Thursday, November 28, 2013

Home for the Holidays- Musings on the subject.

Today, the spicy aroma of dahl and curries punctuate the air. I have spent nearly seven years of holidays with their friendly presence, and after many months away, they in particular, remind me that we are "home for the holiday." Outside is brisk, cold breezes dance with our cheeks and noses. The bite is refreshing as we rush from door to car, car to door. I had almost forgotten what "cold" was, in my new warmer climate. English bobs into Tamil and back again, the fan over the stove whirs, cabinets are open and shut, children exclaim and the National Cathedral Choir sings over the television.

Yesterday, my parents signed stacks of papers, and sold my childhood home in Fulton. Over the summer, they moved West, ten hours closer to our Memphian habitat. Mom, Dad and siblings three now live in West Tennessee, while the oldest four of us are scattered between Texas and Maryland. My heart feels glad and at peace with where we all call "home," but I admit, I shed a tear or two and sighed a nostalgic sigh at (pardon the dramatics) The Passing of an Era.

So many Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas mornings were spent as a family in our sprawling rancher. Dad would always have a popping fire burning in the woodstove, Mom would have a candle and oil lamps lit with some festive CD playing in the background. Someone would inevitably be cranky and bickering would momentarily ensue, before general cheer and anticipation was restored. It was "just" us. Seven children spanning 13 years, Mom and Dad, Donna and the cats. A twinkling tree for Christmas, and Granny and Poppa and Dave, Vallie and Sophia on Thanksgiving. It always felt full and busy, and it was home.

Then Ryan waltzed into my heart and life, and our family holidays combined. Thanksgiving would begin at his parents in the fresh morning while family trickled in bearing loads of food. The cousins' little ones would tear through the house screaming happily, usually chased by a growling Unkie Ryan, aunties and uncles would chatter amicably, food was eaten at leisure in every room and enjoyed by all. For dinner, we would drive back to Fulton for traditional turkey fare, with my family. We would all smoosh around one table and eat till only Mom and Ryan were left sitting, usually chatting over their plates till dessert was clamored for. Christmas was much the same, but we would begin with breakfast in my parent's toasty dining room, devotions, advent candle and gifts by the tree and woodstove, before heading to his aunts for lunch and dinner. We got married and added a grandchild to the mix, holiday affairs got spread to other days occasionally, we bustled back and forth, from table to table.

With our exodus to Memphis, holidays look different, so far spending only Christmas in Maryland last year, and only Thanksgiving this year. Home is Memphis, but "going home" has still been flying back to Maryland, and Fulton. I only moved once as a child, and Fulton is where I grew up. My family has felt farther and farther away as we have all grown and spread, but at last, the Fulton chapter has closed, and their Jellico, Tennesse chapter has begun in earnest. I think that this year, for the first time, I am sensing a shift in my heart towards "home." For a long time, home meant Fulton to me, and as Fulton emptied and as the For Sale sign was posted, I felt such a sense of loss. As distance grew between the traditional "just us" Spinolos in Fulton, and as our little Abel family grew, and we moved west, I am finding that "going home" truly means going "where the heart is." Looking back at the holidays I have spent with Ryan's family, I realize that they were spent in various homes, with different configurations of family and foods, but that I only really remember them all as being at "home." I know it sounds strange to only just now be realizing it, but home is where my family is.

Home is with my Abels, Mom and Dad and Tanya, and family is cousins, babies, aunties and uncles. Home is colors and spices and accents and happy commotion. The location of our gatherings and the number of our attendees changes from year to year, but Home is with my Abels, wherever they may be.

And now, Home is where my Spinolos are, in Tennessee. There are entirely new traditions to create, a new house to fill with memories, and even new family to discover and embrace. I can't wait to watch as we establish new migration patterns, now encompassing the opposite corner of Tennessee.

We have gone home for the holidays, and are in an entirely different house, but are still just as at home as ever. I miss my Spinolo family, but I am excited as they start this new journey and I eagerly await the time when we get to visit!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Thankful- True Love

Love does not always sound like a sonnet whispered romantically by moonlight. It does not always have sweet nothings to impart or compliments to lavishly bestow. It does not always appear, debonair and armor clad, carrying roses or riding a steed. Love does not always come in pretty little packages tied up with string, by candle light, with the soulful strains of a violin giving voice to the passionate throb of our hearts. Love does not always appear with a kiss in the rain, or a held hand in the dark, or with the sweeping off of one's feet.

