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Archive for October, 2011

Laundry Laundry Everywhere

Laundry was a big problem for me in what we are now calling “the burned down house” (to distinguish it from “our first house” and “the old house”).  In the not-quite-two-years we lived there I never worked out a good system for sorting, washing, and putting away like I’d had before, probably because there was no laundry room.  When Emily was home, she always took over putting the laundry away.  When she was at school, I usually let it pile up on the sofa in the living room until I had several hours to tackle it all at once.  There was a big pile there on Labor Day.

Things are much better here, I am thrilled to say.  For the first time ever, I have a laundry area upstairs near my bedroom, which is also where the little kids’ rooms are.  That makes it very easy to put two-thirds of the laundry away as it comes out of the wash.  When I fill a basket with clean things for the big boys, I take it down for them to put away–or not.

John went to our storage facility this week and brought back some boxes, including some clothes salvaged from our basement.  I also retrieved a laundry basket full of smoky clothes that I had left in one of the places where we stayed before we found this house.  Several washes later, with the help of Oxyclean, Shout, and Febreze, the fire smell is gone.

On the day we salvaged, John and I took stacks and stacks of clothes that had been in the armoire in Teddy’s room to the nearby dry cleaner.  Today he picked it up–$257 worth (it costs twice as much for the smell removal, apparently).  We were so shell-shocked that day that we paid no attention to what we were saving, so thrilled were we that anything was left at all.  So we have spent an amusing evening looking through clothes that Teddy never bothered to remove from his room even though they were too small for him to wear.  Jake can wear a few things, but Goodwill is going to be getting some nicely pressed clothes this week.

It was the same with many of the things I washed, again mostly from Teddy’s room (lifted from his floor, where he kept them, and therefore tainted with wet gray nastiness).  However, there were some happy surprises from Lorelei’s room–her bathrobe (just the other day she was missing it); a dress that was a favorite of mine when I was a little girl; another that was Emily’s.  I really don’t remember much about that day, and I thought all the clothes that were mine were gone.  So that made me happy. :-)

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A Sorrow Shared

Friends from school and church have been bringing us several meals each week since the house burned, and even though we have a house now it is still a blessing.  I have not had time for a big trip to the store yet, and we don’t have any of the staples you need to have on hand.  Plus we are still so busy trying to organize the house, and now trying to catch up in the office, that not having to worry about dinner makes a big difference.

A few nights ago, our church friends brought a poem to share along with the macaroni casserole and spinach salad.  I had read Anne Bradstreet before, first as a sophomore at KCHS in my American Lit class.  I don’t think I ever read this particular poem, though, and if I did I doubt it would have resonated with me the way it does now.  I wanted to share it with you.

VERSES UPON THE BURNING OF OUR HOUSE (1666)

In silent night when rest I took, 
For sorrow neer I did not look, 
I waken’d was with thundring nois 
And Piteous shreiks of dreadfull voice. 
That fearfull sound of fire and fire, 
Let no man know is my Desire. 
I, starting up, the light did spye, 
And to my God my heart did cry 
To strengthen me in my Distresse 
And not to leave me succourlesse. 
Then coming out beheld a space, 
The flame consume my dwelling place.

And, when I could no longer look, 
I blest his Name that gave and took, 
That layd my goods now in the dust: 
Yea so it was, and so ’twas just. 
It was his own: it was not mine; 
Far be it that I should repine.

He might of All justly bereft, 
But yet sufficient for us left. 
When by the Ruines oft I past, 
My sorrowing eyes aside did cast, 
And here and there the places spye 
Where oft I sate, and long did lye.

Here stood that Trunk, and there that chest; 
There lay that store I counted best: 
My pleasant things in ashes lye, 
And them behold no more shall I. 
Under thy roof no guest shall sitt, 
Nor at thy Table eat a bitt.

No pleasant tale shall ‘ere be told, 
Nor things recounted done of old. 
No Candle ‘ere shall shine in Thee, 
Nor bridegroom’s voice ere heard shall bee. 
In silence ever shalt thou lye; 
Adieu, Adeiu; All’s vanity.

Then streight I gin my heart to chide, 
And didst thy wealth on earth abide? 
Didst fix thy hope on mouldring dust, 
The arm of flesh didst make thy trust? 
Raise up thy thoughts above the skye 
That dunghill mists away may flie.

Thou hast an house on high erect 
Fram’d by that mighty Architect, 
With glory richly furnished, 
Stands permanent tho’ this bee fled. 
It’s purchased, and paid for too 
By him who hath enough to doe.

A Prise so vast as is unknown, 
Yet, by his Gift, is made thine own. 
Ther’s wealth enough, I need no more; 
Farewell my Pelf, farewell my Store. 
The world no longer let me Love, 
My hope and Treasure lyes Above.

