A PERFECTLY IMPERFECT FAMILY HOLIDAY

Why am I still thinking about Thanksgiving more than ten days after the holiday? Because it was a fun day where our family didn’t try to live up to an idealistic picture-perfect holiday.

Our two grown children were coming over for a turkey lunch. And that’s as far as the plan for the day went. No football. No board games. And best of all, no unrealistic expectations of the holiday. And then a fun, spontaneous thing happened:  We launched YouTube Music on the big-screen TV and each of us took turns finding videos of some of our favourite artists and introducing them to the rest of the family.

My husband went first with “Nothing Breaks Like the Heart” by Miley Cyrus.  That he would even appreciate Miley Cyrus was the first surprise. He is not into main stream pop … at all. But he loves this song, the power of her voice and the lyrics.

Then my daughter helped us to discover Billie Eilish. We watched a few videos and – wow- this young girl can sing and has a maturity beyond her years!  (I can’t help but worry, though, that this much fame and success at 17 will cause her to go off the rails at one point. Think: Miley Cyrus, Justin Beiber, Britney Spears, to name a few. I wish her her the best!) I especially liked an acoustic version of a song called Copycat.

My son was up next and he presented an artist I had never heard of:  Dimash Kudaibergen. I have no words to describe his talent. You’ll have to listen for yourself.

Then it was my turn. My favourite music videos are performances. I’m not a huge fan of Taylor Swift but her performance of “Me!” to open the Billboard Music Awards, with Brendon Urie (of Panic at the Disco, and who I adore!), a marching band, a whole crew of dancers and mind-boggling sets was amazing!  Here’s the clip from the show. The sound isn’t great, but the visuals are – be sure to watch to the end  for the best part.

I also shared my other guilty pleasure:  The Jonas Brothers and the medley of songs they performed at the same show, ending with their smash hit “Sucker for You”. Again, you have to watch the whole clip as finish their performance in what looks like a stage ringed by fire.

We had a great time and discovered more about each other through music. If you’re looking for a new Thanksgiving tradition, consider music videos!

The Other “Magical” Season

They say Christmas is the magical season. But it’s Thanksgiving weekend in Canada and yesterday, after our big turkey lunch, I decided to go for a walk. I have always loved fall but I think it could compete with the Holiday Season for the title of “Magical”.

It was one of those perfect, and I mean perfect, fall days. Words can’t describe it, but I will give it a try: It was what we call sweater weather. The air had a slight chill to it, but the sun was warm on my head and hair. The sky was a pure blue, the kind of blue you want to dive into and float in forever.

The leaves were at their most spectacular. Everywhere I turned I saw tableaux of deep red, fiery orange and golden yellow. It took my breath away. I couldn’t stop snapping pictures. I’m not a great photographer at the best of times and a cell phone is far from ideal for capturing the beauty of the season but these pictures might give you an idea of it.

The colours are completely natural – they don’t come from silvery garlands, shiny decorations or strings of lights. If that isn’t magical, I don’t know what is.

The Night Before

It has been more than three years since my mother moved into a seniors’ home. But time hasn’t made the memory of the eve of her move less heart-wrenching.

THE NIGHT BEFORE (May 2016):

 Tomorrow we are moving my 89-year-old mother to a seniors’ residence.  She has been in transition, living with us for the last 10 months when it became clear she could no longer live alone.  It has not been an unqualified success.  We live in the suburbs and it is lonely and isolated for her, especially since I work full-time.  So, tomorrow, she is moving into a residence closer to her old neighbourhood. The thought of this frightens her in the same way a child’s first day of kindergarten might. “But I won’t know anyone,” she tells me. I try to reassure her that there are activities she can join where she will meet people without even leaving the building. There is a music evening every Wednesday, a movie night, Bingo and much more. I can tell that right now, there is no comfort in this.

We spent the last two weeks shopping for everything she needs for this new chapter of her life:  sheets for a twin bed, a micro-wave oven, even many of the little things we use every day without thinking like scissors and a can opener.  My brother will be here early in the morning with a small truck to load up all her worldly possessions.  We’re all tired and as I head to bed on the last night my mother will spend under my roof, I push open the door to her room to say good night.

Her night table lamp is on but she is asleep in her recliner, jaw slack, breathing deeply. She has had a very sore back for the last two days and I suspect it is because this is the third night in a row she falls asleep in her chair.  “Mom,” I whisper. I say it again, more loudly this time, and her eyes fly open.  Her face is deeply lined and her once luminous hazel eyes are now almost hidden, like dried raisins, beneath drooping eyelids. But there are still traces of the local beauty pageant contestant she had once been. Beneath the aged skin is still a fine bone structure. Her rich auburn hair, now a faded blonde touched up by the hairdresser on a regular basis, is still surprisingly full.

 “We have a big day with an early start tomorrow. You should go to sleep in your bed,” I say. She looks at me and I can tell she’s disoriented, but whether it’s from coming out of a deep sleep or anxiety, I don’t know.  Finally she says, “Tell me again what’s happening tomorrow.”

This is more familiar territory. She knows she’s moving tomorrow and the stress is wreaking havoc on her brain.  The same thing happened a few years earlier when her last remaining sister passed away. It’s the details that keep escaping her:  the schedule, the who is doing what and how. So I patiently tell her again how we are heading to her new home. That my car is already packed with the little things.  That my brother and a friend will be here with a truck to move her dresser, recliner, sewing machine, and other bigger items she is taking.  That I will stay with her for two days in her new apartment and then my brother will stay for another two to help her get oriented.  

I see her processing this information yet again.  Then she looks at me and asks, “But am I coming back here tomorrow night?” And my heart breaks into a million pieces.