Saturday, May 3, 2008

Our Xmas

Originally posted Jan 19, 2005

Hello, and finally, FINALLY, I have two minutes to rub together to send out an email ... why do I have two minutes? Because the database is down (of course, I'm at work).

*sigh* Mgmt is becoming concerned that I'm working too hard, but they don't seem interested in lightening the work load nor moving the deadlines ... work is rewarded with work; thank goodness I like doing this ...

We had a wonderful Christmas up North. It started rather unfortunately with an airline strike that delayed us beyond Nana's Christmas party, causing us to miss seeing many relative, including, especially, Beki and Howland, and for that I'm sad.

But, on the upside, we had some very special time with Nana, and those who stayed behind at Nana's. Dad was there, and Aunt Rolene, Ocean, Bill, Jasmine, Jessica, and Cybele were all there, and several delightful situations arose from the more intimate settings.

Dennis, after greeting Nana, headed off to NYC to visit family and enjoy the ambience, which he did, but not before he was treated to a snow flurry God sent especially for him. Golly, did that stuff come down, for hours on end. But if there's one thing Dennis regrets about his US Visit, that thing is that it only snowed during the night ... he didn't get to take a picture of himself during a snowstorm to show everybody back in the Land of No Snow.

Back in CT, watching Nana and little Isabel interact reminded me strongly of the interplay between Elena Marie and Nana when Elena Marie was Isabel's age. Isabel crawled and toddled around Nana with not a hint of self-consciousness, as if they had been buddies all their lives. Nana, towering over the little baby, reminded me of a gentle and pleasant giant -- not overcome with joy (like I am when I'm with the children), but floating easily in it. Nana and Elena Marie, and now, Nana and Isabel: the superimposition of images in my mind's eye is a strange disconnect from the present reality into something ageless. I wonder if, in that moment, I'm seeing things a little bit like God does: not past or present or future, but the Eternal Now.

Of course, we ate at Nana's, but how can one put words to (abstracted) paper about Nana's food ... even when it isn't her cooking, it just tastes better, anyway, because she's serving it. At Nana's table, things tend to happen, other than eating (but not hot-frying-pan chases, those tend to occur before a meal, or, I should write, BY THE TIME a meal SHOULD have been served, but hasn't yet, prompting innocent questions, like, "When do we eat?"). We were all sitting around, comfortably, at Nana's kitchen table, when Ocean offered something to one of her elders. So, I asked for some o' dat, too. Ocean's response was instantaneous and classic: "Oh, please, Doug, have some! How else may I serve you?" and she carried this on for the rest of the meal, "Oh, Douglas," she exclaimed as she bustled to the fridge, "do you need something more to drink?" I played along, too, cool as a cucumber, royal as noblesse oblige. ... all the while, cringing that my older cousin should be serving me, and not the other way around.

Didn't stop me from working it, tho'

Nor her.

During that Vaycay, I took Diane and the children for a one-day visit to NYC as a little Xmas present for her. We met up with Dennis, but poor Elena Marie was asleep for the whole visit. This was Isabel's moment: she toddled along in her pink winter Eskimo jacket, attaching herself to any available leg (Times square in Xmas? There were plenty of legs available). When we arrived at St. Patrick's Cathedral, she had the grandest time ascending the steps to the door of Saints, then descending the steps, then ascending the steps, then ... well, you know. At St. Patrick's the line to enter the Cathedral was so long that we gave it a miss; in fact, a lot of people just took pictures outside the Cathedral. It's heartwarming that people are remembering the Reason for the Season ... I wish the church could have been more accomodating; but if they threw open their (huge) doors, the inside would become bitterly cold, as it was outside. It turns out that there were many Philippinos visiting the Cathedral -- they would ask either Diane or Dennis to take there picture -- allowing me to play "tag" with Isabel (more like 100m dash as she teetered on the edge of the steep steps -- I think I broke some national speed records).

After Xmas, both girls are STRETCHING out; I'm seeing an actualization of "elongation". The way, too, Elena Marie is maturing is giving me wondrous pause. With her pert haircut, she's all elder sister, sometimes even instructing her parents. "Papa, be quiet," she demands. I try to take it in a light-hearted manner. She told me this as Dennis and I were driving along with the children back from Starbucks, and my response was straight Fargo: "I won't say anything [beat] Absolute silence [beat] Not one more word from me [beat] [etc]" Dennis, who had seen Fargo, was racked by convulsions of silent mirth. This put a spell on Elena Marie, who didn't know how to handle someone who said they were doing what she demanded.

This approach didn't work the next time, weeks later, of course. "No, Papa, be quiet!" she demanded when I began to reel off my schpiel. But, then, her mother was there to lay down the law. "Elena Marie, don't order your parents ... say please." "Papa, be quiet, PLEASE!" Well, I'm so glad we straightened that out.

When I'm making tea for Diane in the morning, Elena Marie, of course, must help ... her disposition is that of an eager helper ... did I say 'eager', 'zealous', more like. So I grab the empty teapot from the stove, and that's Elena Marie's cue to go into overdrive -- PJs and all: "Papa, let me make tea!" "Okay, kiddo, go get your stool." "Papa, you wait for me!" "Yes, Elena Marie, I won't start the tea until you return." With that reassurance, she's off to get her stool, at relativistic speeds ... ZOOOOOM! She's there, and then, CLOMP-CLOMP-CLOMP, she's walked her stool from her bedroom to the kitchen as fast as childly possible.

After she's ensconced in her helping task, you could find a happier creature. Just ask her:

"Elena Marie, do you like making tea?"


"Elena Marie?"

[furrowed brow response: "Don't bug me," it says, "I'm helping!"]

After the tea's made, and we bring it to Diane in bed (who, incredibly, gets less sleep than moimeme (that's French, it means, as Miss Piggy says, "Moiself"). That's the time one finds who made the tea and how happy that person was making it:


Diane, mumbling from under the covers, "Who made the tea, Elena?"


If Diane wasn't awake before this time, ...

Isabel is still very attached to me, dashing from the bed into my arms, and then remaining in them with a pleased, self-possessed look: "Yeah, this is my Papa," the look says, "I've got him; he's mine. U-huh!" She's now trying to put new words together, attempting to babble her new words in a stream of nonsense syllables. In fact, her overall progress has elicited remarks from her parents, but it's to be expected. Elena Marie had to invent all her behaviors: parents' aren't models for behavior so much as safety nets to catch one -- with Isabel, she has an older sister to see how to react to everything. So, it's also rather amazing to me that she has such a different personality than Elena Marie's. Elena's the ordered (bossy) type -- even when she is her own subject: "Not for childrens!" she wags her finger scoldingly at herself when she sees her papa's vitamins; Isabel's a little girl. They are so different, so it's such a pleasure to see that they get together as often as they do -- that Elena Marie looks out for and looks after Isabel, and that Isabel laughs so freely with her older sister.

Exciting times.


Rolene AuClaire said...

Great letter, Doug, thanks so much for including me in your thoughts.

dennis sebastian said...

Hi All!

although i have more than two minutes it would take me much longer to write about my Christmas experience so i'll let my pictures do most of the talking :)
* i'm not even halfway through in uploading my photos so visit frequently :)

thanks for having me in CT!
- dennis

ocean waller said...

Dearest Douglas, How nice it was for me to read your e-mail and see my name! How very kind and thoughtful of you to include our little repartee. It was my pleasure, as the Older cousin, to serve my Younger cousin. :) Please, no really, please do take care of yourself - and your family. Love, Ocean