The Ultimate Do Over

th_cryingHere I lie, sill sick in bed with the flu, while watching the thick, fluffy snowflakes falling softly in the yard.  My bedroom windows are tall and deep, so as to not miss a thing.   I can hear the geese honking overhead, playing in the wind and the powder that flies all around them.   Its the only sound I hear, as the lake is quiet and calm once again.  The last few days have been stormy, as has been my mood.  The waves crashed against the rocks of the perimeter of the house, but have always proved to be a source of comfort for me.  They do, in fact, lull me to sleep but not before I wrestle with thoughts of unfinished business and loose ends.

Seemingly endless days and nights of bathroom jaunts (I’ll spare you the nasty details), of hacking coughs and constant nose blowing, of high fevers followed by awakening drenched in sweat become a process my body is performing.    I don’t believe in the flu shot – never have- and don’t plan on getting one anytime soon.  I only get sick like this about every 10 years, so I look at it as my body detoxing and cleansing itself.  Except my body has lousy timing.

Today is the Ides of March and in two days it will be St. Patrick’s Day – a national beerholiday for me and my family & friends.  I love to go to parades, slap on a green wig, drink green beer and listen to bagpipes, fife & drums.  It stirs my soul and Amazing Grace never fails to move me.  Its a time of partying and celebrating, of being loud and silly, and drinking just a little too much for my own good.   It reminds me of my heritage, where I came from, and who I am.  Its when I pay homage to those who have come before me and are now gone and laughing along with us as we prance around, foolish, giddy and childish.  Its a great day.

Plus, its when I celebrate my birthday.

But not this year, I’m afraid.    My horoscope for that day said that I should expect a miracle, and I was.

irish eyesI jokingly stated I was requesting a ‘do-over’ and would celebrate my birthday AND St. Patty’s day another day.  It didn’t seem fair that I had been away from my family & friends and co worker for a few years, off in another  house in another land with a different man, celebrating but missing them all.  I was looking forward to spending this year with them.

The cards and the calls and the well wishes came, of course, greeted groggily as I awoke from another drug induced sleep.   The sweet little voices of my grandchildren sang sweetly through the airwaves,  soft “Miss you, Nina” from the younger and “Get better, Nan” from the older ones.  The concern in my adult children’s voices was touching – mom was never sick, so this must be bad.  I assure them I will be fine.

“Happy Birthday!” “Love You!” “Get Well Soon!”  They were all welcome reminders from cousins and relations from marriages past – that I was loved.   But one message in particular stood out, and jousted me from my fuzzy mindset.

55[1]“Can’t wait til Easter!”

Easter is early this year, the end of March and I had planned a cooking extravaganza of sorts to celebrate the way we used to when my family was younger.   The aroma of baked lamb and ham, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes drizzled with caramel, and endless crocks of veggies and soups will fill this little house at the lake, and they will lovingly fit around a not quite big enough dining room table to enjoy it all.  Some will say the best part is dessert that they all bring, and the giant basket of chocolate for the “children”, no age limit necessary.

It will also be a time to get acquainted with new members of the family, and introduce those who are important to each other.   There is a new man in my life and he is part of them all now too; so much so that I want his children to meet my children.   The circle has started turning.

I moved back home for the last time April 1 of last year, so the day after Easter will also signal another milestone.   I decided that will be my day of a do over.  I will be whole again by then in both body and spirit, and what a fitting way to celebrate.  Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday, signaling a new birth for all of us and a new beginning, a chance at the ultimate do over.

Which is, of course, the greatest miracle of all.big_sky



Life Beads

treeHistory has a way of repeating itself, a fact of which I am mostly glad.

It’s a good way to relive some parts of your life from the past, as well as perhaps correct something you might have overlooked.  When we are in the middle of things, its hard to see exactly whats going on until we are able to step back and view it with our full attention.

All my life I have been creative, but not in the ways of my mother.  My earliest memories are of her sitting at the kitchen table, sharp exacto knife in hand and the smell of glue wafting around her head.  Back then it was plastic models that had captured her attention, but by the time I was ten she had moved on to ceramics.

The house of my childhood was framed with all things ceramic, anything from green Christmas trees, to bunnies at Easter time, to small jewelry cases.  She did statutes that rested precariously on ceramic podiums (not a good idea in the house of a clumsy 10 year old), most often placed in corners of honor to avoid my elbows.   Pretty soon the house would become cluttered and she would have to give them away, only to start all over again.  People became asking my dad if she could paint something for them, as she was too shy to approach anyone herself.  It soon became apparent that she could make money doing this, and my father encouraged her to venture out of the kitchen and into the business world.

