Tag Archives: Memories

Holidays x One: Passover/Easter


Passover and Easter have evolved into odd civic holidays that celebrate the rites of Spring, fertility, rebirth, seeds spouting, lambs being born (and eaten), eggs being decorated (and eaten), chicks and bunnies soft and squeaking in baskets, or their chocolate equivalents smearing across tiny faces. Why odd?

Well even though at Christmas the birth of Christ and arrival of Santa Claus have no connection, there’s the giving of a gift that affords it some type of universal credence. But the Easter Bunny has no connection whatsoever to slavery, deliverance, death and resurrection.

Passover commemorates the release of the Jewish slaves from captivity in Egypt. The story is rich with plagues, a secret prince (Moses), murder and miracles, the parting of the Red Sea, the visit of the first-born sons by the angel of death. The key ingredient at the Seder table is unleavened bread representing their hurried departure.
Easter commemorates the betrayal of Jesus Christ, who claimed to be the Messiah, the Son of God, his trials, crucifixion, death, burial. Then his resurrection. The key ingredient is the wine and bread representing the spilt blood and pierced flesh of Christ. No chocolate bunnies in sight.

Digging deeper, both celebrations invite us to remember what is gone and to wait for deliverance.

Remembering can be hard for the person who is alone. I lived for years with a busy houseful of children, step-children, “adopted” children and friends of children. It was expansive and fun within those four walls. The phone rang constantly, events, meals, cars coming and going, birthdays, graduations, new jobs, lost jobs. I used to tell them, “If you have a crisis you have about three weeks to milk it because by then another will come along.”

Remembering and re-living that season of my life is a struggle. I look at pictures and sigh. I wonder how all those folks are doing, grown with their own homes, their own families, work and accomplishments. It’s weird to go all day without a phone call, not to be making a costume, a decoration, a huge dinner or even a dessert. I sometimes look up their Facebook pages even if I’m not a friend, just to see their smiles.

Maybe a better way is to remember with joy and be grateful for having that time of life at all. One that many would have given anything to have had. Think back to your favorite Easter memories–was it hiding eggs as a child – or finding them? Was it brand new patent leather shoes at any age? Spring break in college? Surrounding a church pulpit with dozens of lilies? Cutting off a piece of crusty, salty lamb fat and popping it in your mouth with a juicy sliver of meat?

Waiting for change is an even greater challenge, even if it’s not deliverance from bondage or rising from the dead. The change we think will never get here. The check that’s in the mail. The escrow taking forever to close. The vacation that we’ve been putting off year after year. The retirement that we keep pushing back.

Often it’s the waiting that brings about more change than the actual receiving of what you are waiting to happen. Waiting strengthens us, even when it’s hard. But sometimes what comes after is just plain miraculous.

That’s worth remembering.

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Reconnecting Francine

There’s a screensaver on my monitor that I can’t decide if I love or hate. I don’t remember how I came to use it and I have no idea how I turn it off or change it. Computer functions such as these are beyond my patience to parse. Let’s just call it magic.

What happens is a photograph is pulled randomly from memory and dances across the screen for 10 seconds or so – a smiling face of a friend, a Halloween costume from 15 years ago, that day at the lake, a kiss from my husband, the cover of a book I’ve written. And because the photos are so fleeting and there is no continuity between them, it’s almost a kaleidoscope of emotions to watch. Pieces of memory falling into place then instantly shifting and falling again, then falling again.

If I watch the screen for 60 seconds or so I’ve skimmed 25 years. The down side is that I have a ten-second peek at things I have forgotten but there is no way to go back there, no way to find the file path the photo was pulled from. Somewhere in memory there’s the next moment as well – the hug after the kiss, the lake sunset – but there is no way to get there. If you click on the photo the screensaver disappears. The joy of seeing the image turns to pain as it slips away from view and another appears. At random.

Recently I’ve been reconnecting with friends I haven’t seen in years; friends I’ve shared joys with in the past. It started with my husband’s funeral in April, where so many people came from so many places in our memory. Family. Colleagues and former co-workers, distant relatives, clients he served and employees who served him sitting row upon row in a sanctuary filled with love and remembrance.