And I just read in the Wikipedia article about her that “her personal library of books was said to have numbered over 800, before many were destroyed when her home burned down.”

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My husband was the second reader at Mass today.  Of course I always expect to find meaning in the readings or the homily, but hearing John read the following this morning hit eerily close to home:

Brothers and sisters:
I know how to live in humble circumstances;
I know also how to live with abundance.
In every circumstance and in all things
I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry,
of living in abundance and of being in need.
I can do all things in him who strengthens me.
Still, it was kind of you to share in my distress.

My God will fully supply whatever you need,
in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
To our God and Father, glory forever and ever. Amen.

Was it no more than a coincidence that this would be today’s reading and that John would be the one to read it, almost exactly one month after our house burned down?  I don’t think so.

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The gifts continue to flow in from so many generous and thoughtful people, from friends and strangers alike.   Today I want to share two that touched me especially because of their link to my past.

When I was in the first grade, my mother had a Christmas party for me and all the girls in my class.  This became an annual event, anticipated by my classmates just as much as by me, that we called “The Cookie Party.”   Each girl was given a piece of hot-cross-bun dough to knead, add nuts or candied fruit to, and shape, and while my mother baked these, we decorated sugar cookies–three per girl–with some trying to make them pretty and others piling on as much icing as possible!  This party took place each year until I graduated from St. Joseph School.

So when Emily started at St. Joseph, it felt right to revive this tradition.  I even got my mother to run the party.  Things had changed, though.  Growing up with two brothers, Emily was closer to the boys in her class than the girls.  So we had to invite the boys too.  Boys added another dimension–flour flew through the air, dough was pounded more vigorously.  Also, people seem busier these days.  They don’t R.S.V.P., and they don’t bring their kids to every party to which they are invited.  Eventually we began inviting just those children who kept returning year after year.  And they did enjoy and look forward to the annual event.

The cookie party was labor intensive and messy!  When William started kindergarten, I had a new idea for a Christmas party–a Christmas bedtime story party.  Kids would come in their pajamas, and listen to some Christmas stories.  Then I would serve hot chocolate and sugar cookies–decorated in advance!  The children got to take home their Christmas mugs as party favors.  I did this party for William for three years, and then last year when Lorelei was in kindergarten I did it for her.

This brings us to another tradition–the Christmas book tradition.  This one, too, has its roots in my childhood.  Like many children, we were allowed to open one present on Christmas Eve.  At first, it was whatever present under the tree struck our fancy.  Later it evolved to being a certain present–a book–my mother would have ready for us so we could read it before bed as we tried to fall asleep (never so hard as when you are a child on Christmas Eve!).  I had a book for Emily to unwrap on her first Christmas Eve–an alphabet book by Steven Kellogg–but by her second Christmas I had decided the book should be a Christmas book.  I gave her “The Clown of God” by Tomie de Paola–who became one of my favorite children’s authors.

With five children receiving a Christmas story book every Christmas Eve, our collection of special books grew.  We had a large box of very special Christmas books that we brought out at the beginning of each December and read throughout the month.  They were in the garage with the Christmas decorations, and now they are ashes.

“The Clown of God” remains my all-time favorite.  Here are some others I recall:  “The Silver Package,” “We Were There,” “Who’s Coming to Our House,” “The Other Wise Man,” “A Christmas Miracle,” “The Cat in the Manger,” and so many more.

The other day we received a card from the family of a little girl who was in Lorelei’s class last year and attended the party.  Little Gracie herself had the idea to send us Barnes and Noble gift cards to help replace the books that were lost.  I still have not cried a river over all this, but this is the kind of gift that brings tears to my eyes.

And here’s another:  one of the people who attended my cookie parties, starting when she came to St. Joseph in 5th grade, was my friend Katrice.  We became close in high school, we were in each other’s weddings, and she and her husband are devoted godparents to our oldest son.

When we were planning our wedding, Katrice’s dad was starting a photography business and trying to build up a portfolio.  He offered to do our pictures for the cost of the film.  He printed all the pictures and then gave us the negatives to keep and to have larger prints made of the ones we wanted to frame and for our album–an album made for me by my high school roommate.  We were very pleased with his work, and in addition to the album full of 8 X 10s we had several photos framed around the house.

Well, those are ashes too now.  The negatives are in a supposedly fireproof box buried in the ashes of what used to be our office, and we may or may not be able to find them out–it took about 8 hours for John to find the rings that were in his jewelry box in our bedroom.  So imagine how exciting it was when Katrice arrived at my house the other day, bearing her dad’s portfolio with five 8 X 10s from my wedding, including the one of the entire wedding party!  She brought a frame for that one, and put it on a table angled toward the front door, so that in her words, “Everyone can see this is John and Leslie’s house when they come in.”  It was the very first family photo to be displayed in our new home.

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