In fact, I would argue that True Love looks very different, because in the absence of these things, in the absence of traditional "romance," what is left? What songs does a heart sing when it is covered in and worn down by a life that doesn't smell like roses, one that tends to blow out the candles and that quite often leaves us with no words at all? What eloquence can the sojourn of Romance whisper when two hearts beat true beneath the weight of real life that often lacks dazzle and neat bows?

(photo cred: Rebekah Joy Photography) 

It sounds like the rustle of a weighty trash bag, tied off and hauled out in the early morning, before even the sun has woken up.

It looks tired and sudsy, washing a sink full of dishes, hours after an already long day has ended.

It sounds like whispered shushing, and a soft rise and fall of breathing, as it cradles a restless infant head in the last hours of a night that was already too short, so that I can snuggle warm, instead of pacing cold.

It looks like diligence, day after day, going out and working long, to then come home as fast as possible, to the loud, the untidy, the often cranky and unlovely.

It sounds like laughter, when unexpectedly covered in unfortunate substances, deposited enthusiastically by smelly little offspring.

It looks like a clean room, a boon that came mere hours after my sigh over the futility of my efforts to catch up with all that there is to do.

It may not praise me on the rare day of a new dress and a done up face, but it comes home every day and looks unflinchingly at my unwashed, unbrushed self, covered in baby smells and residue, and loves.

It may not exude declarations of adoration in unprompted moments of ardor, but it lavishly heaps moments of thoughtfulness, hours of service, days and days of tireless love.

It may not sound like accolades over a well cooked, impressively presented feast, but it eats uncomplaining the burnt, undercooked, bland, uninspired and underwhelming.

It may not sound like a sonnet or look like passion, but it is. This is the Truest Love of my life, and it is eloquent and sings to my heart.

Ryan, thank you for being the Love of my life. Thank you for serving me and ours tirelessly. Thank you for sharing the crazy and making the mundane so rich. Thank you for teaching my heart what True Love looks and sounds like, and for calling me Wife, and calling this often messy chaos Home. I love you. And I am so deeply thankful for you.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thankful- Leilani Edition

What are some things you are thankful for?

"Stuffed animals because they are furry."
"My kitchen because it is smooth and pink."
"My desk because it is fun to play in and keeps my stuff safe."

What are some foods that you are thankful for?

"Carrots because Jesus made them and they taste like honey."
"You mean sweet?"

Who are some people that you are thankful for?

"Daddy. I love him."
"Why do you love him?"
"Because he first loved us." (Yes. This was her answer.)

Oh Lani girl. You are amazing. Watching you blossom in your new role as a big sister has been an utter joy. You love your little brother with an intensity and dedication that is precious to behold. You are such a little mother to him, and you take your job as his supervisor very seriously. Often, you will inform me when he needs a meal, a diaper or holding, usually after singing loudly to him. I love watching him respond to your sweet silliness, he just adores you, and rightfully so. (Right now, you are singing "Mr Handsome, Mr Handsome, heaverrry heaverry hoindy WIPE. LITTLE baybee hm hm hm OO! The bigger as your Daddy. My my mine mine mine. Mr footie highness." above his tipped over, raspberry blowing self.)

Your eye for detail thrills me. You notice the twinkles in the concrete, the flashes of sunlight reflecting off of dust, the way a long legged insect looks like a little fairy. You love crafting, and glue, and cutting things to peices just for the joy of it. It doesn't matter to you if the finished product is impressive, or even if there IS a finished product. You just create for the joy of it. I can learn so much from that attitude. 

You are so smart. Today I discovered that you could add and subtract 1 from any number 1-5. That is pretty impressive, especially considering that I never taught you how. You are learning your letters completely independent of me, and you remember auditory details that amaze me. 

You sing ALL day long, and you have a fascination with "God's TRUE Word" (Thank you Bible Study Fellowship). You are learning to love the Lord even now, and you challenge me hourly to practice what I preach. Thank you for pushing me forward, and for pushing me to my knees. My heart needs the refining fire that you are. 

Daily you challenge me to love more selflessly, to teach more patiently, and to "STOP talking Mama" and just listen. Thank you for loving me despite my numerous failings. Thank you for your vivacity and enthusiasm, thank you for your endurance as I try and fail so frequently at learning the wonder of you. 

Leilani, I am so deeply, deeply thankful for You