January 13, 2014 by comhomflt
The week of Thanksgiving was to be the first week without our LT, and we had planned to spend that time with my parents to avoid facing the reality of an “empty” house while we adjusted to the shock of a nearly year-long separation. We kept those plans in place when the deployment was canceled, and, as it turned out, it was the respite we needed – not to adjust to deployment, but to the shock of a cancellation and the ensuing uncertainty. We spent that week in limbo, finally learning on Wednesday that he had been tagged for a different billet but having no idea whether he’d be leaving us in two weeks or two months. While our LT sorted out the confusion of a cancellation and reassignment, the kids and I headed south to take advantage of a week with Pap and Memmy.
We did not have to wait long for excitement to commence, as a coal delivery was scheduled for the very next morning. The delivery man couldn’t understand the kids’ fascination with what was, to him, mundane work; but when you live in New England, where most anyone with a stove burns some form of wood these days, the sound and sight of coal cascading down a metal chute into a giant coal bin is high adventure!
That was not the end of their coal adventure, either. All week, Pap tutored them in the operation of a coal stove, and they were sorely disappointed if he sneaked away into the basement to tend it without their assistance. BM1 already considered himself knowledgeable enough to operate the coal stove on his own before our visit and is now insufferable on that point. The girls, too, consider themselves competent, though I would not trust them with my warmth and safety just yet. Needless to say, after several days, Pap had his very own (slightly) experienced “Black Gang.”
Between trips to the basement to maintain the desired level of toastiness, we kept ourselves busy doing everything but preparing for Thanksgiving dinner! After a morning of school work, BM1 did his best to whoop Memmy in a round of Skip-Bo.
One of the best things about being a mom of little ones is watching them play in their imaginary worlds. Sometimes, their setups are a source of irritation – yet another pile of “junk” I have to avoid tripping over while carrying a baby in one hand and something else (probably a book) in the other. But then I see those arrangements of toys through the child’s eyes I once had, and I get all sappy thinking about the day I will no longer find Little People lined up on a stool or doll house families taking up residence among my coffee table decorations. And sometimes I take pictures for the smiles they will bring me later. OS3 was in her element at my parents’ house, mostly left to herself to create her own little worlds with cars, trains, and the very Little People I had once played with. Every day, I smiled over a meticulous new setup I stumbled across or a scenario she was creating as I hid out of sight listening. Canceled deployments and rearranged schedules fade into the background a bit when the joy of these fleeting moments is seen for what it is.
There were plenty of stories, too, because Memmy always has books around the house. In fact, the day of our departure, MC2 excitedly declared that she couldn’t wait to read the books at Memmy’s house; and she headed straight for them the moment her shoes were off. Here, Memmy introduced them to Uncle Wiggly and the “Bad Chaps.” Now, when I refer to the children – with affection – as my “Bad Chaps,” they respond with a giggle and a hasty explanation as to why they are not so bad as Bobby the Bobcat and his mischievous friends.
In the midst of school, games, play time, Thanksgiving preparations, meals, and baths, my mom and I had a (not-so-little) project going on. Because my LT wasn’t going to be around for the month of December, we tried to head off some of the holiday craziness at the pass. Christmas shopping was nearly completed by Thanksgiving, our Christmas card photo had been taken in October, and travel plans were in place. Together, my mom and I had also hatched a plan to take care of the numerous annual gifts for teachers, pastors, friends, and neighbors. We like to take the opportunity to thank them and share a bit of God’s love with them during the special season where we remember Christ’s love for us, displayed in the gift of His Son. Usually, my LT and I shift our house to bakery mode for the day, turning out pan after pan of delicious cinnamon rolls for our neighbors; and, later, I concoct other treats (usually involving chocolate) for the many teachers on our “thank-you” gift list. It didn’t take long for me to realize a Plan B was necessary this year – preferably, a Plan B that would involve my mom’s sewing wizardry. I was hoping for something easy – like a felt ornament, you know – but the two of us couldn’t stop at a simple star or gingerbread man or snowman. Oh no, we found ourselves a beautiful Ukrainian doll pattern and got stuck on it in about five minutes. In short order, my mom had whipped up a prototype, worked out the kinks in the pattern to make mass-production possible, and set to work cutting out all the pieces and doing the machine sewing. Still, when we arrived, there was quite a bit of hand sewing to be done and then, of course, the stuffing and finishing. Nap times, evening hours, morning breaks – that bin of dolls was never far from us for the week! Finally, the dolls were ready to be stuffed and stitched closed, and we spent a cozy afternoon together with the kids finishing them up. I think there were over forty dolls by the time we were done, and the time spent working together was as lovely as the finished product.
Though there was so much to do while we were there – including four kids to feed and bathe and keep occupied – we did make time for a puzzle. My mom had been saving this evil puzzle for one of our visits, and it lived up to our expectations of its difficulty. I am happy to say that I didn’t put even one piece of this puzzle together, but no one else who happened by was able to resist its draw. Even the littlest member of the family, with the exception of our Seaman, spent time hunting for pieces and deciphering red gum drops from Boston Baked Beans.
With that out of the way, it was time to teach the girls how to play some Dutch Blitz. They got right in on the action and are now good enough at handling their blitz and wood piles to present a decent challenge, when teamed with an adult.
At the end of the week, when we loaded up our van for the long slog home (anything through Connecticut is a slog), we took with us some wonderful memories and a little less weariness. We were ready to embrace the excitement of the Christmas season, hoping for the unexpected joy of spending it together; and we were a bit more prepared to face the prospect of a new billet. The week with my parents worked its magic like Christmas break on a school-aged child, and I am so thankful for it. We love you, Pap and Memmy!