this for a fact.

On the 24th of December

They stood at the front of the church, little hands clasped, wearing their Christmas best.  Some of them, daunted by the sea of faces seated in the pews in front of them, barely moved their lips.  Others, excited by the faces and knowledge of what tomorrow would bring, sang at the top of their lungs.  The baby Jesus is lying in the manger.  Hope is with us.

I was them once…standing at the front of the church, little hands clasped, wearing my fanciest dress with a ribbon in my long dark hair.  I wore angel wings at my back and had a tinsel halo resting on top of my head.  I held a little electric candle in my hand and looked down at the light in the dark church as I sang “Gloria in excelsis Deo!”  Glory to God in the highest.

Glory to Him…

the One who gave us voices meant to be raised in song…

dark crowded churches, and candles to bring light to them…

and His greatest gift of all…

His only Son.

 

 

On the 23rd of December

A couple of years ago I lost my writing notebook (well, one of them).  I looked all over for it – in closets, in boxes, in desk drawers; but I didn’t find it.  I came to the conclusion that I must have accidentally thrown it away or left it somewhere.  Which was a bummer, because I had really loved some of the pieces that I had written in that notebook, and I knew that I would never be able to write them just the same again.

So I picked a new notebook to be my writing notebook, and I wrote new things.  But I still mourned the loss of those stories from time to time (you might think I’m being dramatic, but if you fancy yourself a writer, I feel like maybe you can understand).

Today, I decided to clean my walk-in closet.  Over the past couple of years I had just been throwing stuff inside it without trying to be organized…and it had ceased to be a walk-in closet because I could no longer walk into it.  Getting my Christmas decorations out of it had involved much hopping and standing on one foot amidst piles of stuff.  This was unacceptable.

So I dragged out the boxes and started to dig through them…and found…my old writing notebook!  The cover was the same old blue and the stories were still there, scrawled by my own hand across wide-ruled lines.  I hadn’t lost them after all.

I sat cross-legged on the floor of my room and read, watching old characters come back to life.

Life…

is good.

 

On the 22nd of December

Today I finished wrapping all the family presents.  Several years ago I took over the job of wrapping all of the presents, because, well, I really like Christmas and everything that goes with it (wrapping presents included).

There is something very satisfying about a pair of scissors sliding smoothly down colorful paper, cutting it to the perfect size.  Folding the paper just right around the package is almost an art.  Picking out the tags is important – Which colors go best with the paper?  Would Mom like a penguin or a Santa tag?  What name shall I put on the “from” line? (In my family, we put the names of the farm animals on the “from” line – it’s more fun that way.)  Wrapping presents is jolly good fun.

Except when there are extremely weird-shaped gifts – which is why I groaned today when I saw the results of my father’s shopping trip yesterday.  Laying there on the piano bench, waiting to be wrapped, were two long-handled ice scrapers.

A bit of history:  My father loves buying people ice scrapers for Christmas.  I have wrapped so many ice scrapers over the years, it’s unbelievable…and I groan every time.

There’s really no good way to wrap them.  They don’t fit into a box.  If I wrap the paper closely around them it’s obvious what they are.  If I don’t wrap the paper closely, it’s more liable to rip because of the sharp edge at the scraper end and all of the empty space in the middle where the handle is much skinnier than either end.  I have tried various ways of disguising the package – covering the handle in tissue paper or a bit of cardboard before I wrap it – but they’re both tricky and don’t really do much to improve the situation.  Long story short, wrapping ice scrapers stinks.

But luckily, by now, I have accepted my fate:  I am the daughter of a man who loves ice scrapers.  So, I wrapped that ice scraper as simply and as quickly as I knew how and popped it under the tree.  It wasn’t beautiful, but it was wrapped!

I wonder if there’s an ice scraper wrapping support group?  I think I should join.