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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Super Long Christmas Post

The song is true:

"It's the most wonderful time, of the year."

Christmas. The holidays. Winter break.
What a glorious few weeks spent with family, friends, food.

And traditions.

When our family immigrated to America from Poland back in December of 1981, my parents gave my sister and I the most amazing gift (besides a chance at a happy and communist-free life): they made sure to keep our most blessed and precious traditions and rituals intact, creating a tiny Polish Village inside whatever house we were living in at the time. Each apartment, rental house, and eventually the house on the hill were filled with the most important aspects of our life back in Poland. Our Catholic roots were respected and celebrated, even though as children we did not always appreciate the elaborate lengths we all went to before we ate our Christmas Eve meal, or the midnight masses when we had to leave our new Barbie and the Rocker that Santa had left for us behind in the car. Sometimes, my sister and I just wanted to be American.

Now, at 31, I cannot imagine life without these memories and continued traditions. Even the fish jello, (i know, i know) is welcomed with opened arms when it makes it's way onto our Christmas Eve table. We come adorned with jewelry, ties, our Sunday best. We meet at our large table, overflowing with dishes reserved for the most holy of nights, and break host with our family and friends, wishing each other the very best for the coming year. There are often tears as we remember the trials and tribulations of the past year, and this year, after our beloved Babcia's stroke, we were careful to breathe in every second with her, taking more pictures than usual, exchanging silent glances with our mother, who tried to come to terms with the idea that there may not be many more Christmas Eves left for her mom.

Superman and Monchichi went searching for the North Star, a gesture symbolic of the star that guided everyone to little baby Jesus's manger in Bethlehem. Upon their return, they find that Santa has come and left gifts under the tree. The shrieks are deafening and when they are finally able to open gifts it is a joy unlike any other. My sister and I recall how we would wiggle and squirm through dinner, barely able to hold it together until our parents finally finished chewing their food (what is it with adults chewing so slowly, anyway?) and we were given the green light to open our presents! Oh Lord! Do you remember that feeling when you ripped away the wrapping paper and underneath it was exactly what you had asked for? There was the year of the Barbie, and the Nintendo (the very first one!). There was the Geometrics 5-in-1 curling iron, Super Mario Bros. 3, and oh! my beloved cherry-red ten-hole Doc Martens, the real deal baby! I can still see myself screaming and jumping up and down, a rebellious sophomore in high school, caught up in the magic of Christmas (shhhh, don't tell anyone).

And when I was sitting at our Christmas Eve dinner this year, sipping our traditional kompot (a hot beverage made from fruit and spices) I marveled at how I was immediately transported back through time, my tast buds taking me on journey through the decades (yikes!) of Christmas Eve dinners that I have been blessed to be a part of. How rich our traditions are, that with one sip of a drink I am ten again, surrounded by loved ones and the spirit of Christmas. If I can give my own children at least half of that, I will know I have succeded as a parent. Even the last minute bickering, when everyone is hungry and we are still waiting on my dad to finish frying up the last of the catfish, even that is welcomed because it is inevitable every year and it just wouldn't be the same without it.

And when I am sitting across from my parents, the two people who molded and influenced me like no one else would or could, I am at once filled with a gratitude and love that cannot be measured or described by words. It is a feeling that I want to bottle up and savor, especially when we are butting heads about parenting or lifestyle choices. Because they have done this. They have given me these sweet memories that I now, along with my American born and bred husband (who has not only adopted our kooky Polish ways but has introduced our family to the tradition of "stockings" which we all LOVE) pass on to our own little boys, hoping that one day, when they sip their own cup of kompot they are transported to some of the happiest times of their lives.

Thank you Mama i Tata. You are priceless and you are loved.

Wesolych Swiat.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Stranger

You are sitting one pew in front of me during mass and I am at once intrigued and fearful. You are large, towering well over six feet and your hands resemble oars; weathered and larger than any hands I have ever seen before.

You catch me glancing at you and you gesture, pointing to your mouth, forcing your lips to purse, pushing noises through that indicate you are non-verbal.

Just like monchichi.

Except you are a grown man, unkempt grey hair sitting atop a head not quite proportionate to the rest of your body. You, in your denim shirt, at least four sizes too big and tucked into dark blue overalls, you represent everything I fear and refuse to face for more than a few seconds at a time.

You are a special needs adult.

You are not as cute as the children in monchichi's special day class.
You are not small, easy to handle, easy to carry out of a crowded restaurant, if need be.
You are not embraced by society.
People fear you.
People do not understand you.
People do not gather around you and comment on your beautiful blue eyes, your sweet-smelling skin, your flirty smile.

You are alone.
You are sitting here, at church, alone.
And I am staring at you, trying so hard to seperate you from my own son, and I can't.
The tears are slow and quiet.
My fellow catholics must think I am in need of some extra holiness today.
I am in need of something.
I am in need of promises that this man I am so rudely staring at will not be my son decades from now.
I need someone to shake me and tell me that they will find a cure and that it is perfectly okay and normal to hope and pray that he speaks in full sentences someday.

I want to hug you and make you disappear at the same time. You are too close and I am not ready.

I wonder about your mama and what kind of woman she was.
I wonder if you have any friends.
I watch your jerky movements as you try to engage others with your hand gestures, but they politely nod and turn around.

It is because you make them uncomfortable.
People don't know what to do with special needs adults. You are a child in a grown man's body and the packaging is no longer acceptable.

Acceptance.

Not today.
I am not accepting this today because I am not ready. Because the final results are not in and we still have a chance.

I am ashamed that I am afraid of you.
That I want better for my child.


But I do.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ummmmm........

Yep.

Nola is a perfect fit for our perfectly imperfect family.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ooops I Did It Again.......

I let my life get in the way of blogging. Imagine that!

And not because there hasn't been anything to write about.

Why just last night I was half-dying from a 102 fever (Post-tylenol), shivering in my bed, trying to survive what has to be the ugliest bout of flu I have ever had. Not too long ago, Yahoo posted an article entitled "The Ten Germiest Jobs" and guess what was #1? TEACHERS! I am prepared to bathe my entire body in airborne if it keeps me healthy the rest of the school year. Last year alone I had three bouts of pink eye, three cases of strept throat, and too many colds to count.

Ah. But I love what I do.

However.

I am sooooo looking forward to my three weeks off for winter break. Just when you think you've given all you can, the school provides a paid vacation and all is well with the world again.

So I plan on catching you up on our family a little bit at a time during my break and get back into the habit of blogging again.

I know. I know.
Pins and needles.