Holiday Newsletters Are Arriving – Fa la la la la!

Here they come again, cards and even better, envelopes bearing holiday newsletters and photos and tales of travels and details about what life brought and what it took away during this year that’s ending soon.

I love holiday newsletters.  I especially like the ones I receive from people with whom I don’t exchange emails all year.  Nor even phone calls. So this is often our one communication and it’s becoming increasingly important. I don’t want to lose touch with people even (especially)  if we’re not really in touch (much.) 

It’s the time of the year for looking at pictures of kids and pets and vacation spots that accompany the stories told within these one or two pages.  Stories are what I love. I even like to read newsletters with stories about people I don’t know.

 In the mail a couple of days ago, I got the newsletter written by the husband of my very first roommate.  I had the honor of being part of their wedding ceremony, back when we were  barely out of our teens. She’s always been a good communicator, so it’s a surprise that the stories of their lives during the year are told by him. It’s a side of him I hadn’t known before our paths took different directions.  I don’t know who takes the pictures that accompany the text – but maybe that’s her part of this annual mailing.

One couple I’ve known for decades – I used to babysit their young children – are now grandparents who are in such close touch with every family member, it’s a joy just to read the updates about these grown grandchildren I’ve never met. These are grandparents who can tell you about college classes and hopes and dreams and plans and romances of each of their multiple grandchildren. 

I have one grandchild – she whose photo will grace my own missives when I get them ready to mail next week – and I have to run to keep up with the goings and comings of this one little girl.  So the couple with several grown grandchildren, this family that travels from all over the U.S. and Europe  to get together each summer for several days – and then includes pictures with their mailings – they’re  my new holiday newsletter heroes this year.

Last season it seemed there was less mail, and I worried about the people who always wrote, but then stopped.  But this year, they started arriving earlier than usual, and there are more of them.  I’m wondering if maybe this tradition matters even more during a time when so many people have had to cut back on so many other things.

Keep ’em coming.  Your newsletters will all receive a glad welcome here.

© Anita Garner 2009

Weather-watching obsession – does this make me an ol’ coot?

Watching the weather is a favorite hobby of mine.  I don’t generally get my weather reports from television, but I might as well be one of those people we see in comedies, who fixate on the Weather Channel and sit there for hours, soaking up data about places they’ve never been, never intend to go, and if they did go there, they wouldn’t know anyone. Those people are portrayed as coots. (One definition of  a coot:   simple-minded.)  A weather fanatic will say to no one in particular,  “I knew it.  I knew that system was gonna come in early.”  

Except for not watching the Weather Channel (tornadoes and hurricanes are exceptions that demand TV coverage) I may be one of those people.

I check the Weather Channel’s website several times a day for places where friends and relatives live.  Every trip for me begins with www.weather.com where I can fill in the name of any city and see what’s predicted for the next ten days. 

It might be an inherited trait, since my country born-and-bred father had a set of weather instruments on the back porch and glanced at them  several times a day, always remarking out loud on what he saw there.  He often disputed what the dials told him, and he was always right.  He could feel changes in his bones. 

Something about working out in the fields as a boy and his own deep respect for nature had permanently tuned him in to the time for sowing and the time for reaping. His instincts often did not agree with the calendar. He’d wake up and announce that he was going out to our vegetable garden. “I better go pull up the radishes and the collards before the sun hits ’em again.”   And this while rain was still falling.   He knew when a big change was coming.

I don’t have the knack he did for predicting imminent change, but I’m always hopeful about it. Our problems may stick around, but at least we can count on the weather to change.  When my diagnosis is boredom,  just watching the weather offers promise. 

One reason I love  my part of Northern California (and envy New Englanders)  is that the weather plays tricks on the forecasters.  Mother and Father Nature send along surprises  for us several times a month.  We’ll get rain when the sky was clear a minute ago.  Big winds arrive high up in the treetops, when the lower limbs don’t even know it yet.   Fog rolls in and out, but not always on the schedule we expect.  I’m disappointed when the fog fails to appear.  Like the redwood trees in the back yard, I rely on absorbing fog through my pores.  

I like being surprised by the weather.  Keeping the family’s weather-watching tradition alive  (my brother does this too) the first thing I do when the day arrives is go see what the weather is like outside, and I do it again before sleeping.  It seems I’ve been making my own notations out loud to no one in particular, without realizing it.   (Another definition of “coot” might be “predictable.”)

I haven’t been a grandmother all that long and sometimes I forget a small person is nearby. They’re always listening, aren’t they?  One recent morning while I was visiting at her house, I opened the drapes and stood there for a minute with my coffee cup.  From the little girl who’d snuck up behind me I heard, 

“Hammy, you forgot to say ‘It’s a beautiful day.'”

Generations of weather-watchers later, we’ve added one more.

Ó Anita Garner

Other People’s Kids

“All unattended children will be given espresso and a free puppy.”

                                          ….sign in a shop window

I sympathize with the owner’s wry sentiment.  It’s a tiny store with narrow aisles and plenty of kids roaming among the knick-knacks. I’ve been known to avoid stores entirely until the kids go home.  It’s not their fault.  Kids are doing what comes naturally – testing the rules, wandering away from their parents, bumping into things  and picking up breakables.  If their parents look away for a couple of seconds, kids will leave the store with the goods.  That’s how they sometimes behave. 

I was always the person annoyed by screaming babies on the plane.  Sure I knew they couldn’t help it, but since I’d pretty much raised mine, I deserved a break,  so whenever possible, I changed seats. 

I like kids but I was never anybody’s Universal Mama.  I didn’t try to befriend every child I met and didn’t ask to hold every new baby.  I enjoyed raising mine more than anything else I’ve done so far, but after she took her own steps into the world, I was content getting back to my own life.

A few years ago, sitting in the boarding area at San Francisco International, a baby screamed and the parents couldn’t comfort her.  Something inside me shifted.  My first thought was not the usual – I hope they don’t sit near me on the plane.  Nope.  This time it was  – why aren’t those parents taking better care of that poor little thing?

The small town I live in is full of children.  Every other person in the checkout line is attached to a stroller.  One day I found myself making direct eye contact with a spiky-haired toddler with a messy face.  I don’t know what manner of sticky cookie had attacked him while his mommy shopped, but he grinned at me through the gook and I grinned right back at him and felt a pang when he left the market.

One day you’re minding your own business, steering clear of noisy kids and all of a sudden every child  – everybody’s child – becomes precious. 

Maybe the universe prepares a whole bunch of us for on-call nurturing duty because a new batch of vulnerable beings arrives every day.  Nature has been known to turn unusual species into willing caretakers so that babies and puppies and kittens and all manner of helpless creatures will find care when they need it. 

Ó Anita Garner 2009