Before the Sun Rises

Before the sun rises, before the last snow will trickle into puddles of water and disappear, before the silence of the house gives way to us trying to prepare for the grandchildren, before any of this, I begin my morning with thoughts cascading through my mind.

Thoughts of hope, thoughts of love, thoughts of anticipation for what comes next.  Afterall, even though I couldn’t sleep longer than 4:38 AM, I am grateful for being able to sneak out of bed. Grateful to be awake, to peer out into the backyard to see if any wildlife roamed through our yard during the night.  Ever marveling at the tranquility of early snow and the advantage it allows us to see the traces and tracks left behind from our nightly visitors. 

Up early, reflecting and remembering Novembers through the years. We will leave in a few short days to travel to my childhood home, so we can gather to celebrate American Thanksgiving with my side of the family. So much to do before we leave, so much to prepare as we leave Canada behind for a short visit to Pennsylvania. In the room we now call Finn’s room, because he sleeps in a crib in there, our clothes cover the bed waiting for their turn to be rolled and stuffed into our suitcases.  It has to be done before those kiddies arrive or they might roll on top of them, throw them into the air and then hide underneath them. What else do you do at Nana and Pop-Pop’s except become silly, laugh and generally do things that Mom and Dad would disprove.

Soon they will make their own tracks throughout the house!  Violet, 4 and Finn just barely 18 months, running about laughing, as Violet calls out, “Catch me Finn, catch me!”  Finn taking the shortcut behind the sofa in the family room and popping out into the kitchen before Violet can make the longer run ahead of him.  As Brad would say, “total mayhem, total mayhem.”

Pop-Pop Brad needs to inflate Frosty the Snowman and Snow the Squirrel before the grandkids arrive. They come to life on our back deck so the kiddies can watch them bop about as they eat in the kitchen.  I always disliked those inflatable decorations until our grandkids helped me discover the delight they bring.  Yes, we have already transformed our home into Christmastime complete with the Christmas tree sitting prominently in our family room.  We have a stuffed moose standing below it waiting to be hidden as the prime target in an upcoming Hide the Moose hunt.  For Canadian Thanksgiving in October, we played Hide the Turkey with the stuffed turkey my mother made so long ago.

It will be Christmas fun that we leave behind when we travel to celebrate Thanksgiving one more time.  Here in Calgary as across Canada, Christmas activities filter in shortly after the Remembrance Day weekend, Veterans Day for all the American readers. All through our married lives, Brad and I made certain that we recognized both Canadian and American Thanksgiving.  It didn’t matter where we lived, Massachusetts, Virginia, North Carolina, and now Calgary. We consistently made sure that we noted both holidays and incorporated all the traditions in October and November.  Admittedly though, nothing compares to my hometown American Thanksgiving.  In my small town, as in so many others across America, Thanksgiving summoned so many traditions, so much anticipation, and so much food!

But this morning, I begin in a muddle of thoughts. I have a gingerbread house ready to be decorated with Violet this afternoon.  It’s going to be a create-with-Nana afternoon, while Finn naps.  Pop-Pop and Donald will head to the Canadian Grey Cup football game here in Calgary, complete with Keith Urban headlining the half-time show! Kim leaves for a speech pathologist conference this morning, so with no Daddy, Mommy nor Pop-Pop around, Nana is on duty. They will also enjoy a sleepover and a full day tomorrow with us until their Daddy picks them up after his workday.  That leaves a few tired hours to do last minute packing and preparing before we fly away to Pennsylvania very early Tuesday morning.

Given the logistics I should have stayed in bed.  I should have tried to go back to sleep. However, I woke up and pictured our newest grandson, Fraser, only one month old.  He will change considerably before we return from our USA Thanksgiving visit. My Nana heart wants to stay home and cuddle him in these early weeks.  This trip came about unexpectantly as a reschedule from our planned May vacation plans.  Just prior to packing our suitcases then, our precious little dog, Dusty, became very ill. He had battled a stomach cancer since January, but by April seemed to have a resurgence in energy, a sort of remission from pain and problems.  With vet approval we planned our trip to Pennsylvania for May and booked Dusty for a “camp” stay at the local Springbank Pet Resort.  We felt at ease with Dusty staying there since his vet worked right next store in the Springbank Veterinarian clinic.  Unfortunately, Dusty had a downturn days before our time to leave.  To salvage our flights, we rescheduled when we cancelled. Back then, it seemed reasonable to travel one month after Chris and Catherine’s baby was due.  Now it causes heart pangs for Nana.

However, I am looking forward to spending time with my 89-year-old mother. We will be cooking and baking in her kitchen, visiting the extended family, talking, reminiscing, creating moments to treasure.

