Life, Laughter, and Farewell

We really goofed last night. Little Miss' Christmas present arrived from Amazon. Her Daddy intercepted the package before we got home, but left it sitting on our bed. Unthinkingly, we let her toddle up the stairs per normal (she likes to brush her teeth before and after dinner -- I'm doing something right), and she took her usual come-catch-me detour into our bedroom.

I heard her gasp. S. cursed softly. We followed her in, to see her standing by the side of our bed, hands clasped under her chin, eyes alight, agape with delight. Hokey Pokey Elmo stood there like some pagan priest, absorbing the adoration of his most devoted acolyte.

I'm not exactly sure how we got her distracted without a lot of screaming and tears, but we somehow managed. Elmo is now hiding deep in the recesses of our closet. We just hope she forgets about him over the next couple of weeks. Fortunately, she never saw her birthday present, hidden in the other deep recesses of our closet.


I love the Yuletide season more than ever. I have my daughter to thank for that. It was one thing to observe traditions I grew up with because they feel and smell right, and another thing altogether to introduce them to her. I love watching her face light up at the sight of Christmas lights, snowmen, and yes, even Santa Claus.

It won't be long and she'll be looking forward to the month of green-and-red-and-white right by my side, asking to bake gingerbread, and bugging Daddy about decorating the tree.

(I think it won't be long before my poor husband just disappears sometime around Thanksgiving, to re-emerge somewhere in the middle of January.)

December is both more joyful and stressful for us since she was born. Not only do we have the joy of Yuletide, but we also have her birthday. Despite the fact that she was born exactly two weeks before Christmas, we decided to make sure that she gets two separate events. It doesn't seem fair for kids born around the holidays. I get a birthday party in August, and later celebrate Yuletide; why shouldn't she have separate celebrations, too?

So, on December 11th, she will have her second birthday party, complete with Nemo party favors (if I can find them) and a Nemo novelty cake. She'll celebrate with her immediate family, including S.'s parents, her Auntie and Uncle, and her cousin. Grandma is taking care of the balloons, and we're picking up the pizza. We'll have the party at Grandma's house, because it's the most centralized spot for family gatherings.

She's getting a Little People Doodle Pro for her birthday. She loves to draw. She's already been through three sets of (washable!) crayons in the last four months. I have enough toddler art to wallpaper a bedroom, and don't think that some primal Mommy part of my brain hasn't been fleetingly tempted. Of course I have the most accomplished, talented, charming, and beautiful child on the planet. My saving grace is that I only say these things to myself, and post them on my blog so my regular readers can laugh at me.

We ordered The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland for her. She will most likely get it for Christmas. (Unless I get suicidally tired of The Tigger Movie before then.) As far as the Elmo movie goes, I have one name to offer as adult rationale: Mandy Patinkin.

You may well ask the reason behind this sudden welcome for the red plush demon who was previously fair Pawnee range fodder, and all I can say is that she stands almost three feet tall, has big blue eyes, and the most infectious giggle I've ever heard in my life.

Two years. Two freakin' years. Ethne, Briar -- you guys remember when I was still gestating her? Sweet Mother Goddess. Two years. Now she's talking in sentences, and running and climbing; and just the other day she walked up to S., (who was napping on the couch) to poke him imperiously, "Wake up, Daddy!" She's starting to pick out her own clothes, and decides what she wants for breakfast.

Two years later, and I'm as crazy-in-love as ever.

Last night, she tilted her head just-so, and I saw my grandmother in her face. I had to look away and blink hard before I went over and kissed her.

This brings me back to a subject I've been avoiding for the last several days, just because I'm still raw. But my grandfather's funeral was beautiful, I'm told, and my father walked away with a sense of peace and completion.

This is a very awkward segueway, and I'm still not positive that a post about the joy of the holiday season with my daughter should include a description of the final farewells we paid my grandfather, but he loved Christmas too, and was one of those men who kept the spirit of the season in his heart all year.

Grandpa was the one who showed me how to put ornaments on the tree. I learned my first really juicy curse word while watching him string lights on the eaves of his house. (Grandma was pissed. She tore strips out of him in Czech, and all he did was stand there and laugh.)

It also turns out that Grandpa was a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. He never talked about it much, and I'd forgotten about the strangely beautiful lapel pin he would wear, but my father reminded me when he said that he buried Grandpa with it. It seems that my grandfather was a real hero; one of those generous souls who help others without making mention of it. He never expected or received any fanfare. It was enough just to make sure that he left the world a little better than he found it.

In the end, he did get a measure of the honor he deserved. The cemetery was closed, thanks to rain, but Dad told me that after the eulogy was delivered at the church, the Marines stepped proudly forward.

They saluted their elder brother, and played Taps over him. They took the flag from his coffin, and folded it with loving care. Then they played the Marine Corps Hymn for him before presenting the flag to my father. Then, quietly, the officer in charge told my family that it was an honor to be there, and that men like my grandfather were his personal inspiration.

It was all my father could do to maintain his composure. My mother later told me that my father's chin came up, his shoulders squared, and even red-rimmed, his eyes were dry when he thanked the Marine and returned his salute.

There's a lesson in this. A life well-lived is its own reward. Honorable men and women will be remembered with honor when they are gone. The best thing we can do is to give of ourselves selflessly, without thought for reward or recognition. If we can do that while loving and guiding a child, then we can be sure that the future will be brighter, for they will be inspired to carry on in their grandparents' footsteps.

I'll do my best to make sure that The Miss knows that she comes from a long line of principled men and women. I will strive to be like them; to be worthy of their legacy. Then, hopefully one day, she will feel the same tug in her soul, and will proudly say, "My grandfathers were generous, honorable men, and my grandmothers were women of beauty and strength. I want to be like them."

posted by Linda on December 7, 2004 08:36 PM

I remember when my favorite seige engine building partner was born. (I was happy to have another archer join my ranks as well... hee hee!) Give my bean a good squeeze and a few kisses from her crazy aunt.

I am biting back the tears for the rest. Beautifully written.

Posted by: Ethne at December 7, 2004 09:03 PM

Beautiful piece. My daughters are now 18 & 14, so some of the magic is gone, but you brought the memories of when they were small crashing back.

I'll be writing, probably later this week, about a family tradition we have-- but I'll give you a little heads up.

From the time the kids were born, we got them 1 special ornament each every Christmas. We tried to tie the ornament into what they were doing-- so, if we were you, an Elmo ornament would be hanging this year, with a 2004 written surreptitously somewher on the ornament. We keep a box for each kids ornaments, and list the year and the ornament on the inside cover.

The plan is to give each child her ornaments when she sets up her own huse. Now, though, it's a lot of fun to go through the ornaments when we unpack each year, and rememeber the Year of Big Bird, or Dance, or Soccer.

It's the one really anal thing we do-- but the kids like it, andit is amzing how fast they grow!

Posted by: Tony Iovino at December 7, 2004 09:19 PM

The Bean will be hugged and smooched into giggles within fifteen minutes of flight from this hellhole. I'll tell her that the ones that tickle the most are from you. ;->

What a great idea! I have to find an Elmo ornament now.

I have a few ornaments from my childhood, but nothing like what you're doing for your girls. Yet, I think that no matter how well they remember the year they got that ornament, your recollections will be more keen, and colored by the perspective of watching them grow from your babies into... well, your babies. Only bigger. And more opinionated.


Posted by: Linda at December 7, 2004 10:09 PM