Tis the season to be ... stressed, panicked, numb, depressed, overwhelmed, and yes, happy. I was thinking about that this morning as I always, at this time of year, feel all of the first, and of course, the last. I love the family being together, the wonderful food, the love all around, the holiness of the season, the sacred, more kindness shown, even to complete strangers, but I also feel like I want to hide in a hole and not come out until January 2. When my three children were little I called this period "The Thanksgiving to New Year Holiday Slide," because it seemed that once you hit Thanksgiving, nothing was "normal" until the New Year passed. As I count on my routines to keep me calm and functioning, the shattering of routines unnerves me, even though I love Christmas.
This year, being most likely my mother's last Christmas, and the loss of my precious grey parrot Henry, has just knocked me off my feet. Yes, I have been down, way down, but then I look at Sampson, who is always attached to my body, and since Henry left he lies on the right arm of my overstuffed easy chair as he always has, but now he positions himself so that his two pudgy front paws and sweet, squishable face are resting on my shoulder. In bed he waits until I get settled and then he moves up against my back, the back of his little head against the back of mine, and his back running down my back. Sampson makes me happy. And I fall asleep stroking little Harvey's silky soft pug fur. I am like a little girl sleeping with two teddy bears.
And then, as I took a look around me, laughing because Blossom, the cockatoo, dropped the last of her piece of celery and looked up startled and shouted out, "HI BIG BIRD!!!" and wee little pug Harvey is lying on the floor to my left, Big Dog Moe, my black lab-doby mix, to my right, the girls, puglets Coco and Babs, just a short distance away, and the other parrots eating and playing, and I remembered the Nativity, and Mary in the stable with Joseph and their newborn son, and they were surrounded by animals. There is something so comforting in that image, the simple surroundings, the friendly beasts.
I look around the room at my friendly beasts and I smile. I lay my cheek against Sampson's on my shoulder and feel his soft, warm fur, and I laugh a little thinking about the conversation with Mom that I had a couple of days ago, a long and special conversation. She told me the doctor said she was Stage 4 and she is being kept alive only with weekly blood and platelet transfusions, but her spirits are always high. Through the worst of it all she has always said, whenever you talk to her and ask her how she's doing, even though you know she's very ill and in a lot of pain, "Every day's a good day, it is what you make it." What a teacher she is for us all.
As we were talking we talked about after she is gone, and how we both believed in signs and feeling the presence of our loved ones who have crossed over to the other side. I told her to make sure she gave me a sign. She said she would. I told her we could have conversations and maybe when I was walking down the aisle at the grocery store I would talk out loud to her and say, "Mom, do you think I should get this?" She laughed and said, "Oh Lord, don't say that, people will think you're crazy!" to which I replied, "Well, I am, but I take pills for it." and we both laughed. I will hear her laughter, hear her saying, "Every day's a good day," long after she is gone. And I might just talk to her in the grocery store too.
I am finding that happiness is a state of mind, and you have to work at it. If my mother can make every day a good day through nearly four years of cancer, a cancer that, when diagnosed in February 2005, the doctors only gave her a short time to live, and she has lived years past their expectations. I truly believe that it is due, in large part, to her positive state of mind -- if my mother can stay up and still laugh while dying in slow motion from Multiple Myeloma, I can sure enough keep myself up and happy through the holidays. I will do it for her, I will do it for my children and grandchild, my family and friends, and yes, for myself. I will do it with a funny little pug sleeping on my shoulder, a big white parrot doing funny tricks, and while I make my simple handmade gifts for Christmas, I will remember Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus in that stable -- more humble surroundings you could not find -- and I will feel deep gratitude for all that I have here at my little cottage, and I will be floated on the love all around me, with these funny wide-eyed pugs, big Moe, little Vincent, my Buddha Beta Fish, and all of the parrots.
"Tis the reason for the season," the saying goes, and now I realize that the "Thanksgiving to New Year Holiday Slide," was meant for just this, to remind us of our many blessings, to fill our hearts with love, with gratitude, to slow down because we must, and in keeping things simple, which, too, is part of the story of Christmas, we will find the glory in the season, and it can carry us into the New Year ahead with peace, love, and a full heart brimming with kindness, for ourselves and others, if we allow it, if we remember it, if we hold fast to the lessons of this season.
I think in the midst of one of the hardest times of my life, I'm going to have the happiest Christmas ever. I whisper "Thank you," many times a day, and begin, more and more, to be mindful of the sacredness of every day, the holiness of every moment, the blessing of a small boy with a pink tongue sticking out, and snuggling with me in bed at night. I smile and say "thank you," when I think of my tiny four year old grandson, my little joy boy. I feel an overwhelming tenderness and gratitude for my children and their partners, I feel a place of peaceful calm thinking of my precious Henry, never giving up hope that he will come back to me, in one way or another, and I laugh when I think about talking to my mother in the grocery store, when she is a spirit guiding me down the aisles and I try to sneak goodies in my basket when she isn't looking.
And now, on this Saturday so close to Christmas, and with much to do in, now, less than 2 weeks, and with my middle child, mother of my grandson, turning 29 next Tuesday, and the days so full, I will hold the image of my mother -- of her smile, her laughter and her great teaching about the goodness that every day holds if we allow it. My mama's happy, so I shall live up to her example, and I will hold each moment in my heart as the miracle that it is, and I will love, with an open heart, all that is, because I am made of love, if lopsided and cattywompus and a little goofy, and I will assure Sampson that Mama is happy, so everybody can be happy. It is my job to make it so.
Happy, Beautiful, Peace-full Holidays to you all, from all of us here at Dragonfly Cottage...