December 21, 2002
In the bleak midwinter, frost wind made moan,
earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
in the bleak midwinter, long ago.
-- "In The Bleak Midwinter" -- text by Christina Rosetti, melody by Gustav Holst
It's finally Winter...so now all this cold and wind and snow is "official"....now that we've had it for a month already! So, Happy Solstice!!
i rather enjoy the whole idea of a Winter Solstice, and look at my Christmas tree in a whole new way. Now, the idea of an evergreen tree in the house makes sense...and the lights and candles and yule logs and such take on much more meaning. i love blending holidays, traditions, adding meaning and depth wherever i find it....the spirit of love and renewal certainly isn't peculiar to any single faith or tradition. Why not embrace them all??
Middle Earth beckoned me this morning, but it had snowed most of the night, and was still snowing when i got up. There's been a Lake Snow Advisory out all day, and though i don't live that close to the lake, it doesn't mean we won't see snow. So, not being as intrepid or adventurous as even a Hobbit....i stayed in. (except for the few minutes i spent shoveling the walkway)
i was going to clean the house, which needs it (especially the kitchen..what a disaster!). i did laundry, and talked to my parents for awhile...and then, well, i broke down and made the strufoli. It is, after all the Saturday before Christmas....and this has become a cherished tradition of my very own....
My grandmother's been gone for over 8 yrs now (nearly 9). The Saturday before Christmas will always be a special, bittersweet day for me.
My grandparents had sold their house that summer, and my uncle had used the proceeds to have an addition built onto his house for them. They had moved in October. They were making the best of the situation, but their hearts really weren't in it. It was hard for them to adjust to living in someone else's house, to not being "home". What Grandma missed most, was being able to cook.
My uncle's wife didn't want Grandma using the kitchen. Not to be mean, but because lately, Grandma had become more forgetful (like forgetting the stove was on), and she'd been losing her balance at times. So, i couldn't fault my uncle's wife, and she was as kind as possible about it (at least when anyone else was around).
We hadn't been to visit my grandparents very often. They'd been here for Thanksgiving, and i tried to call them every week or so....but it was a busy time of year....both at the day care, and with our church activities.
In fact, the Saturday before Christmas, we were supposed to do something (i don't remember what) with the church....but i decided to cancel. Mom had mentioned to me how much Grandma missed baking cookies, and "doing Christmas" (Christmas dinner was always at Grandma's...she LOVED Christmas), so i decided to have a Baking Day with Grandma...i wanted to get her recipe for the strufoli, and i thought they might enjoy a day out.
My uncle drove them over. i had all the ingredients ready, and i had put on a pot of coffee (Grandma HAD to have her coffee!). We chatted a bit first...then we got to work.....and boy did we ever BAKE!!! Grandma was in hyperdrive: "Let's make another batch!!!!", she'd say....
We made strufoli, and Butterballs (butter cookies with walnuts, baked in little balls that you roll in powdered sugar. i've heard them called Russian Tea Cakes among other things, but she called them ButterBalls). We made MORE Honey Balls...we made MORE ButterBalls...and still MORE....
We talked and baked, baked and talked....she was the happiest, most animated and healthiest i'd seen her in awhile. She was in her element, baking for Christmas. At the time, it seemed special, but in an 'ordinary' way....although, it was the first (and only) time she and i had ever spent time baking together for a holiday.
H took Grandpa shopping with him, even though Grandpa protested about being old, and slowing H down. H simply insisted on Grandpa going with him, saying he wasn't in a hurry. They came home in a great mood....and we all had supper together. Then, we drove them back to my uncle's.
We saw them for Christmas at my uncle and his wife's Christmas Eve/Anniversary open house, but not for very long. For the first time since moving upstate, we didn't spend Christmas Day with them that year.
Grandma turned 85 on Dec 28th that year. On Dec 31st, she went into a coma. Mom flew upstate, and we spent all of New Year's Eve Day, and New Year's Day in the ICU Waiting Room......Grandma never woke up, and she left us on Jan 6th.
i wonder to this day, if she'd somehow known that would be the last Christmas we'd have....that that day would be the last day we'd ever have together....i'm forever grateful that i listened to the voice inside me that urged me to take the time, MAKE the time to spend with her....despite all the other "important" things clamoring to be done. Had i missed that chance...the LAST chance, i would have such regret.....now, i have sorrow, and i miss her greatly, and most of all the Saturday before Christmas.....but i DIDN'T miss the chance to create a memory i will always cherish. i didn't miss the chance to spend time with her, and let her know i loved her. How much sadder i would be, if i had missed that Saturday....
Well, now that the strufoli are all honeyed, i really DO need to clean the kitchen, now that it's a sticky, greasy mess on top of everything else!
i've got laundry to fold and put away, too, and before i know it, H will be coming home from work.