As children, whenever we asked my father questions like when will we be there or how much longer till the chicken is ready, he would inevitably smile simply, and say “by and by”. It wasn’t all that helpful, but it did kind of become our family code for reminding each other to chill. By and by, were also the words I repeated to myself, as I deposited each shovel full of earth onto his casket. OK, I have to admit it, I have spent the last couple of days, the days leading up to Christmas, in the tiniest bit of a funk.
Yesterday, it became clear that it was not going to pass easily. In need of an intervention I turned to my big project to do list, although what I really wanted to do was iron. Ever since I was a little girl I have loved to iron. There is the purest satisfaction in smoothing out wrinkles with something that glides, but with only four shirts in the basket, it didn’t require the kind of physical challenge that I needed. There was one chore on the list that I have been avoiding since Thanksgiving put it there. If there was a nasty task hit parade it would, for me, certainly top the charts.
Instinctively, I knew a good costume would help the situation tremendously. I thought about wearing a pair of dress heels but alas, hands and knees work does not a good shoe situation make. I selected my rowing clothes because they make me feel strongly competent, and my apron, because it is reminds me of baking with Emily and Thea and began to tackle the fridge. As many of you know, I am highly respectful and honoring of that which is ancient, often turning there for courage or wisdom and today was no exception. Yet on this occasion, as sometimes is the case, ancient was disagreeably stubborn, sticky, a tad over-ripe, and slow to reveal it’s grace.
While scrubbing, and by scrubbing I do not mean wiping lightly, I mean dispatching perhaps the scourge of the new millennium, I thought about Mary, preparing for the birth of her son. I wondered if she was anxious at all about the impending labor. I mean seriously, as anyone who has given or seen birth knows, Christ child or not – passing a human being out of your body is no simple task, especially in a manger. Did she suffer a moment or two of self doubt? Did she wonder how she would manage the discomfort? Was she worried about Joseph? Or did she simply approach that which must be done with as much dignity and grace as was possible under the circumstances?
Maybe it was bleach fumes, but as I tumbled down the path of wondering, the courage of Mary’s unimaginable reality glimmered on the walls of that fridge. After placing the orange juice carton tenderly onto the showroom fresh shelf, I was on to ironing in considerably better spirits.
Watching the wrinkles smooth out, I wondered if it is any more far fetched to have faith that life will work out? Is the truth of that faith, contained in admitting that the ultimate price of losing both Molly and Mom will have to be paid before my own life can truly move forward? In all fairness aren’t I already moving forward, when I appear to be standing still, every time I reach an erging milestone or post a new blog? Absolutely. By the end of the day my mind had returned to Christmas Eve on Lake Placid.
Today is Christmas. I woke up with a sense of anticipation. By tonight our quiet house will be full of good cheer. I know this for a fact because my good friend Vernon is due to arrive from New York in a few hours, and wherever Vernon goes laughter is sure to follow. Our other merry house guest will be Piper, who’s hearty spirit contained in it’s small curly caramel haired four legged body, is sure to be entertaining us with hilarious antics.
After Molly gets over her initial snit of having puppy energy in her space, she will rally and try to keep up. We are going to preview the DVD that arrived yesterday of Mom’s Oral History Interview together. She will be shiny eyed and regaling Vernon with stories. As for me, I will be wearing a soft wrinkle free shirt, and as I take our dinner out of the spotless fridge I will smile simply and say, By and by Bethie, by and by.