Next has been the reconstruction of my career after being laid off in June. I went to the San Diego Magazine open house and shared wine and laughter with people I used to work with under deadline. This week I went to the Press Club party and discussed the Coronado murder with folks whose last discussion with me centered on the Republican National Convention coming to San Diego in 1996. Yesterday I had lunch with Sue Garson, last seen some 12 years ago at a fabulous party in her home. For years we were close and I watched her parlay her Reader press pass into free entrance to museums in Istanbul and interview access to royalty in Europe. Amazing woman. We’ve made plans to walk in Balboa Park.

Finally, I’m moving back into a home that I used to live in 25 years ago, newly divorced with two small children. I peeled back the carpet this week – so new and fresh when it was installed, now matted and frayed. Front stoop so small where we stood for that first day of Kindergarten photo. The arbor sagging above the stone patio where icing dropped in globs from cupcakes at the High Tea where rough and tumble Girl Scouts dressed in their mothers’ finery and wore hats. The heater that burned my daughter’s leg. The sidewalk where my son fell again and again and again until he learned to ride without training wheels.

Images startling in their clarity but also fleeting, a wisp only, of the past I want to reconnect to, resurrect, and reconstruct for the future. Let’s just call it magic. 

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Dear Mom… originally a Vocablogita on VocaFemina.com

Dear Mom,

I’ve been thinking a lot about you lately and thought I would catch you up on what’s going on in this part of the universe.

On more than one occasion, lately, I’ve heard your voice in my head when you were faced with moving from the house we grew up in and your home for 40 years. “But I’m going to miss my Von’s!”  So white, middle-class, I used to think. That whole ownership mentality based on your social standing. Pure entitlement.

My house has been on the market for the last six months and every time I have turned into a slot in the Von’s parking lot here in San Diego I have felt that twinge. Where will I shop next? No more running into familiar faces at Starbucks, or the cleaner’s or the Hallmark Shop. No seeing every 8th grade mother picking up balloons for graduation, or the smiles of the girls scouts and the trick-or-treaters who look a little different each year. Turns out I thought all of that was mine, too.

Not that I go to Von’s much anymore. I try for the bargain groceries at Fresh & Easy or Smart & Final or Food for Less. I’ve even joined a co-op where I help pack food boxes for needy families and get to shop among the leftovers once a month. It feels really good, Mom. It feels authentic.

I know that you would have hated the cold in the warehouse, the odd collection of packers, some with rough skin and wild hair, some with missing teeth. Some angry if the boxes aren’t stacked right or if the carrots are put into the wrong corner. Turns out every social endeavor has its tricks of the trade, a pecking order, and someone with a strong stake in being in charge. Could be the Baptist women setting tables for the Spring Tea or the hungry food packers grateful for a free box of crackers. Not as far apart as you taught me to believe.  You’d be surprised.

Probably you’d be surprised by a few other things. The price of gasoline – wow, your mauve Cadillac would cost a fortune to drive these days. And the Bullock’s department store at the mall is now a Target. And it’s open on Sundays. Banks aren’t so eager to make loans anymore. Those 14% CD’s you used to have tucked away aren’t happening anymore. Interest on savings accounts is under 2% now, even though those credit cards that you refused to use have become much scarcer.

And now that I’m nearing that empty nest and would rather watch the Oscar’s at home instead of going to a party, and can barely stay awake on New Year’s Eve, I’m getting a taste of that aching loneliness that made you cry so often and demand my attention and try to make me feel guilty for not visiting enough. Every time I stop myself from judging my daughter’s  romance or my son’s job choice I think about your crushing disapproval of how I lived my life and see that it’s just two ways of coping with the same fear  — losing control.  And because you failed so brilliantly at accepting life’s changes, you taught me to release my expectations and lift my arms and open my fingers and surrender everything and be grateful always.

Somewhere, I think that there is a spirit of you, mom, watching me live so differently than you did, and speaking into my heart what you could never say in life, “Good for you…”

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