When I was eighteen years old, my mother opened her first ceramic shop.   It was a ballerinalucrative business and it served her well, providing much needed additional income, as well as an outlet for the social interaction she craved.  The customers she worked with soon became her friends, and her students were always attentive and eager to pay for her expertise and knowledge.   Soon she was featured in magazines, her latest creation or her face smiling back at me from the cover haphazardly thrown across the kitchen table.   She wasn’t in it for the fame or the glory – she was artist and would have done it all for free.

She created different genres of painting and firing, hot gluing fabric dresses and adorning the necklines of ceramic women with pearls or diamond studs.   The money kept rolling in and my father soon joined her when he retired.  They worked together without event for twenty years.

She worked every day of her life until a year before she died, when a stroke forced her to sell her beloved enterprise.  I’m sure it was like losing one of her children, and she was never really the same after that.

I think one of her biggest disappointments was that I did not share her love of ceramics and painting.  My talents were in other areas, but it didn’t stop her from trying to win me over.  I couldn’t care less.

figurinesFrom the time I was 16, she would make me sit at the kitchen table with her while she would try for the umpteen time to teach me how to hold a paintbrush.  I would rather have pushed the paintbrush through my eye and into my brain, but she was relentless.

Standing behind me as I sat in the chair, she would talk slowly and try to guide my hand with the paintbrush held tightly.

“See?” she would say, like she had murmured to students countless times before.

“You can do it.  Just take it slow. You’ll appreciate it when it’s finished.”

Humoring her the best I could, I would (at the bare minimum) be able to paint a tea cup.   You would have thought I was Picasso to hear her tell it, but I knew I just didn’t have what she wanted in me. I had no patience and had the attention span of a flea.  Riddled with ADD before it was ever something to be diagnosed, I could barely sit still.

Finally she gave up, but still wanted me to sit there with her.  I realize now that she merely wanted to spend time with me, but I was too preoccupied with boys and clothes and the next story I was writing in my head.  I did it with resentment, and thought of ways to be released from this prison I felt she kept me trapped in.

One time my vivid imagination freaked her out and she told me to go to bed, freeing me from the torture of having to sit still.

“Hey, ma!”  I said suddenly.  She looked at me with one eye but said nothing, while the other was still fixed on the ceramic piece in her hand. She was painting the hand of yet another small female figurine, something to be part of a display of Romanesque women, with fabric draped across their bosom.

“Ma…” my voice now dropping to a whisper.  “Wouldn’t it be cool if you were painting those fingers of that lady….and all of a sudden…the fingers started moving?”

I fluttered my hands to demonstrate, laughing maniacally.

She put the brush down, looked at the figurine, and then put it down.

She wouldn’t pick it up for a month, and never asked me to join her at the table again.


We laughed about it for many years after, her telling everyone how “Eileen has such a vivid imagination” and how I “…freaked her out.”  It’s a memory I so grateful to have, now that she’s gone.  I’d give anything to be able to sit at the kitchen table again and just watch her paint.

Many years have passed and I now have creative children – two are exactly how she wanted me to be, and I appreciate their talent, knowing full well they have gotten it from her.

So it was with a full heart and a much wiser mind that I was able to sit with my daughter at my own kitchen table last week, even though it was the paintbrush in my eyes to my brain scenario all over again.

“Hey ma” she asked, despite knowing my short patience and even shorter attention span.

“How would you like to sit and string some beads with me?  I am making some bracelets and necklaces for charity and can use the extra hand.  Plus, I haven’t seen you in a while, it would be nice to sit and visit.”

So there we sat, with bead mats covered with different color beads before us. She strung confidently and with purpose, jabbering away and catching up between glasses of wine  while I struggled to not jump up from the table to do something else, anything but that.

With my mother’s guiding hand and her words echoing in the back of my mind, I knew she was coaching me on to finish. I could hear just the hint of laughter and a smile in her voice.

“See? You can do it.  Just take it slow.  You’ll appreciate it when it’s done.”

I did.

History has repeated itself, only this time, I was glad that it did.

My necklace looks hideous, but I wear it proudly.

Because I finished it.