Saturday, December 22, 2012

Holiday Happenings: Memory Making

The Sylvania AdVantage gang at my place;
below, Roz with Elissa.
Holidays bring lots of great gatherings, parties and visits, and these past weeks have been full. A few nights ago it was the Sylvania Area Historical Society's annual pot-luck dinner (see previous blog).  Another day I hosted the Sylvania AdVantage Christmas party, a wonderful gathering. I provide the place, they bring the food.  It's a great group of women.

A few nights later my daughter Elissa and I went to visit her 97-year-old step-grandmother Roz at an assisted living home called Otterbein.  It's a nice place out in Whiteford, Ohio, about 30 minutes west of Toledo. The living area in the home section where Roz lives was decorated for the holidays, with trees and lights, lots of food and good cheer for residents and their visitors. We sat among them, being sure to chat with those who seemed to be alone for the holidays.  Visitors were open and friendly, walked gingerly over tubes going to and from oxygen tanks, pulled up chairs to be closer to loved ones, and to talk with strangers. Roz seemed alert and happy in this place, showed us her room, her photos, said she liked where she was.  That made us feel good.  Elissa brought her friend Jason Richardson.  Roz was delighted to have a handsome young man visit with her.
Reunion at the Wicks' home..

After this visit Elissa and I traveled a few more miles west to Maumee and the beautiful home of Mel and Annette Wicks.  We had a wonderful reunion with special friends whom I haven't seen in many years, some since I left Toledo in 1985.  We had belonged to the "Brunch Bunch" when I lived on Robinwood Avenue in the Old West End, a smart, thoughtful, articulate, powerful group of people who met monthly around great food and loved talking politics, economics, philosophy, social change, working for peace and justice at home and in the world.  They still do!  Barby Britsch, my dear friend who died last week, was part of our Brunch Bunch and was remembered fondly with lots of stories.  Food for the soul.

Gluten free too.
I shared this with her son David a few nights later at a wonderful dinner at Elements, a new restaurant in Sylvania, with Elissa and Barby's friends Pam, also a storyteller,and Paul, an architect.  The name of the restaurant is symbolic. David had eaten at the well-known young chef's restaurant in NYC, where he lives and works.  The food was fantastic. David's been back in Toledo to do all the things that have to be done for a mom who collected everything, loved books, especially children's literature (by the hundreds and thousands), arts and crafts; saved boxes and boxes of yarn and sewing materials, videos, CDs, DVDs, every ornament and souvenir imaginable; had an apartment full of antiques, family heirlooms, art and memorabilia, all hard to part with, and hard to keep.  David did a fantastic job sorting through all of it; he and brother Marty will keep their favorite things; many items are being donated to great causes; friends have momentos; and we have lots of stories for her memorial service in January.  Elissa is sure David is making Barby happy and that she is at peace and in her "Element," already telling stories!

Today, old friends Terry and Carol Hunt, he an Episcopal priest, she a nurse, came to visit. We were following up on our dinner reunion at the Wicks' home. Terry and Carol left Toledo about when I did, in the mid-1980s, and are here from their home in Chico, California, visiting family in the East. We spent hours over tea, reminiscing, connecting dots and the times our paths crossed; sharing updates on our kids and their large blended family; talking about our unique but universal journeys; embracing Terry's wisdom, which he will share in a forthcoming autobiography (can't wait to read this), and Carol's compassion, sharing memories, comfort and joy.

This is what Christmas means to me.  Being with friends, loved ones and family, in person and in spirit, near and far, here and there, surrounded by memories, remembering Christmases past, facing a new year, grateful for the blessings of the season, making new memories, and celebrating the life we have, the life we were given, the life we make.  
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