The day here begins with this pause. This quiet reflection. I picture the weeks ahead with mother, pulling up a kitchen stool as we enjoy morning coffee together, planning what we will cook that day.  I recognize a similar scene in my own kitchen.  As soon as I end this bit of writing I will pull out some butter to soften on my kitchen counter.  I will peel and chop some apples for the cinnamon apple muffins I will bake as a treat for the grandkids.  The house will fill with home cooking scents that will greet them when they arrive. A long time ago I learned to cook in the kitchen with my mother, and now I reinvent the scene in my own home. 

As the circle of time spins forward, in a few short days I will cook again in the kitchen of my childhood.  For that and for these times I am ever grateful.

Perhaps I will have a few sleepless early mornings there as well. I will awake, before the sun rises, and reflect on enjoying the Thanksgiving season. Because no matter when I celebrate gratitude, my heart rejoices.

Timely Leaps of Thought

Ah the extra day of February!! The extra moments that we all enjoy in a year when we simply wake up and receive the extra time as an unexpected gift. Seconds, minutes, hours, sifting into our day, slowly adding on to our activities, nudging into our conversations, catching us unaware but affording us with time, unseen, unfelt, unknown but present for each of us.

There’s a part of me that would like to hold this extra time as if it were placed reverently inside the palm of my hand, perhaps like a wrinkled plush blanket with folds upon folds of warmth jumbled into a pile, yet promising a comforting collapse into a safe place, “come, leap into this pattern of tumbling time!”

I know we all wish we could rise up on our tiptoes and crane our necks so we could see over and beyond to what may come next. Our prescheduled days perhaps allow us little options, little opportunities to pause and picture what extra time might mean to us.

Where is it? Why can’t we see it, feel it and know that it is there for us?

Why can’t we fall back on it and let it hold us for just a moment, just a peaceful sigh and a refilling of empowerment? What would it feel like to toss up that bundle of seconds, moments, and hours; so we could let it lightly cover us, not blinding our sight but allowing a filtered transparent look into our future?

Our darling 8-month-old granddaughter came to visit this past weekend. For her, every moment she spends awake she attempts to decipher the meaning of this world around her. She stuffs every toy into her mouth, over her tongue, along her gums (and now two little teeth), to figure out what they are and to make sense of them. She runs her fingers over the ridged bumps, and fluffy pictures in her books. She slams her hands on the piano keys and into her food to create new sounds and to feel what’s before her, what’s offered to her. When I throw a see-through scarf over her head she pushes her nose tightly against it so she can look more clearly through the weave; so she won’t miss the world around her, but push into the time that has draped over her. I look into her eyes peering out, wide open and full of wonder. I can almost hear her say, “What happens next, Nana?”

When I gesture with my hands up and ask where she is, she raises her hands too, but locks her eyes into mine with that questioning, sincere laughing look. She doesn’t know it, she doesn’t understand it, she doesn’t have any concept of time, but she is leaping into it, staring into the unknown. Within the folds of her precious mind she wonders, what happens next?

And so my timely thoughts today focus on how I will look ahead from this leap year day. As I type this message I have already chosen how I am spending my extra time. I want to be enthused and energized by the ways I experience “the new toys” that come into my daily life. Not afraid or fearful, but hopeful and confident in my approach. Each day we clean up and put away the people, the lists, the notes, the conversations, the task items, the repetitive realities, the assembly lines, the deadlines, the dreaded jobs we have to get done, the transfer of to do lists to the next day, the meetings, the traffic congestion, the bill payments. Each day we clean up and put them away and wait for another new start, a new tomorrow. Days end with overpowering reality as the news media reports more depressing accounts of terrorism, politics, and environmental mayhem complete with the viewpoint that we merely exist at the mercy of the world around us. We may find ourselves thinking why do we want any extra time to muddle through what seems like a world slowly colliding in upon itself. What will a few extra moments provide?

What if we hadn’t already defined what time meant to us? What if our day was simply measured by new discoveries, new sensations, and new meanings? What if our day could be interpreted with the eyes and senses of a little child? What if we could anticipate how every person or every conversation could lead us to another understanding of what might come next in our life? What if we looked through to see the world in a new way, to peer up close and look out with a sincere laughing wonder? What if hope truly led us forward, in our thoughts, in our actions, in our words?

What if these extra moments we have received today become timely leaps of thought, helping to empower us to begin each day in an attitude of hope.

Extra time, right in our hands, tumbling towards our finger tips, rolling back and forth ready to be lifted up and thrown over us, to catch us unaware like a little child looking out, wondering what happens next?

Timely leaps of thought, pushing us, reminding us, an extra day can bring us time to hope.