Tuesday, December 28, 2004

It's over ...

the much-dreaded Christmas day that has become a marker for those missing from the table. Still aware of Rick's absence, but a bit less so this year. "Family" looks so different from the top of the pyramid. Having outlived both my parents, two husbands, one sister, an eldest son, while all those "Bettys" are still so alive and functioning inside creates no little confusion these days.

Christmas was always the day we three daughters and families returned to the home of our childhood. Dad was the turkey carver while Mother (never "Mom") handed out the side dishes and supervised the children's table in the breakfast nook in the kitchen. This WAS Christmas. All else was trimmings.

This year there was no children's table. No breakfast nook in a modern condo. My three offspring and my four grandchildren plus one grandson's girl friend made up the family. Son, David, was the carver. Everyone gathered 'roun' the table, perched on a strange assortment of "chairs" from the vanity stool to the piano bench and great-grandmother's little needlepoint rocking chair. We all fit very close but nicely.

But I'm at the top of the family pyramid now. And, my mother looks back at me from my bathroom mirror each morning. And, the rebel teenager Betty rages at a profane administration and daily outrages from news sources that intrude hourly, if allowed. And the thirty-something wonders if I'll see him today, or if his own family obligations will prevent our getting together before he has to return north? The practical 50 year-old Betty hopes that the gifts were appropriate and of all the right sizes and whether or not I kept the store receipts - and just where are they anyway?

Should I tell the kids that I've found this lovely new friend, or, do I just enjoy without having to get into details better left to discretion? (Sounds a little like seventeen again, doesn't it?)

Will spend the New Year's Eve weekend miles away to the north. It's been years since I even entertained any thoughts of partying.

Brings to mind the most disappointing New Year's Eve I ever spent. It was the time that Mel (1st husband) splurged and made reservations at the Claremont Resort Hotel in the Berkeley Hills. We were dressed in formal wear for the occasion. I felt beautiful in a gorgeous red gown. There was not a single soul under those crystal chandeliers that we knew. We were the only African American couple in sight. There was a fine banquet with a gold-paper crowns and tiaras at each table -- with whistles and festive balloons everywhere. At midnight this roomful of strangers stomped and yelled and kissed -- and it was the loneliest New Year's Eve I could ever remember! The two of us were simply lost in the grandness of the occasion with no idea of why this was? We'd signed on for all of the symbols and none of the substance. The magic wasn't in the accoutrements but in the friendships. It took a few more years of living before we'd learned that. Since that night I've looked with some sense of sadness at the sight of those ballrooms shown on television -- and wondered ... .

This year there will be few symbols. There will be caring. There will be time sitting before a roaring fireplace within 80 feet of the ocean, but high on a bluff (so not to worry). There may be a howling storm beating against the expansive window walls (nature at her most dramatic!). There will be a recently-discovered rich friendship to enjoy and the feeling of being deliciously wicked to boot!

Maybe just a wee bit of "license" comes with being at the top of the pyramid ... Needing no permission but my own.

Time is now so precious ... spending it with care is a must since the supply is finite. I'm discovering, though, that one must not dwell on the truth of that statement but must continue to live as though time is irrelevant -- a paradox. To do otherwise is to diminish the richness and reduce the life experience to increasing depression over approaching end times. It helps to have developed some juggling skills along the way ... .

Happy New Year!

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