|Today, December 28, 2021, at my desk|
Today I am fifty-nine years old,
and I will love this year.
what I’d heard, and maybe thought to myself when I was younger, the fifties, as
a decade have been amazing. Tonight, I told Mario, “I feel the same today as I
did when I was thirty-nine.”
now, you’re more financially stable,” he said.
I laughed. Mario and I think so differently. In
a gazillion years, I would never have thought of financial stability. Never.
Finances and I don’t mingle or mix, so I don’t even think about them. And yet,
Mario is right. we have finally reached a point in our lives where we can look
ahead. Our kids are on their own, with children of their own, and the joy of grandparenting
dominates our lives.
my thirty-ninth birthday, twenty years ago, I had just run my first marathon. I
had read (and finished) Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. I was teaching
full-time. Vince and Alicia were teenagers, living at home, and David and Joe
were in college. I couldn’t see the next ten years ahead of us, and I wouldn’t
want to. They would be fraught with disaster, roads so filled with mines, I
would never want to cross them. Today, I can say this: I made it through. I’m
still alive. My family still talks to me.
it’s best if we can’t see the road ahead.
birthday, I look up the corresponding Psalm, just to see what God’s word says
about the number that corresponds with my birthday year. Today, I read Psalm 59,
which begins with these two daunting verses:
1Deliver me from my enemies, O God;
fortress against those who are attacking me.
me from evildoers
save me from those who are after my blood.
I don’t want to think
about anyone who doesn’t like me, let alone admit I could have enemies. I love
most people, even the ones who don’t care for me. I feel pain deeply, rejoice
jubilantly, and I want to talk about friends and promises and a future where I
make good choices.
Reality has proven, for
me, that the world is filled with people who won’t like me, even some who will hate
me. I have a deliverer, and he can deliver me.
This year, despite being fully vaccinated, Mario
tested positive for Covid in December. Despite testing negative, and never exhibiting
symptoms, I quarantined right along with him. His negative test, on the 20th
was what we were waiting for, and served as a green light for us to host.
We just celebrated
Christmas, and we hosted, in our house, a beautiful, noisy, chaotic explosion
of life. We sang Christmas carols as our grandchildren shook jingle bells and
shook maracas. Children wandered around with beverages, in cups
with no lids, and ice, sloshing around. It was marvelous. Our fifteen-year-old
fake Christmas tree, pulled from the shed, and fluffed up as much as possible,
made the only laughable imitation of something real. Everything else about our
Christmas was genuine.
Mario bought the tree in
South Africa, where I was depressed and told him I couldn’t celebrate Christmas
because it was so damn hot. I wept every time I saw a green Christmas tree. I
couldn’t find a decent tamale in Johannesburg. Who was I kidding? I couldn’t
find any tamales. I asked Mario if he missed home as much as I did.
One day, he bought the Christmas
tree. It was white and pre-lit with little white lights, like the ones I
admired in the States, but could never afford.
“It’s white,” Mario said,
dripping with sweat as he wrestled it from its box. “I know you can’t do green
because it’s too much like home, but we need a tree to celebrate and I figured
we can do white here, and it can be a new tradition.”
I loved that white tree.
I loved South Africa. I loved our new home.
I missed real Christmas
trees. I missed our home. I missed our family.
I learned that two
conflicting emotions could live side by side, without hypocrisy.
In our Sacramento house,
the white tree was used because we were quarantined. Mario had forgotten about
it being in our backyard garden shed. He looked surprised when I wrestled it
from its box and set it up. It was put in the corner, and looked lonely and
out-of-place. It’s pre-lit branches had to be stripped because the RSA uses 220
and the USA uses 110. We strung our own lights around the branches, and decorated
it with our ornaments, many with the pictures of new grandchildren on them.
The tree reminded me that
our life in South Africa came at a cost to us. It reminded me of the longing I
had for tamales and molasses cookies. It reminded me of how the whole country
of South Africa took one miraculous month off to celebrate the holiday, and
genuinely loved their hot, hot Christmases. The white tree reminded me of our
years in Johannesburg, where my heart ached to be near family, especially
during Christmas. Oh, Lord, it is a miracle that we continued on, and loved it.
Sometimes we need
reminders of miracles.
taking a break to write this blog because I am on a major deadline.
signed a book contract with Prickly Pear Publishing, and I have to turn the
book in at the beginning of the year. Getting a book ready for the publisher is
like getting a house ready for sale. Getting a daughter ready to be married.
Getting a piece of furniture ready to be refinished. No, it’s harder than all
literally like getting a book ready for the publisher. That’s what it’s like.
The final two verses of
Psalm 59 are encouraging ones, and I’ve quoted them often:
16 But I
will sing of your strength,
the morning I will sing of your love;
for you are my fortress,
refuge in times of trouble.
17You are my strength, I sing praise to you;
you, God, are my fortress
my God on whom I can rely.
the first two, there cannot be the last two. Like a chef planning the perfect
dish, our lives need the balance of salty, sweet, bitter, sour, and umami.
year, I pray for that balance.