Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sunday Night Dinner

There was a moment, just before falling asleep when I asked myself what I would do differently if I knew I only had a few months to live. The answer was a simple - nothing. I wouldn't do anything differently with one exception - I would have dinner with my family more often.

So - at the beginning of the summer I made a goal to have my Dad and his wife over for dinner every Sunday night. The thought was that even though there would surely be some Sundays that we would have to cancel, we would get together more than if we didn't plan.

Sunday night dinners can be alot of work. More importantly, they can be a magical time for families - special times that make all the work worthwhile.

It starts with a quick knock at the door followed immediately by the sound of the door opening and greetings of "hello -- we're here ...". Chaos ensues - Fritz (our mini schnauzer) barks wildly, crushing hugs are exchanged with kisses and greetings and laughter. We relieve our guests of their culinary contributions of pie plates and roasting pans - the whole time busily chattering. Corks are popped, wine flows, and the family affair swings into full gear!
There is a scene from "Annie Hall" where Diane Keaton and Woody Allen have dinner with Woody Allen's character's parents. Everyone is yelling across the table at one another, standing up to reach for things, engrossed in their own conversations. The conversation was the main deal - and the food - secondary. Kinda like our family dinners.

Tonight our table included my dad and his wife, my husband and two daughters, and my step-mom's 91 year old mom. It wasn't long after my dad retold the story of his childhood friend Stumps that conversation turned to debate - about the US presidential election. Things got lively! My dad played devil's advocate and my daughters bit. The 16 year old gave three minute dissertations with barely a breath and my 25 year old served as fact checker, correcting as she saw fit - quoting bits of wisdom from the blogs and boards.

We have a nasty habit of finishing one another's sentences and talking on top of one another. My husband has pointed this out to me on several occasions. Maybe that's why he pops a Motrin before dinner and gently massages his temples amid the chatter.

At the end of night, just as we started to leave, my dad said that he was so pleased that he had two granddaughters at the table who were interested in and knew about politics and what is going on in the world. Of course he extended his pride to his four children (me included) and used the moment as an opportunity to expound on the importance of voting and participating in the democratic process.

The wine was corked. The table cleared and the cooks praises sung. Hugs and kissed were exchanged amidst giddy agreements that tonight was great; that our family is great; and aren't we lucky to have more to look forward to.

I am lucky. My girls are lucky. Each dinner is a treasure trove for the memory box and satisfies our hearts as much as our bellies. Sunday night dinners -- a sacred tradition - worth the effort.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Cleaning Closets

Today was rather gray, humid, and somewhat unpleasant - weather-wise. The kind of day that gives you a guilt-free reason to putter the day away inside ... With it being the start of fall and all - I fully intended to tackle my closet. To bring order to chaos. To purge the unused, outdated, sentimental antique clothing that consumes so much of the space in the closet I share with my husband. I dabbled a little, getting caught up in the memories that each piece of clothing holds. It got me thinking about people and closets ...

There was a time when I started noticing subtle changes in my eldest daughter - withdrawal from her friends and our family; significant weight gain; becoming increasingly non-communicative an agitated. Something was amiss. My cheerful, chatty, social daughter was retreating into her own safe cocoon. High school brought added anxiety for her. I began to think that she had been traumatized in some way. Sexual abuse? It seemed unlikely however I decided to raise the issue with her. She seemed believable when she said that nothing like that had ever happened to her. I asked her if she thought that maybe she was gay.

I have friends - one very special one in particular - who are gay and I have witnessed the pain they have experienced from not feeling that they were free to be themselves. As I raised my children I tried to consciously create an open environment in which they could speak freely. We spoke of my friend and how people are different and the challenges those differences can bring. I openly told my girls that I hoped they would never have to "come out" of a closet. I never wanted them to feel that they had to go into one in the first place.

When I first asked my daughter about being gay, she appeared surprised and alarmed. She asked me why I would even ask her that. She said she didn't know ... It provided me the opportunity to tell her that if - down the road - she discovered she was gay, that our love for her would be unwavering. I told her that as a parent my deepest desire for her, was that she be able to be herself, and to live a happy healthy life - in love.

I took a pre-emptive step with my family and told them that I wasn't certain, but that there was a chance that my baby may be gay. I asked them to be respectful and to try to not be presumptuous around her ... " do you have a boyfriend yet?" "when you get married" etc. My family were great and responded with love and support. I think we grew as a family that day.

Years later when my daughter turned to me and simply said "It's official. I'm out. I'm gay", a humongous lump formed in my throat, we high-fived and I was at peace. My daughter didn't come out of a closet, but rather, she came out to herself - when she was ready.

Closets can be a dark and dusty place - filled with baggage and chaos. Definitely no place for people. Absolutely no place for my baby - or anyone else's.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Book Worm

One of my most favourite things to do is read. It's been that way as long as I can remember. Since pledging to read my way - systematically - through my parents' extensive book shelf at the age of 8, books have been my friends, passion and stimulants. I was the kid who played librarian, had a book repair kit, spent all of my extra money buying books, and over the years, amassed a huge collection.

I lovingly saved all of my childhood favourites for my own future children - none of who were terribly interested in the old, musty volumes - most of which were not illustrated. My family and friends fed my passion by begifting me the latest and greatest from my favourites authors. Eventually I began to run out of space to display and store these treasures. The day came when I had to decide exactly what were the timeless treasures (keepers) and what were just " good reads". My " Hand of God" bookshelf was borne.

Funny enough, I am not religious, however I am deeply spiritual. I have extensive collections of my favourite genres - auto/biographies - as well inspirational writings from Og Mandino, Richard Bach, Leo Buscalgia, Norman Vincent Peale, Ghandi, and a host of other wonderful writers. I place these treasures in a dedicated bookshelf that also holds my special treasures and keepsakes. It is truly satisfying.

Now the bad news .... I have sadly outgrown the three thrifty shelves and my collection is spread about the house like foster children awaiting permanent homes. I have decided I want a library of my very own. Don't tell the dining room though ... mutiny must be avoided.

I can't help feeling that for the 4 times a year our dining room is filled to overflowing with family as we celebrate the holidays and special occasions - the room is underused and somewhat neglected. The side wall begs for floor to ceiling built-ins with even a sliding ladder to assist with the retrieval of those volumes stored in the highest of places. My husband reminded me that our ceilings are low enough that he can reach the highest shelf without need of a ladder - but what is a library without a ladder???

Anyway - enough chatter about that. Only time will tell if the inner book worm within my will win out ... I can hear Leo's poignant verses calling from the spare bedroom ... YES Please!